The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated the ranks of the U.S. workforce. Those who are working report feeling more financial stress than they did before the crisis. They also have a new appreciation for employee benefits, according to MetLife’s 18th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study.
The 2020 study took place in two waves: one in late fall or 2019 and the other in April after COVID-19 upended American workplaces. One of the biggest findings is that two in three employees reported feeling more financial stress than they did before COVID-19. Workers’ top three sources of stress were contracting the virus, having a friend or family member contract the virus, and social distancing.
Certain groups of workers are feeling more stress than others.
- 72% of women are feeling more stressed as a result of the pandemic, compared with 61% of men who said they feel the same way.
- 70% of workers who make less than $50,000 per year said they feel more stressed, compared with 66% of workers who earn between $50,000 and $100,000 annually, and 62% of those in the $100,000-and-over income bracket.
- 3 in 4 health care workers are feeling stressed, as are 72% in professional services and in retail.
Employees are always looking to traditional workplace benefits such as health insurance, dental insurance and group life insurance to increase their physical and financial wellness, said Bradd Chignoli, MetLife senior vice president of group benefits. But the 2020 study found workers in the COVID-19 era are interested in other benefits. They include: increased paid time off, a work-from-home policy or flexible work hours and arrangements, emergency hardship assistance, mental wellness programs, subsidized cell phone or internet service, paid family or caregiver leave, and access to telehealth programs.
Brokers need to educate workers on how their benefits can relieve their financial stress, Chignoli said.
“What we’re hearing from workers is that they need someone to help them understand more about how the benefits can be useful in their own personal situation, so they can connect the dots and understand how to use their overall benefits package for their unique situation,” he said.
The study found that employees have an increasingly positive perception of benefits, and overall better financial resilience when compared to a decade ago. Looking at a comparison from MetLife’s 2010 and 2020 studies,
- In 2010, 59% of employees said that because of the benefits they receive at work, they worry less about unexpected health and financial issues. This has increased to 68% in April 2020.
- In 2010, 50% of employees said that they are interested in a wider array of non-medical benefits they can choose to purchase and pay for. This increased to 56% in April 2020.
- In 2010, 54% of employees said they were living paycheck to paycheck. That percentage fell to 35% in April 2020.
- In 2010, 70% of employees said they were satisfied with their job in 2010, compared with 75% of employees in April 2020.
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.
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