As Well-Being Declines, Workers Look To Employers For More Support
In its 10th Annual Workplace Benefits Study, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian®) finds that self-reported overall health among American workers declined last year, with most employees saying their companies need to do more to support their mental, physical, and financial well-being.
The study, entitled Mind, Body, and Wallet, also reveals a sharp disconnect between employer and employee perceptions, with most companies believing they are doing a good job in supporting well-being, and most employees disagreeing.
"The disconnect between employee and employer perceptions is particularly striking," says Chris Smith, Head of Guardian's Group Benefits business. "Employers have a real opportunity to close the perception gap by revisiting how they support employee well-being and helping their workers more fully utilize the benefits they already provide."
To monitor how Americans feel about their overall health and well-being, Guardian created the Workforce Well-Being Index™ in 2016. The index measures the self-reported well-being of working adults. This latest report confirms the overall decline in workforce well-being since the onset of the pandemic, with COVID-19 (50%) as well as money and finances (46%) being the two leading causes of stress in workers' lives.
Mental health has experienced a significant drop-off in 2021 from the previous five years, which can be directly tied to the pandemic and worsening financial wellness.
The study notes that employees' need for mental health support is particularly acute, as 21% of people in the US (or more than 52 million) are living with a mental health condition — an increase of 1.5 million individuals since 2019.1 As a percent of total disability claims, mental health-related claims have doubled in the past decade from 7% to 14%.
The study also confirms that benefits make a true difference in employees' lives. Nearly half of working Americans, for example, believe they would face financial hardship if they didn't have access to the benefits they receive through work.
At the same time, however, less than a third (28%) of employees strongly agree that their employer does a good job of educating them about the benefits that are available to them and how to use them. For their part, only 32% of employers say that tailoring benefits communication and enrollment for their various employee segments is extremely or very important.
"Providing benefits and helping employees use them not only promotes well-being but also enables companies to address priorities such as employee retention and productivity," notes Smith. "Our study, for example, found that companies that have invested in mental health benefits saw increases in both retention and productivity recovered for employees who utilized those benefits."
Every day, Guardian provides Americans the security they deserve through our insurance and wealth management products and services. Since our founding in 1860, our long-term view has helped our customers prepare for whatever life brings whether starting a family, planning for the future, or taking care of employees. Today, we're a Fortune 250 mutual company and a leading provider of life, disability, dental, and other benefits for individuals, at the workplace, and through government sponsored programs. The Guardian community of over 9,000 employees and our network of over 2,500 financial representatives is committed to serving with expertise when, where, and how our clients need us. Our commitments rest on a strong financial foundation, which at year-end 2020 included $9.5 billion in capital and $1.7 billion in operating income. For more information, please visit guardianlife.com or follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.