Health and financial concerns may be affecting workplace productivity

Source: MetLife

May 11, 2010

The economic crisis has created a significant shift in employers’ benefits objectives. Controlling benefits costs is now the top benefits objective for employers, edging out employee retention for the first time since 2006. And while improving employee productivity remains the third most important benefits objective, employers have renewed focus on this area due to the economy — 84% of employers now report that this is a very important benefits objective, up from 79% in 2008. At the same time, however, economic pressures confronting employees may negatively impact productivity. According to MetLife’s 8th annual Employee Benefits Trends Study, 68% of employees said that over the last 12 months they were affected by increased feelings of job insecurity, a decrease in the quality of their work, an increase in their workload or being distracted at work because of financial worries.

“In a still-fragile economy, organizations are searching for ways to maximize their benefits programs to improve employee productivity as well as control costs. Programs that help improve employee health and financial security can be strategic tools for helping address these objectives. However, these programs, which in many cases have only a nominal cost to implement, are still underutilized by many employers,” said Anthony J. Nugent, executive vice president, U.S. Business, MetLife. "The ‘next benefits frontier’ will focus on providing employees with access to these programs along with the education needed to become a healthier, more financially secure workforce.”

Providing access to health and wellness programs, work/life balance programs and financial advice and guidance in the workplace may prove to be a “win-win” for employers and employees alike as approximately eight out of ten employees say that they believe their productivity would be favorably impacted by these programs.

Specifically:

  • 77% of employees said financial advice and guidance programs would improve their productivity.
  • 81% said that health and wellness programs would improve their productivity.
  • 82% stated that work/life balance programs would improve their productivity.

More than one-third (37%) of employees strongly believe that because of the benefits they receive at work they worry less about unexpected health and financial issues. This percentage increases to two-thirds (66%) for those employees who say they are very satisfied with their employers’ benefits.

The popularity of wellness programs continues to slowly, but steadily, increase among employers. According to this year’s study, 37% of employers now offer a wellness program, up from 33% in 2008 and 27% in 2005. Among larger employers — those with 500 or more employees — 61% now offer a wellness program, up from 57% in 2008 and 46% in 2005.

Employee participation in wellness programs is also increasing. More than half (57%) of employees with access to a wellness program now say they participate, compared to 46% in 2008. This increase is likely attributed to the value that employees perceive from wellness programs. Consider that:

  • 71% of employees who participate in wellness programs say they greatly value the offering.
  • 70% of all employees say they participate because they desire good health.
  • 50% of employees are motivated to participate because of financial incentives.

Nearly half (48%) of employers who offer wellness programs say that they are very effective at improving productivity. Yet it is significant to note that 60% of employers who say that cost saving and employee productivity are important benefits objectives do not offer wellness programs.

“More than ever before, employers are recognizing the value of a healthy workforce and are viewing wellness programs as an investment to help address their business objectives,” says Dr. Ronald Leopold, vice president, U.S. Business, MetLife. “However, many appear to be underestimating this tool, especially compared against the perceived value by their employees.”

Click here to learn more about the MetLife’s 8th annual Employee Benefits Trends Study.

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