Feeling cared for at work is a key driver of employee holistic health and happiness, and not prioritizing it can cause major issues in the workplace, according to a new study.
MetLife’s 21st annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study found that nearly half of employees (42%) don’t feel cared for by their employers, and when employees don’t feel cared for at work, their wellbeing, happiness, and overall satisfaction take a hit.
According to the findings, these employees are 65% less likely to feel a sense of belonging at work and 72% less likely to feel valued by their employers. This, in turn, has a measurable impact on organizational performance. Among employees who don’t feel cared for, only 45% are engaged, 58% are productive and 54% are loyal (versus 87%, 90%, and 89%, respectively).
“Our research shows care is not only a differentiated driver of the employee experience — but also a proven workplace metric to measure employer outcomes,” says Todd Katz, executive vice president, Group Benefits at MetLife. “When organizations genuinely demonstrate employee care, they are much more likely to weather macro challenges effectively, and rise to the top for current employees and job seekers alike.”
While employers recognize the importance of employee care, many are failing to demonstrate it in an effective way — defaulting to a one-size-fits-all approach, rather than providing an employee experience that meets individuals’ needs, the study notes.
As a result, certain employee cohorts have emerged as feeling less valued and appreciated than others — leading to disparities across the workforce. For example, while 72% of men and 70% of white-collar workers feel their employer is demonstrating care on the job, only 60% of women and 58% of blue-collar workers say the same. Across age groups, Gen Z employees are the least likely to feel cared for at work (only 53% do versus 61% of Millennials).
Consequently, these employees are some of the least holistically healthy — including physical, mental, social and financial wellness — across the workforce. MetLife found that, in the last year, holistic health has declined 20% for female employees, while it has remained the same for male employees. Similarly, only 26% of Gen Z employees feel holistically healthy, compared to 48% of Baby Boomers. These cohorts are also less likely to think their employers are committed to their success, leading to a greater willingness to consider leaving their employers.
The study further suggests that, amid the fluctuating employment landscape, employers need to look at each aspect of the employee experience through the “lens of care” — including everything from culture, purposeful work and flexibility, to benefits, career development and compensation. To that end, the research shows each cohort prioritizes certain aspects over others — and understanding these niche needs will enable employers to optimize their approach and meet expectations.
Not surprisingly, when it comes to benefits, employees are looking for more — including more options and more flexibility to choose the benefits that are most valuable to them. Making benefits more affordable is also one of the most important factors for employees feeling cared for via benefits offerings.
Consider that 72% of employees rated the affordability of employer-provided benefits as an important factor in their organizations’ demonstration of employee care, yet only 58% of employees were satisfied with current affordability. Similarly, more than two-thirds (68%) of employees rated employer contributions to the cost of benefits as important to their perception of employee care, but only 60% of employees were satisfied with current employer contributions.
Meanwhile, employee interest in financial wellness tools and resources has increased dramatically. In fact, the study found that the proportion of workers who view those offerings as a “must have” increased from 18% in 2019 to 45% in 2023. The number of employers providing financial wellness tools and resources to employees has also doubled, going from 25% to 54% in that same time frame, the study shows.
Employees also seek a broader range of accessible and customizable benefits. For instance, 60% of employees say they are interested in a wider array of non-medical benefits — the highest level since 2013. Slightly more employees (61%) say there are benefits they are interested in that their employer doesn’t currently offer — up 3% points from 2022.
Consequently, interest in programs to support overall well-being (e.g., gym memberships, employee assistance programs, stress management) has grown in the last few years. That said, the benefits “mainstays” are no less important, the study further advises. In fact, the 2023 survey found traditional benefits to be employees’ top “must-haves” — with the pattern holding across generations, ethnicities and genders. Here, the study shows that employees’ top “must-have” benefits include:
- Medical/health insurance (79%)
- Paid leave (77%)
- 401(k) or other defined contribution plan (75%)
- Dental insurance (73%)
- Vision care insurance or discount program (70%)
“While the concept of care is not new, our research makes clear that when it’s demonstrated genuinely, it has a profound and measurable impact in the workplace,” Katz further explains. “To really get this right, employers not only need to prioritize care, but also offer solutions that reflect the varying needs of their employees, ensuring they feel cared for as individuals.”
The study was conducted in November 2022 and consists of two distinct studies fielded by Rainmakers CSI. The employer survey includes 2,840 interviews with benefits decision-makers and influencers at companies with at least two employees. The employee survey consists of 2,884 interviews with full-time employees, ages 21 and over, at companies with at least two employees.
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