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