Com­men­tary

By in­volv­ing part­ners, com­pa­nies can cre­ate a sup­port sys­tem at home that can drive bet­ter health and per­for­mance at work

Employee Benefit News - - CONTENTS - BY KAREN MOSE­LEY

By in­volv­ing spouses in well­ness of­fer­ings, com­pa­nies can cre­ate a sup­port sys­tem at home that has the po­ten­tial to drive bet­ter health and per­for­mance at work.

Em­ploy­ers who want to pro­mote bet­ter health and well­ness among their em­ploy­ees would be well served to look be­yond the of­fice and into the home. By in­volv­ing spouses and do­mes­tic part­ners in well­ness of­fer­ings, em­ploy­ers can cre­ate a sup­port sys­tem at home that has the po­ten­tial to drive bet­ter health and per­for­mance at work.

A num­ber of stud­ies over the years have shown links be­tween so­cial en­vi­ron­ment and health. If the peo­ple around you drink, smoke or eat too much, you are likely to fol­low suit. Sur­round your­self with marathon­ers who eat a strict diet of veg­eta­bles and there’s a bet­ter chance you’ll be fit. The same goes for spouses and do­mes­tic part­ners.

An in­di­vid­ual whose part­ner low­ered his or her BMI is likely to fol­low suit, ac­cord­ing to new re­search from epi­demi­ol­o­gist An­drew Run­dle. There were sim­i­lar links re­lated to blood pres­sure and both high- and low-den­sity lipopro­tein. Those kinds of con­nec­tions could lead to some mean­ing­ful ben­e­fits for em­ploy­ers.

Fi­nan­cial per­for­mance and im­proved em­ployee health are only part of the equa­tion. While spouses rep­re­sent about one-fifth of cov­ered mem­bers in em­ployee health plans, they gen­er­ate nearly one-third of health­care costs, ac­cord­ing to data from HR con­sult­ing firm Mercer and the Health En­hance­ment Re­search Or­ga­ni­za­tion, a non­profit that identi- fies best prac­tices in the field of work­place health and well­ness. In­clud­ing spouses in health im­prove­ment ef­forts, then, could re­sult in mea­sur­able sav­ings.

Em­ploy­ers can con­trib­ute to this so­cial in­flu­ence. By al­low­ing spouses to take part in well-be­ing pro­grams, they may drive bet­ter em­ployee par­tic­i­pa­tion. Data from the HERO Score­card sup­port that idea. For ex­am­ple:

• 28% of em­ploy­ees par­tic­i­pated in life­style coach­ing if a spouse was in­volved, com­pared to 14% with no spousal in­volve­ment.

• 88% of em­ploy­ers re­ported im­prove­ments in health risk with spousal in­volve­ment, com­pared to 81% with­out.

• 70% re­ported pos­i­tive im­pact on med­i­cal trend with spousal in­volve­ment, com­pared to 64% with­out.

Im­prov­ing a spouse’s well-be­ing might even make an em­ployee more pro­duc­tive, data sug­gests.

So, how can em­ploy­ers en­cour­age in­volve­ment in health and well-be­ing ac­tiv­i­ties that will sup­port their em­ploy­ees?

• Con­sider ex­tend­ing well­ness ben­e­fits to spouses and fam­i­lies.

• Pro­vide in­for­ma­tion that can help cou­ples de­velop joint strate­gies for im­ple­ment­ing a healthy diet.

• Pro­vide well-be­ing ed­u­ca­tion in mul­ti­ple for­mats that em­ploy­ees can eas­ily share with spouses.

• Ad­dress joint bar­ri­ers to en­gag­ing in healthy be­hav­iors by giv­ing spouses ac­cess to the same pro­grams that are avail­able to em­ploy­ees.

• Make sure spouses have the same ac­cess to healthy foods, and help both part­ners avoid sit­u­a­tions that lead to un­healthy be­hav­iors.

Karen Mose­ley is vice pres­i­dent of ed­u­ca­tion and di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions for the Health En­hance­ment Re­search Or­ga­ni­za­tion, a non­profit that iden­ti­fies best prac­tices in the field of work­place health and well­ness.

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