Employee Benefits Study - Supporting Employee Well-Being in Uncertain Times

“Employers who understand their employees’ experience and needs — and take action to help their employees manage the challenges they face inside and outside of work — will have a more engaged, productive and successful workforce.”

That’s just one of the core takeaways from MetLife’s recently released 18th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, “Navigating Together: Supporting Employee Well-being in Uncertain Times,” which is filled with insights to help both businesses and their workforces thrive during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report notes how COVID-19 has transformed the fabric of work and life and dramatically impacted employees in all aspects of their well-being. Additionally, the study explores how employees are managing work-life stress in the wake of the pandemic and how a holistic approach to well-being, supported by the right programs and benefits, can promote a more engaged, productive and successful workforce.

Focusing on the realities, both positive and negative, of the blended work-life world brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the findings reveal how a holistic approach to well-being can help the workforce manage the stresses of the pandemic while minimizing further impact on productivity, engagement and loyalty.

Key Stats & Findings
The following are some of the findings and insights from the report, based on MetLife’s two waves of surveying over 5,000 benefits decision makers and full-time employees, starting in August 2019 and then again after the pandemic struck in April 2020.

The New Work-Life Reality
Before the pandemic, both employees and employers reported increased complexity in managing the blending of work and life.

4 in 10 employees stated they struggle to navigate the demands that come with today’s “always-on” work-life world. While 60% of employers stated their organization was struggling to keep up with the blended work-life world.

Amid the pandemic, work and life are blending more than ever before, employees are increasingly stressed. In fact, 2 in 3 employees responded that they are feeling more stressed than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “new normal” calls for enhanced employee emotional and financial wellness for better management of work-life stress. 58% of employees who struggle said their employer doesn’t offer mental health programs that meet their specific needs, or they are difficult to access/understand. 55% of employees who struggle expected to postpone their retirement due to their financial situation.

Data from both before and during the crisis clearly shows that when employers provide greater support to their employees, their employees are more successful.

Driving Employee Engagement and Reducing Stress
Support from employers is even more important during the COVID-19 crisis. There is a direct correlation between strong employer support and employee feelings of success, appreciation, engagement, productivity and respect.

While roughly a third of employees are experiencing stress and/or burnout during the pandemic, 73% of employers said reducing employee stress was a key objective for 2020, up 5% pts. from 2019.

Workplace stress and burnout are major concerns because they have a real and tangible impact on businesses. Frequent feelings of stress and burnout directly cause declines in productivity, engagement and loyalty, as well as increased absenteeism.

The top drivers of productivity, engagement and loyalty are employee recognition, competitive compensation and a comprehensive benefits program.

Embracing a Holistic Model Well-Being

Embracing a Holistic Model Well-Being
Increased employee well-being directly correlates to positive business outcomes. A comprehensive approach to benefits can support employee well-being by meeting their diverse and changing needs.

74% of employees stated they are concerned about at least one aspect of their well-being as a result of the virus. Benefit programs that address employee well-being holistically across four key components, physical, financial, mental and social health, can lead to higher workforce engagement, productivity and loyalty and make a measurable difference in this time of crisis.

This approach to supporting employees will be critical for companies both to help their employees manage the crisis and support their organization’s recovery.

Financial wellness is particularly important for holistic well-being. 52% of employees said they are concerned about their financial health in the wake of the pandemic. Employees with poor financial health also rated their mental, social and physical health significantly lower than the average.

Nearly half of employees said that their employer doesn’t offer mental health initiatives and programs that address their specific needs. Meanwhile, 29% said that their employer offers mental health programs that are difficult to access and understand.

Benefits and Communications
A comprehensive approach to benefits can support employee well-being by meeting their diverse and changing needs. The right mix of traditional, voluntary and emerging benefits can help mitigate employees’ stress and support them when they need it most. In fact, employees’ responses indicated that a comprehensive benefits program is the #3 driver of holistic well-being

A benefits program that supports various aspects of the work-life blend is critical. It’s not only traditional benefits that matter today, but also benefits that help manage work-life stressors, like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Also, benefits can alleviate financial burdens and help employees feel more financially secure beyond income alone.

4 in 10 employees said their employer is currently not offering benefits or programs that help and 69% of employees stated that having a wider array of benefits would increase loyalty to their employer. Plus, a majority of Gen Z (61%) and millennials (64%) said they are interested in a benefit their employer currently doesn’t offer.

Furthermore, employees who understand their benefits are more holistically well, and clear, timely benefit communications in moments of need can increase their impact, especially during extreme circumstances like COVID-19.

Communication throughout the year, outside of open enrollment, is critical to increasing awareness and understanding of benefits. It’s important to describe benefits in the context of employees’ lives, and the current global perspective.

What can employers do?
To help employers create these holistic programs and support employees, MetLife offers these suggestions:

  • Provide mental health and EAP programs to help employees manage new stresses from the pandemic.
  • Support employees with financial wellness programs to help them feel more financially secure.
  • Offer comprehensive benefits programs that play a pivotal role in employee satisfaction and are crucial to employee stability and security in a time of need.
  • Evaluate if there are any components that make up a holistic benefit program missing from your model, especially financial and mental health.
  • Offer resources, campaigns and leadership support on work-life, EAP and financial benefits into your organizational culture.
  • Reference of-the-moment topics, point employees to where they can access more information and communicate year-round, especially in relevant moments.

One thing remains constant in the new normal of work-life blending – employers who provide effective support and benefits ensure both their organization and their employees will be better equipped to manage and recover from the impact of the crisis and will experience long term success.

LifeCare’s high impact, comprehensive services are designed to support employees in all aspects of their lives, from major life moments to dealing with daily demands, saving them time, stress and money. To learn more about how we can help you offer programs that holistically support your employees, contact us here or call us at (866) 675-3751.