A new study by MetLife, the insurance giant, puts a spotlight on what employees want in terms of benefits and the extent to which employers are accommodating their preferences.
Employers and employees alike increasingly view wellness as an important part of work culture. In fact, employers are even more likely than workers to say that businesses have a certain degree of responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their employees (82 percent vs 73 percent).
And yet, when it comes to wellness benefits, the report concludes that employers are coming up way short, perhaps due to a communication gap.
While more than half of employees say that wellness benefits and financial planning make them much more likely to be loyal to their employer, only 36 percent of employers believe that such benefits are greatly prized by their workers.
Roughly half of employees say they are concerned or anxious about their financial well-being. Similarly, 43 percent say they plan to delay retirement due to insufficient savings.
These days, those who aren’t thinking about retirement yet have other daunting financial concerns, notably student loans.
Only 27 percent of those surveyed say they are satisfied with their progress in paying off their college debt and only 32 percent say they are happy with the amount they’ve put away to pay for their own kids’ education.
More broadly, only 40 percent of employees say they look to their employer to provide them financial security.
That percentage has steadily climbed in recent years, but continues to reflect the fact that a large portion of the workforce is not confident that their current job is secure enough or that the benefits they have are robust enough to ensure their long-term financial well-being.
Considering some of the sobering statistics regarding U.S. workers’ lack of savings that have surfaced in the last couple of years, the percentage of workers with serious financial concerns should probably be even higher.
Employers are similarly aware of the impact that financial anxiety has on the company. Two-thirds say that worrying about money makes employees less productive.
The report argues that employers can help alleviate the significant stress burdening their workforce by allowing employees to customize their benefits to address their unique personal situations. Offering benefits that are customizable, portable and holistic, states the report, is the key.
Looming over decisions about benefits and wages is the prospect that workers will ditch full-time employment in favor of the ever-expanding “gig” economy as a contract worker. Indeed, the survey shows that a large share of workers are willing to make the jump, provided they can make enough money doing so.
Unsurprisingly, younger workers are far more likely to entertain freelance work than their older colleagues. Sixty-four percent of millennials say they are interested in freelance work that would offer them a more flexible lifestyle, compared to 52 percent of Gen Xers and 41 percent of baby boomers.
In an interview with BenefitsPRO, Todd Katz, executive vice-president of Group Benefits for MetLife, says he is surprised by the extent to which workers are open to ditching full-time employment in favor of contract work.
The pressure from the gig economy, as well as a low unemployment rate, means that employers are thinking more than ever about what they can offer to keep employees onboard. Employees who are given a certain degree of discretion over the design of their benefits, says Katz, are far more loyal to their employers.
“Employers are pretty outspoken,” he says, “in saying that retention is the number one priority.”