Building and integrating family wellness programs at work has been proven to increase a company’s overall financial health

We all know that work life 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).

Generally there are two evidence-based preventative approaches practised in Australia. The first, ‘assessment with feedback’, comprises inventory-based couple assessment followed by one or more feedback sessions with a relationship educator or similarly qualified professional. Inventories such as PREPARE/ENRICH and FOCCUS concentrate on this approach. Both have been shown to predict the trajectory of relationship satisfaction in the early years of marriage (Fowers & Olsen, 1986; Larson & Olsen, 1989; Williams & Jurich, 1995). A self-administered approach called Couple Checkup, helps couples discover their strengths and helps them identify issues that are threatening the vitality of their relationship.

The second, commonly used approach is curriculum-based knowledge and skills training. This involves teaching key relationship skills, developing awareness and building knowledge. The content may differ between programs but will likely include topics on communication and conflict management. CoupleCARE is one such example.

Incorporating assessment with feedback and facilitated curriculum-based knowledge and skills training is a relatively new form of preventative program which combines the unique results of the couple assessment, into a group program ensuring that discussion is directed to the couples own relationship, enabling couple to also hear about the experience and strategies other couples employ in their relationship.

Need more information, email me now:

By Shane Smith. Director, Relationship Educator and Mediator
President, Marriage and Relationship Educators Association of Australia


  • Andrews, K, 2012: Maybe 'I Do': Modern Marriage & the Pursuit of Happiness
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) - Marriage and divorces, Australia 2016

  • Benson, H. & McKay, S. 2017: Couples on the brink. Cambridge: Marriage Foundation

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  • National Center for Family & Marriage Research, Bowling Green State University

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  • Smyth, B., & Higgins, D. 2017 (23 Nov): Education for Family Life in Australia: A recent snapshot. Presentation at Marriage and Relationship Educators Association of Australia Conference 2017. Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre: 22-23 November

  • Stanley, S., Kline, G., & Markman, H. 2006: Sliding vs. Deciding: Inertia and the premarital cohabitation effect. Family Relations, 55, 499-509.

  • Stanley, S., Rhoades, G. K. Loew, B. A., Allen, E. S., Carter, S, Osborne, L. J. , Prentice, D., and Markman, H. J., 2014: A randomized controlled trial of relationship education in the US Army: 2 year outcomes. Family Relations, 63, 482-495

  • Turvey, M. D., & Olson, D. H., 2006: Marriage & Family Wellness: Corporate America’s Business? A Marriage CoMission Research Report. Minneapolis, MN

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