We all know that work and family life are intertwined and research supports this demonstrating that employees who are highly committed to their roles as parents and spouses benefit companies. Conversely, employee performance and satisfaction occur easiest when outside influences like family are considered through workplace contracts and the provision of flexible work arrangements.
Whilst Australia has seen a declining rate of marriage since 1947 – similar to other western nations – today more than 70% of women will marry in their lifetime, 1 in 5 marrying at least twice, with 4 in 5 couples living together before marriage (an increase from less than 1 in 5 in 1975). Lasting an average of 12 years, 1 in 3 of these relationships will end in divorce, most occurring in their primary producing years, around 45 for men and 43 for women in 2016 (ABS, 2016).
Marriage however still confers certain unique benefits. Based on a wealth of academic research, married people tend to have healthier lifestyles, live longer, have more satisfying sexual relationships, have more economic assets, and have children that tend to do better academically and emotionally. When relationships go right, couples who stay together tend to be happier, healthier and ultimately wealthier (Waite & Gallagher 2000).
For the employee and for businesses, research suggests that happily married employees increase profitability (Turvey et al, 2006), and have the potential through strengthened relationships at home and with business partners to accelerate business growth.
Conversely, when relationships go wrong, couple distress is strongly linked to problems with individual health and well-being (Lebow et al 2012), have serious health concerns, increased stress and anxiety, increased rates of depression and increased rates of substance abuse. These workers directly cost companies in absenteeism and higher turnover expenditures, and indirectly supporting less motivated and less healthy employees and through the societal effects of broken families. In Australia, research indicates divorce costs taxpayers an estimated $14 billion in federal and state expenditures annually (Andrews, 2012).
The effect for future generations is also known. The children of couples who stay together – and therefore have both parents present in the house – are more likely to thrive in their well-being and education (McLanahan et al 2013).
If relationships are integral to all aspects of a fulfilled life – from developing parenting skills, through to improving relationships with family and friends, to effectively communicating with colleagues and business partners, then it is in the interest of every organisation to assist employees to strengthen and build strong relationship skills. If marriage and family wellness improves a company’s overall financial health and increases profitability, it is then in every company’s best financial interest to support employees and to invest in the promotion of relational wellness to amplify the happiness and confidence of employees and to maximise business potential.
Prevention programs are a great investment in employees with studies demonstrating that for every $1.00 invested in employee wellness programs, the return on investment is as high as $6.85 (Turvey et al, 2006).
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) – Marriage and divorces, Australia 2016.
- McLanahan, S., Tach, L., & Schneider, D. 2013: The Causal Effects of Father Absence. Annual Review of Sociology, 39, 399-427.
- Turvey, M. D., & Olson, D. H., 2006: Marriage & Family Wellness: Corporate America’s Business? A Marriage CoMission Research Report. Minneapolis, MN
- Waite, L., & Gallagher, M. 2000: The case for marriage. New York: Doubleday.
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