Benefits and Compensation

The Family That Sweats Together: Wellness Benefits Aren’t Just for Employees

Employees are often the primary focus of workplace well-being initiatives, and with good reason. It’s the employee whose health has the most visible effect on corporate success. But the people who come in to work each day aren’t the only ones whose health is impacted by well-being efforts, and they’re not the only ones whose choices affect an employer’s bottom line. Workplace well-being is increasingly a family affair.

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There are a few powerful reasons to consider family when you develop a well-being initiative. Motivation is a big one. Individuals are more likely to live a healthy lifestyle if their spouse is also healthy. Because let’s be honest: If one family member wants dessert, chances are that everybody else will join in.

Or, consider the financial reality that employee spouses account for one-third of an organization’s healthcare costs despite comprising only about one-fifth of covered members. In other words, the health of your employees’ families has a bigger impact than you might realize on your health spending.

If you want to maintain an effective well-being program, it’s important to remember the family, and that includes the kids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that youth between ages 6 and 17 get at least an hour of vigorous activity each day. That regular activity helps with everything from improving health and building muscle to maintaining a healthy body weight and developing habits that can follow an individual throughout his or her life.

Plus, parents responsible for shuttling kids between baseball games, soccer practices, and swimming lessons probably knows that keeping the kids active can cut into their own fitness time. The answer? Find activities that parents and kids can do together. As an added benefit, families that exercise together build closer bonds, improve social development, and boost emotional management skills, which have the benefit of eliminating family stressors that may contribute to poor work performance.

There are many ways for families to be active together, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Just getting outside is number one. Something as simple as going for a walk or a bike ride can make a big difference. Families can also find a fun playground or park to explore. Anything an employer does to create fun opportunities for fitness can make a difference. Here are a few ideas to help you engage the entire family.

  1. Variety is the spice of family life.

If you want the entire family to get involved in a well-being initiative, you need offerings that appeal to everyone. That’s not always possible with gym reimbursements or step challenges. When one parent wants to build strength, the other wants to train for a marathon, and the kids just want fun activities, you need a program that works for people at all ages and all stages of ability. On-demand, virtual fitness can help. A good virtual-fitness provider will have content that covers a wide range of interests, whether high-impact interval training, yoga, running, or exercises designed to prepare kids for their next sports season. Just as important, offering a wide range of activities makes it easier for people to match their activity to their fitness level. Virtual-fitness classes that offer modifications for beginners or advanced participants allow people of different ability levels to work out side by side.

  1. Get on the map.

If you want employees to get active with their families, give them activities they can do together. Step competitions are one option, but those are most effective if every family member has a way to count steps. The answer doesn’t have to be that complicated, though. Even just giving employees a list of fun parks in their area offers motivation to get out and explore. Many cities offer indoor and outdoor options for year-round fun. Help your employees find them.

  1. Work toward a common cause.

Another easy way to encourage family activity is to give employees a family-friendly goal to work toward. Is there an organized fun run taking place nearby? Give employees a workout plan that helps them prepare for that event. Even if they don’t run, helping them prepare to walk a 5K or other noncompetitive race can provide positive motivation.

  1. Take it outside.

Give your employees workout options they can take outside any time of year. As long as your employees have a phone, tablet, or laptop they can carry with them, on-demand fitness opportunities and your employer wellness portals can offer the structure of a group fitness class and the flexibility to work out in the backyard, a park, or anywhere else people feel like getting in some exercise.

Family members are an important ally in a workplace well-being program. They’re the ones who will motivate your employees to get out and be active rather than bingeing another episode of the latest must-see TV show. Even better, when family members get healthy together, they’re less likely to make insurance claims, and the family bonding that results from time spent together may boost employees’ mental health. When your well-being program brings families together to improve their health, everybody benefits.

Mark Kingsriter is fitness director for Wellbeats, a content and software-as-a-service company that delivers on-demand, virtual-fitness programming for corporate wellness programs. Wellbeats is committed to delivering “fitness that fits” through more than 350 fitness classes that can be accessed anytime through iOS, Android, Windows devices, Apple® TV, a website portal, or on-site options. Contact Kingsriter at mkingsriter@wellbeats.com.