When employers decide to set up a workplace wellness program, they need to consider how employees’ family members and their own personal state of well-being will affect the program’s success.
There is a significant impact on an employee’s work/life balance and their ability to function normally throughout the day if a spouse/child has a mental health issue, unhealthy habits or he/she is abusing the employee.
Addiction and mental health issues can drastically alter an individual’s behaviour. When living with a family member struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues, your employee is likely feeling extra stress financially and emotionally and even experiencing physical symptoms. In addition, they may feel challenged with the perceived task of solving their loved one’s problem.
When family members choose different paths relative to eating and fitness it can cause problems with an employee’s time management ability (cooking additional meals to accommodate them) and emotional resilience (not giving in to temptations that may make them stray from their personal health goals).
Abuse is a situation that requires the utmost delicate approach; an employee may not be willing to admit if there’s a problem with a spouse, child or other family member or even acknowledge it themselves. Knowing when to simply provide information or just listen and when to act is key so that the proper authorities (family counsellor or social worker, police, etc.) are brought in while the situation is still in a manageable state.
Dependent claims are also contributing to the organization’s total costs but employers have little to no access to family members and influence over their day-to-day decisions relative to a healthy life.
One simple solution to improve all of these situations is to encourage employees to include their families in appropriate wellness activities (healthy eating plans or fitness challenges) and share educational material that’s available. It’s not necessary to have family members included in incentives; simply extending the invitation to include them demonstrates the organization’s commitment to total employee wellness.
An employee and family assistance plan (EFAP) is a fantastic tool that is likely already at an employee’s finger tips and contains a wealth of targeted information to address any wellness-related issue and provide counselling if the situation requires escalation from simple handouts and reminders. Managers will also benefit from access to an EFAP by receiving training on how to approach employees that are showing signs of distress.
True work/life balance, one of the major goals of any wellness program, can only be achieved when the full spectrum of influences on your employees has been addressed, and that includes promoting wellness outside the work environment at every opportunity.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Benefits Canada.