What can we learn about worksite wellness from parenting?

Posted by: Sarah Engler
Date: December 25, 2015

What can we learn about worksite wellness from parenting?
It’s likely that a majority of the employees at your company are parents. In 2013, the majority of parents with children under 18 were in the labor force – almost 70% of women and more than 90% of men. At work my title is Strategic Wellness Consultant; at home I go by Mom to my four-year-old son. In navigating my role as a parent, I see correlations between parenting strategies and worksite wellness program strategies. Perhaps we can learn a little about how to improve worksite wellness by thinking about how we deal with our children.

Offer Healthy Choices
A couple of weeks ago I was out to dinner with my family. My son selected an option from the children’s menu. After placing his order the waitress asked him if he wanted broccoli or French fries with his meal. Without hesitation he opted for the fries. How many kids do you know who would willingly choose the healthy option over a special treat like fries?

A similar scenario may play out in your office on a regular basis. Do you offer pastries at your breakfast meeting and pizza for lunch? Obviously you want to provide choices for your employees, but try to select options that make the healthy choice the easy choice. If you typically provide fruit and bagels try to only offer healthy options like fruit and yogurt.

Keep It Simple
Have you ever taken your child into a toy store and allowed them to select one toy as a reward for good behavior? To a child, this may be an overwhelming task. I have spent hours wandering the aisles explaining why we cannot purchase a life-size stuffed bear or a $300 train set, which leads to tears, tantrums and frustration. I have learned to set parameters in advance and to choose a store with a limited toy selection.

Many companies want to please all employees and make their wellness program offerings enticing by offering a wide variety of activities to participate in. In theory, this sounds like a nice thing to do, but it may be difficult to manage and track. You should also consider the ability to communicate the program to employees in a simple, understandable way. Will all of those options lead to confusion and frustration? Setting guidelines and providing clear choices may lead to a more positive experience for everyone.

Health Coaching
It can be very challenging to promote healthy eating and exercise to our children in this day and age where we are rushing to get dinner on the table at the end of a busy day and our kids are surrounded by electronics. There are days when I am tempted to grab some fast food on the way home from work and hand my son a tablet to play on while I fold the laundry. As parents, it is our role to teach our children how to live healthy lives. We must provide education, and help guide and motivate them to make healthy decisions. Additionally, we need to support them and provide a healthy environment where their goals are achievable. Essentially, we are a health coach to our children.

Your employees may need some guidance and motivation to live a healthy life – just like our children do. We cannot assume they understand their health status and what steps to take to improve their health. As a busy, working mom one of the goals I set with my Health Coach is a simple as committing to bring my lunch to work at least three days a week. It may seem silly, but this helps me avoid going out to eat which saves time, money and calories! Health Coaching may be a great resource to help employees set realistic goals and empower them to maintain the changes.

Consult the Experts
As we all know, there is no manual or guide for parenting. Sometimes we encounter situations with our children that we are unprepared for or haven’t the slightest idea how to handle. What would you do if your child came home from daycare with a funky looking rash? You could Google images and remedies for childhood rashes….but it’s probably best to consult an expert to make sure it’s nothing serious. Your child’s health care provider can provide a diagnosis, treatment options, information and peace of mind.

The same could be said for worksite wellness programs. While it may seem like something you or your staff can handle internally, there are a lot of factors at play. You could search the internet when you need an extra hand, but it might be best to contact a Strategic Wellness Consultant. These individuals can help to:
• Discover your employees wellness-related needs and interests
• Customize programs and communications to meet your specific population
• Ensure your wellness programs are evidence-based
• Measure your progress towards goals and provide valuable reporting
• Assist in program implementation to take some work off your plate

To learn more about worksite wellness strategies, health coaching, and wellness consultation, please contact us.