Divorce remains one of the most prominent issues in our society. While rates have technically declined since 2000, roughly one in two marriages still end in divorce. Second marriages stand an even slimmer chance, with a 63% failure rate; and third marriages have the worst chance of success at 73%.
Take an inventory of your closest friends and family, and chances are that you know several couples who have divorced. Many issues contribute to this problem, with lack of communication cited as the number one culprit behind it. Infidelity comes in second, with 60% citing it as their reason for splitting. And domestic abuse is next, with 24% claiming it ended their marriage. Many demographics play a part as well. For instance, those living below the poverty line have a higher chance of divorce versus college-educated couples, who are more likely to stay married. With that said, while divorce can impact anyone at any age, recent studies show the average age is mid-40s, the time when most people are at the peak of their career. And when you look at religious communities, there isn’t a single one that’s immune, though evangelical Protestants factor most prominently into these unfortunate statistics.
With so many effected by divorce, it’s crucial to understand how it can impact the workplace. Recent data confirms that divorce-related stress costs employers $300 billion per year. For example, the average employee loses 168 hours of worktime in the first year following a failed marriage. And it only makes sense that those going through the process are prone to being distracted, unfocused, and unmotivated, resulting in diminished productivity.
In one recent study, nearly 44% of those going through a divorce admitted that it had negatively impacted their work. Think about it. They can make more mistakes on the job. They can cause issues with colleagues and be prone to being more sensitive than normal. They can also take multiple sick and personal days to attend court custody cases and meetings with lawyers. In short, things can quickly go downhill for employees ending their marriages, and the result can be catastrophic financially, personally, and professionally.
As leaders, we know the converse is just as true: When our people are happy with their lives outside the workplace, they do better on the job, contributing at a higher level, prospering their organization, and impacting their communities in a positive manner. Yet we can only impact our corporate environment, not anyone’s individual homelife.
So what is the solution? Can we do anything to support those employees headed for divorce?
My research says yes.
Most organizations already provide health benefits for employees. High-performing employers offer their workers not only health but wellness benefits, which can be related to fitness, smoking cessation, diet coaching, and more. They also maintain Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs), which typically offer therapy for employees and family members concerning relationship issues or ailments connected to depression, anxiety, grief, and loss. Some may include couples therapy as well, but some do not.
Offering great employee assistance programs can yield lower turnover rates, higher levels of job satisfaction, decreased absenteeism, and an overall happier and healthier work environment.
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend time with good friends Dean Brior and Jeff Kime. Dean is a successful CEO, business owner, and entrepreneur who has successfully led hundreds of employees. As such, he has witnessed the toll divorce takes on people, not just at home but in the workplace.
Currently, Jeff is the Executive Director and Dean is director of development for The Marriage Hub.
Founded in 2004 by Dr. Bruce McCracken, The Marriage Hub seeks to provide biblically based marriage-building experiences for couples of all ages and stages. Their bold vision is to see divorce eradicated from our society by helping couples repair broken relationships so they can lead happy and fulfilled lives both inside and outside the workplace.
Mark: Jeff, it’s great meeting with you today, brother. I am excited to share with our readers what you’re doing. My first question is simple. How does divorce affect the workplace, and why should human resource professionals sound the alarm bells?
Jeff: Rosemary Frank, a certified divorce financial analyst, reported that divorce impacts the entire workplace in four major areas. The first is a loss of concentration when the employee is going through the divorce personally. This hits 40% in the first year, and slowly drops to 10% all the way in year four following the divorce.
The second is disrupted coworkers. We’re all social creatures, so if someone is hurting, we listen to their story [and] try to console them, resulting in those employees suffering a drop in productivity. It peaks at 4% in the first year, which continues for up to five years.
The third is that the employee going through the divorce misses workdays. Those days can be due to child custody hearings, meetings with attorneys, having to deal with childcare that was typically shared with a spouse – you name it. The average employee misses 9% of their workdays when going through a divorce.
The final area is an increase in usage of health benefits, which as we all know, ends up costing the employer in the long run. Added stress – needing to add kids to health plans, etc. – typically increases health-related expenditures by 10.4% while going through a divorce.
