Companies expand wellness outreach to employees’ families


Racine-based Merchants Moving & Storage Co. invites employees to bring their families to community events like the Heart Walk, seen here.

For many companies in the southeastern Wisconsin area, encouraging health and wellness extends beyond just their employees.

Whether it is a flu shot, lunch and learn, or a fitness challenge, more and more companies are including their employees’ family members, as well.

One company that does a lot to engage the whole family is New Berlin-based Toolrite Manufacturing Co. Inc.

Racine-based Merchants Moving & Storage Co. invites employees to bring their families to community events like the Heart Walk, seen here.
Racine-based Merchants Moving & Storage Co. invites employees to bring their families to community events like the Heart Walk, seen here.

The family-owned company has basketball and racquetball courts, a workout room and a pool table, all available for employees and their immediate family members to use for free. President and chief executive officer J.D. Schreib said about half of the 74 employees’ family members take advantage of the offerings.

The building remains open until 8 p.m. or so, and most family members use the amenities in the evening after work and school.

“That’s where it gets the most use is people coming in and being able to spend time with their kid,” Schreib said. “Getting out of the house, especially during the winter months, doing something different, whether it’s shooting hoops or playing racquetball, it’s more fun with family members.”

Another company that focuses on family wellness is Creation Technologies LP in Oak Creek. Fifty percent of its employees have spouses who are covered under the company’s benefits, and people and culture leader Heather Ohlinger said the company wants to make sure they are not being excluded. Thus, Creation Technologies began doing more to target the family about four years ago.

“It was an untapped potential population we were missing a couple years back,” she said. “We wanted to make sure we modified our wellness program to include that group.”

Among the company’s family wellness initiatives, employees and their spouses can combine earned points for their health reimbursement accounts, and spouses can come to the company to receive flu shots and attend lunch and learns.

Since the Creation’s wellness program is connected to community initiatives, families are also invited to participate in activities like cleaning up the beach.

Ohlinger said family wellness outreach is essential because it helps keep employees healthy.

For instance, she said, an employee may be learning about healthy eating and making progress in a tobacco cessation program, but if the spouse does all the grocery shopping or is a smoker, the employee might fall back into his or her old habits.

“It’s important the spouse gets the same message that reinforces what we’re trying to get across to team members,” Ohlinger said.

To make sure the spouse is involved, Creation Technologies sends wellness information to households via home emails and home mailing. It also invites spouses who cannot attend informational meetings during the day to participate in WebEx meetings after hours.

“Since they earn points in the program, too, we want to make sure they understand what they need to do and not rely on their spouse to tell them,” Ohlinger said.

Companies also have a stake in the health of their employees’ families, said HellermannTyton human resources director Tim Jarecki, because an unhealthy or ill spouse or child covered under the employee’s health plan increases premiums and affects the company.

Besides the financial and physical health benefits, companies should involve the families of their employees for morale reasons, as well, according to Mary Kelly, wellness services manager for Milwaukee-based Sensia Wellness, a corporate wellness company.

“When companies do away with costly things like Christmas parties, it affects their (employees’) psyche more than not getting a raise,” she said. “That was one time a year they could meet each other’s families and connect outside on a different level.”

Racine-based Merchants Moving & Storage Company invites employees to bring their families to community events like the Heart Walk, and PPG Industries Inc. in Oak Creek holds many group activities involving family members.

According to Connie Ruehmer, a chemist and volunteer wellness program coordinator, PPG runs a golf league in the summer and holds bowling, golf, volleyball and softball tournaments. The company also hosts company picnics and tours so family members can see where their spouse or parent works.

“We understand our employees are people, too, and they have lives outside of work,” Ruehmer said. “We celebrate their lives by inviting families to come and do activities with us. It’s part of embracing our employees as people and not just as workers.”

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