Though you may never see your employees’ spouses, partners and children around the office, they have a profound impact on your employees’ health-and your bottom line. If you offer health insurance to your employees’ family members, their coverage may account for 60% of your health care costs. Companies spend an average of $1780 per year on each of their workers’ dependents. And those costs will continue to rise. Insurance premiums for families have increased 97% since 2002, and continue to rise at a rate of 6% a year.
That’s why the majority of companies now invite employees’ spouses and dependents to join their wellness programs: Healthier families equal lower health care costs. Seventy-five percent of companies allow employees’ spouses to join their wellness programs, and 54% allow dependents to join, up from 45% in 2011.
These companies are seeing promising results. L.L. Bean’s wellness program led to a 42% reduction in smoking, a 22% reduction in high cholesterol and an 18% drop in high glucose among its employees and their spouses. More than half the children in IBM’s wellness program have lost weight.
But the other key reason to let employees’ families join your wellness program is that their health affects your employees’ health. People tend to share their family members’ eating and exercise habits. If their spouses and children snack frequently, eat high-calorie meals and spend most of their leisure time in front of the TV, they’re likely to do so as well. Obesity has been called a “family disease” because, often, several members of a single family will be obese. People are 37% more likely to be obese if their spouse is obese, and 40% more likely if a sibling is obese.
The good news is that positive health habits are also contagious. When someone loses weight or stops smoking, his friends and family members often do so as well. Studies show that support from family, friends and colleagues makes people more likely to exercise, eat less fat, reduce their BMI and have their glucose tested. Children who participate in diet programs with their parents lose more weight than kids who diet alone.
Family fitness is a win-win-win proposition. When you invite families to participate in your wellness program, you help your employees create a healthy support system in their own homes. They, their spouses and partners, and their children can commit to eating better and exercising more together. And, when families become healthier, your company saves on health care costs as well