Adding all of these factors together, Rosemary Frank concluded the average business owner ends up paying an additional $85,934 in lost revenue for a business when one of their employees goes through a divorce. And if the person is in management, it could go even higher!
Mark: There are many great counseling programs out there, yet many couples never take advantage of them. What do you think makes The Marriage Hub unique and so successful?
Jeff: Mark, the typical couple going through marital challenges looks at counseling or their church as their first line of response. The challenge is that while both of those are potentially helpful options for a couple, it’s not the most effective option for a couple going through marital crisis. They need more than a one-hour session every other week with a counselor; they need more than the training a pastor has received in handling these specialized situations. And that’s where The Marriage Hub comes in.
We offer 20+ hours in a three-day Marriage Intensive Retreat for these couples in crisis. We then offer a 15-week follow-up course after the intensive. The national success rate of counselors working with a couple in crisis is only 25%, and the average couple flames out after two and a half sessions. It’s not enough, whereas here at The Marriage Hub, we’ve maintained an 85% success rate working with couples in crisis by giving them the time and personal care they need to navigate these challenging times – all performed by one of our highly trained coaches.
Mark: Dean, What have you personally witnessed in your years of experience as a leader in the workplace? Any specific examples regarding employees and the toll that divorce has taken on productivity, etc.?
Dean: Unfortunately, what Rosemary says rings true. I’ve seen this countless times: someone who was a business rockstar loses their mojo during a divorce. It’s not that the person is bad; it’s just the emotional landslide a divorce creates. That causes them to lose their focus and fail to perform at the same level they normally did.
Mark: Why do you believe The Marriage Hub can become a critical component of organizations’ human resources department?
Dean: When the HR department hears about challenges going on in an employee’s life, when they start to notice things going sideways and sit down to chat about job performance or any other concerning issues they see at work, they often learn that it’s challenges at home that are causing these work difficulties. Here at The Marriage Hub, we can become a resource to help those struggling employees. As the employee’s marriage is transformed, so is their entire countenance and ability to perform their job the way God intended for them.
Mark: How have you seen, firsthand, The Marriage Hub make a lasting impact on employees’ workplace efforts and personal relationships outside the workplace?
Dean: One example is a couple who had come to our program when on the brink of divorce. The lady was a key employee at a local business, and her employer had heard about our program. He called us up and said he wanted to pay for the entire program for her and her husband. Over the course of the weekend, the transformation was not only profound in their marriage, but for eternity as well! The wife came to saving faith in Jesus Christ, and their family is now stronger than ever.
Mark: What might you say to an HR professional who is skeptical about the program and does not see a need for such a thing in the workplace?
Dean: I’d encourage them to reach out to other HR friends to see whether the data I shared earlier plays out in the real world. I think they’ll quickly realize that taking care of the whole person – including their marriage – is one of the greatest ways to build their business. Business is run by people, and people in a good place emotionally, socially, and spiritually make the best businesses and communities.
Mark: Lastly, what inspired you to get involved with The Marriage Hub? Can you share any personal stories with us?
Dean: Nancy and I have been married for 46 years. Our first six years were tough, as we were married in college and had to grow up together. We would have benefited from a ministry such as The Marriage Hub back then. We have celebrated many marriages through the years and seen our share of divorces happen. Most of those divorces did not have a resource like The Marriage Hub. Our mission is to see the ministry grow to the point where any couple in need can call us and get help.
Mark: Thank you, Dean. My hope and prayer are that more organizations will see the need for programs such as The Marriage Hub, and that, ultimately, marriages will be restored. In the words of Oswald Chambers when discussing the Sermon on the Mount, “The knowledge of our own poverty is what brings us to the proper place where Jesus Christ accomplishes His work.” When we recognize our shortcomings and surrender to Christ, great things can take place. The workplace should be joyful. The joy and passion we bring to the workplace should be a reflection of what we experience in our personal lives, an ultimate reflection of our lives, as well as a great setting to share the gospel with others. I am grateful to you, Dean, for your work and pray that we see miraculous things in the days ahead.
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