The COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges for businesses and employees, but those challenges have also brought opportunities. In fact, many employees have reevaluated what is important in life, including taking a closer look at their finances, careers and mental well-being.
Research shows that employed Americans are taking the lessons learned during the past two years to prioritize mental well-being. In fact, data from the 2021 U.S. Employee Perspectives on Mental Well-being in the Workplace study from Lincoln Financial Group found that 64% of full-time employed U.S. adults would choose a company with a less stressful work environment over a 10% higher salary. And nearly two-thirds of employees said they left a job in the past or would like to leave their current job because it is not good for their mental well-being.
Workplace wellness benefits can address this need for well-being support as well as help employers retain their people. More and more, employees are turning to their employers for support and resources, giving companies the opportunity to showcase the efforts they have made to protect their employees’ mental and financial well-being.
Impact of stress on mental health, well-being and financial goals
Lincoln Financial Group’s 2021 Retirement Power study found that those who have felt stressed say it has affected their performance at work, as well as their ability to improve personal finances and set long-term goals. The study also found that of those individuals who have experienced stress, 32% say that stress has impacted their physical health and 42% say it has impacted their mental health.
Stress levels can even negatively impact key retirement outcomes. The same study showed that highly stressed participants have lower contributions, fewer plan assets and less confidence than those who are not as stressed.
But it’s not all bad news, and employers can help ease some of this stress by offering resources that support their employees’ well-being. Finances can be a tremendous source of stress for employees. Financial wellness benefits offered in the workplace give employers a significant opportunity to improve employees’ financial health.
Offering additional resources, such as retirement plan options, also can lead to an increase in employee satisfaction and retention, a common concern among employers as record numbers of workers reevaluate their jobs in today’s post-pandemic environment.
Ease employee stress with group benefits
Employees are looking to their employers for guidance on how to break the cycle of stress and improve mental health. And many employees say it’s more important than ever for employers to help them with their mental, physical and financial well-being. In fact, the 2021 U.S. Employee Perspectives on Mental Well-being in the Workplace study shows that 47% of employees said they would choose a company that is more committed to a worker’s mental well-being, and 48% said that it is very important for employers to help their employees improve mental well-being.
This presents a tremendous opportunity for employers to expand their benefit offerings to provide additional support to employees. And according to the 2022 Workplace Benefits Survey, employers are doing just that. The survey found that two-thirds (67%) of workers are offered wellness resources through their employer and 33% are offered employee assistance programs.
Insurance coverages offered at the workplace — such as disability, accident or critical illness insurance — can help protect income and savings, leading to less financial stress. Without the right protections in place, an accident or illness can derail retirement savings, disrupt someone’s ability to provide for their family, and increase stress and anxiety.
Offering wellness resources, along with a well-rounded benefits package, sends a clear and deliberate message that employers care about their employees — both inside and outside of the office.
Educate employees to make informed decisions
Offering these resources is just the first step. It’s equally important for employers to communicate how the tools and resources offered can help employees improve their mental health. Education is crucial — in fact, the 2022 Workplace Benefits Survey found that 54% of workers say they would enroll in more benefits if they understood those benefits better.
Supplemental insurance coverages offered at the workplace — such as disability, life, accident or critical illness — offer income protections that can help ease some of the anxiety that comes with an unexpected life event. Without the right protections in place, an accident or illness can derail retirement savings and disrupt someone’s ability to provide, leading to increased stress and anxiety.
The need for additional education on benefits affects all generations of the workforce. The Lincoln Financial survey found that close to half (48%) of employees think it is easier to do their taxes each year than to figure out what benefits to choose. And when we look at millennials and Generation Z, the youngest generations in the workforce, even more of those young workers agree that taxes are easier to figure out. Offering more dynamic education on workplace benefits could help move the needle on these numbers. Employees do not need to be convinced of the importance of financial wellness benefits. What they need is access to resources that can help them make informed decisions and achieve their long-term objectives.
Offering these benefits is an important step. But for these products to provide the support employees need — they must actually use these benefits. Usage rates of some wellness resources remain low. Only 14% of employees report using employee assistance programs, 12% say they are using physical wellness programs and 9% are using mental health/mindfulness services, according to the 2022 Workplace Benefits Survey. But that’s no reason to discredit the value of these benefits. The same survey found 3 in 4 employees reported seeing a positive impact on their mental (74%) and physical (77%) health as a result of the wellness programs offered by their employer.
Our current environment provides a unique opportunity for benefits brokers and employers to offer further education on the wellness resources offered and to showcase the efforts they have made to ease employee stress. All of this will lead to a healthier, more productive and more engaged workforce.