More than half (52 percent) of U.S. employees are most concerned with their financial health in the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, MetLife’s 18th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS) found. Employees are more concerned about their finances than any other aspect of their well-being, including physical (44 percent), mental (44 percent) and social health (44 percent).

The study, released today and fielded among U.S. employees with full-time positions, measured the impact COVID-19 is having on employees’ financial well-being, revealing that 3 in 10 (29 percent) now earn less as a result of the virus. Meanwhile, nearly 4 in 10 (38 percent) say their employment status has been directly impacted by the pandemic, and an additional 36 percent expect to be impacted in the future.

“The coronavirus is clearly contributing to employees’ overall stress, especially as it relates to their financial well-being,” said Todd Katz, executive vice president, Group Benefits, MetLife. “It should come as no surprise that this is particularly true among those with incomes below $50,000, and those in healthcare. Across industries, employers have an opportunity to be a source of support for employees facing unprecedented challenges by offering tools and resources to address their immediate concerns.”

Employees’ expectations of employers increase

An analysis of pre-COVID-19 data from late 2019, compared to data from April 2020, shows that employees are now more likely to believe their employers have a responsibility to address their health and well-being (73 percent pre-COVID-19 versus 80 percent during COVID-19), particularly when it comes to their financial well-being (40 percent pre-COVID-19 versus 47 percent during COVID-19). They point to employer-offered benefits and programs as a crucial way to ease their stress and improve their well-being both now and in the future.

According to the study, 41 percent of employees feel their employer is not currently offering benefits or programs that help support or improve their well-being during this challenging time, while 77 percent say there are benefits or programs that, if offered by their employer, would ease their stress and improve their well-being.

To support their workforce during this time, employers should consider a holistic approach to overall well-being. Employees say being offered flexible work hours is a top action their employers can take to help alleviate their stress and increase their well-being. In terms of benefits, employees say mental wellness programs (such as an Employee Assistance Program), life insurance, and insurance benefits that offer lump sum or cash payments, such as hospital indemnity or critical illness insurance, would help to ease their stress, if offered by their employer.

The COVID-19 pandemic has required employers to show heightened support for their employees, and those who do are seen more favorably, the study found. Respondents who felt their employers are “doing enough” or going “above and beyond expectations” related to support during the pandemic feel more holistically well than those who say their employers have not done anything nor indicate any plans to start (58 percent versus 31 percent), as well as more productive, engaged, valued and appreciated.

“Now more than ever, it’s critical to understand employees’ needs,” said Katz. “In this time of crisis and beyond, providing a mix of benefits and programs can help mitigate stress, improve employees’ holistic well-being and support them when they need it most – which in turn can help bolster engagement and loyalty from the workforce.”

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