Workforce Health + Benefits

How Spouses Can Help Improve Employee Health and Wellness Program Participation

At first thought, it may seem unnecessary, costly, or even like a distraction to include spouses in certain work-related benefits and initiatives.

But if your organization doesn’t find it unnecessary or too costly to cover employees’ spouses and families in your group health insurance (arguably a company’s biggest annual expense) then consider this:

Why doesn’t your wellness program include spouses and other family members and welcome their participation?

When it comes to your organization’s wellness efforts, inclusion has the potential to offer big benefits – like healthier employees that lead to lower health care costs that produce positive impacts on your bottom line – and an overall stronger, more engaged workforce.

Research confirms a pay-off when spouses and families are included in wellness programs.

Because behaviors have a tendency to transfer over time to those closest to you¹ it makes sense that including spouses in your wellness program would contribute to the program’s long-term success.

Research suggests that when spouses are included in key wellness initiatives, employers experience increased employee participation (twice as high²) and are more likely to see meaningful, lasting change.

Here’s what else the data says about including spouses in wellness programs:

  • 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.3

Additionally, extending wellness support to spouses and family members in your efforts to improve employee health can also strengthen the connection your employees have with organizational leadership and with their job as a whole:

70% of participants in employee well-being programs felt the program was an indication that their employers supported them in and outside of work.3

Consider the potential impact on claims & health care cost savings.

Strictly speaking about health care cost savings:

  • Keep in mind that while spouses typically represent only about one-fifth of covered members, they generate nearly one-third of the health care costs for an organization.¹
  • Research conducted by Gartner reported that when employees receive encouragement from family and friends to live a healthier lifestyle, organiztions can see an additional $232 of health care savings and productivity gains per employee.4

How to engage employees and spouses in your wellness program.

An employee’s family and friends – including their spouse, partner, children, extended family and social networks – have the power to encourage healthy behaviors and wellness program participation. They are the biggest motivators for wellness activities like exercise and healthy eating, and they have more influence on an employee’s health behaviors than doctors and other health and medical professionals.

So, how can you encourage spouses, partners, families and other members of an employee’s social network to help them maintain healthy behaviors and participate themselves?

  • Extend participation in the wellness programs and related events and initiatives to friends and families of employees by encouraging them to work directly with employees on health and wellness initiatives by using the resources available through the wellness program.
  • Deliver spouses, partners and families with customized wellness communications that continue to acknowledge their role in wellness initiatives and appreciates them for their ongoing efforts to improve the health of their family.
  • Promote family-friendly wellness events outside of work, such as family-friendly competitions and team-based challenges, to engage both employees and families and further encourage employees to include their families in their wellness efforts.
  • Make your social platforms a place for wellness networking and a place where you share wellness information and promotional program material to increase visibility, motivation, conversation and participation from both employees and their families.
  • Create new, family-friendly wellness initiatives, like family-focused goals, where employees work with their family to create their own wellness goals – like cutting out sugar or committing to physical activity every day – to ensure the family unit is included and working toward a healthier lifestyle.

Ready to evolve your wellness program & incorporate spouses and families in your efforts? We can help.

Our book of business confirms what the data says about spousal and family inclusion: When spouses play a proactive role in their health, the covered employee’s health improves too.

When an employee doesn’t feel well, is constantly dealing with a chronic pain or illness, is suffering in silence with a mental health issue, or is contending with stress and anxiety on a daily basis, their work and role in the company is certainly never top of mind.

When an employee’s family or friends contend with these same health issues, it can still greatly affect an employee’s focus, productivity, attendance, and so on – not to mention your health care costs.

Your organization’s wellness efforts will produce the max amount of desired results when you invite families and social networks to participate, and a Cleveland Clinic | Bravo program can help make spouse and family engagement an easy addition to your progress-based incentive strategy.

Have questions regarding how to incent spousal participation and its impact on overall program success? Schedule a demo and we’ll share our experience and case studies that show a dramatic impact on the bottom line.

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1 Health Care Consumerism Solutions™, May/June 2013

2 2013 study conducted by the HERO research committee in collaboration with Mercer

3 Employee Benefit News. Why employers should include spouses in well-being programs. Accessed October 14, 2019.

4 Gartner. Including Spouses and Families in Employee Wellness Programs Pays Off. Accessed October 14, 2019.

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