The overwhelming majority of employees interviewed – about 8 in 10 – describe their level of debt as a problem, according to the 2022 Workplace Wellness Survey published by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Greenwald Research. This represents a 15 point increased since 2021 (65%).
Among those with a debt problem, 78% describe their
household’s level of credit card debt as a problem. In
addition, more than half describe their medical or health-related (57%) and student loan (51%) debt as problems. Health
emergencies (47%) are the biggest contributor to medical
debt, while funding their own education (64%) is the top
source of student loan debt that is considered problematic.
The survey found that about half of employees are concerned about their emotional (50%) and physical (48%) well-being. The 60% of those who say they are at least moderately concerned about their household’s financial well-being represents an increase of 11 points since 2021 (49%).
“Financial professionals can help workers come up with a plan to address debt and financial challenges at all stages of life.” — Paul Fronstin, director of Health Benefits Research for EBRI
“Whether it is saving for retirement, paying monthly bills, affording children’s college education, paying back student loans, or caregiving for children or parents, workers are pulled in many directions financially,” said EBRI’s Paul Fronstin, in explaining why so many employees describe their level of debt as problematic.
“Sometimes, workers are so in the weeds that they cannot see their way,” said Fronstin, director of Health Benefits Research for EBRI. “Financial professionals can help workers come up with a plan to address debt and financial challenges at all stages of life.”
The survey found that employees consider the following benefits important:
Paid time off
Most of those surveyed felt that tele-working has positively impacted their well-being.
Only four in ten (39%) described the work-life balance at their companies as excellent or very good, which has decreased significantly since 2021. Another 36% rate it as good, and 25% rate it as fair or poor.
In explaining why these benefits have become so important to employees, Fronstin said that the pandemic has likely changed expectations around workplace flexibility generally.
“It has been proven that remote work works, and workers like the benefits associated with such flexibility,” he said, adding, “It gives time back that they can use productively, such as taking their children to school, exercising, or preparing healthy meals.”
Other key findings
The survey offered additional findings, including:
Health insurance and retirement savings plans are the most common employee benefits and are the top benefits for employee retention/recruitment and financial security. Four in ten employees (44%) are extremely or very satisfied with their benefits package, a decrease of 7 points since 2021 (51%).
Most employees have a high level of understanding about their health benefits, and half rate their employer’s communications about health benefits highly. Half of employees (52%) rate their employer’s communications about health insurance and health care as excellent or very good. But less than half (47%) rate communications about online resources about benefits at the same level.
Most employees agree that balancing work and caregiving is challenging, but few employees report access to caregiving benefits. A quarter of employees (24%) report their employer offers subsidized/complimentary child or daycare. Among those with access, 65% of employees have used it, and among those without access, 44% are interested in having the benefit available.
Half of the employees surveyed are satisfied with their current retirement benefits, and most are satisfied with the contributions received from their employer. Seven in ten employees (70%) say they are currently offered a retirement savings plan. Half of employees (51%) are extremely or very satisfied with their current retirement benefits, and nearly six in ten (58%) understand their retirement benefits extremely or very well.
Most of the employees surveyed feel that mental-health wellness programs have become more important in the past year, and most are interested in mental-health resources and expanded benefits.
Fewer than half of employees say they are offered a financial-wellness program at work. When offered, six in ten employees have participated. Over four in ten employees (45%) also say that their employer offers the opportunity to participate in a financial-wellness program.
“In recent years, key metrics like job satisfaction, benefits satisfaction and ratings of work/life balance have remained fairly consistent,” said Lisa Greenwald, president & CEO, Greenwald Research. “It’s important to note the declines measured this year in overall benefits satisfaction and in ratings of work-life balance, which contrast with stable job satisfaction, and the belief that remote work has improved well-being and underscore the need for employers to ramp up well-being efforts.”
A total of 1,518 American full-time and part-time workers ages 21-64 were interviewed for the survey. Information was gathered through 20-minute online interviews conducted from July 13-29, 2022.
Ayo Mseka has more than 30 years of experience reporting on the financial services industry. She formerly served as editor-in-chief of NAIFA’s Advisor Today magazine. Contact her at [email protected].