Health is contagious. For employees spending most of their waking hours at work, colleagues can influence an individuals body mass index and smoking habits. A 2007 study found that people who had an immediate family member or close friend who was obese were 57% more likely to become obese themselves. Moreover, people working in small companies were 34% more likely to quit smoking if one of their co-workers also quit, according to a 2008 study. The data suggest that employees are more likely to engage in wellness, start healthier eating habits, lose weight, or exercise more if peers do as well.
Creating a formal network of wellness champions to communicate wellness messages and inspire healthy behaviors is one way employers can take advantage of the peer-influence phenomenon. In fact, a StayWell study found that companies that had more formalized wellness champion networks had better health risk improvement, especially among their older employees, who responded well to an on-site champion who was available to answer questions.
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