Traditional worksite wellness programs target only employee behaviors — but they’re missing the mark if they don’t also consider the people who can make or break employee well-being: their families.
Social influences on everyday health behaviors are powerful — for better or worse. One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (www.nejm.org) found that if a husband becomes obese, his wife is 44% more likely to become obese. Similarly, the husband is 37% more likely to become obese if his wife does. Employee wellness programs that involve dependents leverage the power of social support in promoting behaviors that lead to better health — and lower healthcare costs.
Study after study underscores the importance of social support in changing health behaviors. To expect that employees will eat more fruits and vegetables or exercise regularly without the support of family members is not realistic. Employees benefit from both workplace and family-based support when the people they live with are on board with the corporate wellness programs.
Targeting dependents for corporate wellness initiatives makes good business sense. Along with employee healthcare costs, dependent healthcare costs are soaring, according to the National Business Group on Health (www.businessgrouphealth.org). Children and teens account for 14.7% of typical healthcare costs for a large employer ― not including the productivity loss for working parents of sick or injured children. And a national survey of employer-sponsored health plans found that each dependent costs employers $1780/year on average. With childhood obesity and diabetes on the rise, employers could realize significant cost savings by helping young family members adopt healthy behaviors early in life.
Promoting healthy relationships is an opportunity for employers to reduce employee stress and boost morale. Employers often find that calls to an employee assistance program are due in large part to marital or other family problems. Employee wellness programs that promote healthy family routines and rituals — like eating meals together — help fortify family connections. And when family members work together toward a common wellness goal (a walking program, for example) they reinforce healthy behaviors while strengthening their relationships — important factors in employee and dependent well-being. With enhanced family health and a more positive home life, employees are less distracted and stressed out — and are more likely to come to work prepared to do their best.
Promoting Wellness on the Home Front: The Business Case for Targeting Family Health and Well-Being (http://whitepapers.hesonline.com/
“To make sustainable changes in health behaviors, employees need the support of their family members,” notes Dean Witherspoon, CEO and founder of Health Enhancement Systems. “Promoting family well-being is a smart business strategy. By encouraging family participation in corporate wellness programs, employers can surround employees with social support for a healthy lifestyle on and off the job — and amplify the healthcare savings.”
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Health Enhancement Systems creates employee wellness programs for organizations in North America and throughout the world. More than 20 effective, engaging HES wellness campaigns have been adopted by over a thousand organizations — serving hundreds of thousands of participants successfully.
For more information about Health Enhancement Systems, visit http://www.HealthEnhancementSystems.com or call 800.326.2317.