Including Spouses and Families in Employee Wellness Programs Pays Off

Including Spouses and Families in Employee Wellness Programs Pays Off

If your group health insurance plan covers your employees’ spouses, why shouldn’t your wellness program do the same? At Employee Benefit News last week, Karen Moseley reviewed some research showing the benefits of including spouses in employee well-being initiatives:

By allowing spouses to take part in well-being programs, they may drive better participation from employees. 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. …

The benefits of including spouses in wellness efforts are not strictly financial. A 2016 Harvard Business Review survey found that 70% of participants in employee well-being programs felt the program was an indication their employers supported them. Extending wellness support to family members only strengthens that connection. Improving a spouse’s well-being might even make an employee more productive.

Our research at CEB (now Gartner) further reinforces the importance of employees’ spouses to encourage healthy behaviors. We find that spouses and partners are the biggest motivator for wellness activities such as exercise and healthy eating, and have more influence on employees’ health behaviors than doctors, nurses, or other health providers.

However, the best organizations go beyond spouses and leverage employees’ entire social networks to encourage healthy behaviors—and for good reason. Our research demonstrates that receiving encouragement from family and friends to live a healthier lifestyle can lead to an additional $232 of health care savings and productivity gains per employee. Here are five easy ways organizations can encourage spouses, and other members of employee social networks, to help employees maintain healthy behaviors:

  • Targeting wellness communications and resources to employee spouses and partners: Communicating to employees’ spouses acknowledges their role in improving the health of their family, increasing the likelihood that spouses will take an active role in improving employee health.
  • Extending participation in wellness programs and events to employees’ friends and families: Allowing friends and family to participate in wellness programs and events invites them to work directly with employees to improve health using the resources available through the wellness program.
  • Promoting family-friendly, cross-organizational competitions outside of work: Family friendly competitions (such as team-based step challenges) engage family and friends in wellness programs, and encourage employees to include them in their wellness efforts.
  • Creating visibility for wellness through external social networking websites: Sharing wellness information and promotional material on social networking sites, such as Facebook, makes it easier for employees’ wider social network to become informed about healthier lifestyles and more likely to motivate employees.
  • Expanding the scope of wellness incentives to include family-focused goals: Offering wellness incentives for family-specific goals (such as reducing junk food or committing to an hour of physical activity a day) ensures that the entire family is dedicated and included in living a healthier lifestyle.

CEB Total Rewards Leadership Council members can learn more on our member site about how to leverage social support to improve the outcomes of wellness programs.