Workplace wellbeing and personal finances top concerns for employees

How can employers ease stress among workforce?

Workplace wellbeing and personal finances top concerns for employees
Jake Spiegel, research associate, health and wealth benefits, EBRI.

Workers are concerned about their mental well-being at home and work while dealing with the stress of how potential economic challenges will impact their finances, says an EBRI report.

Three-quarters of employees are moderately or highly concerned about their workplace well-being and three-quarters have a similar level of concern about their emotional well-being or mental health overall. In fact, one-third rate their mental health as fair or poor, finds the ‘2023 Workplace Wellness Survey’ by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Greenwald Research.

This is the fourth annual Workplace Wellness Survey that examines attitudes of US workers towards employment-based benefits in the workplace as well as a broad spectrum of financial well-being, employment-based health insurance, and retirement benefit issues. It finds that one in three (29 percent) workers are highly concerned about their own workplace well-being, while another 44 percent are moderately concerned. Approximately one quarter (26 percent) of workers are not too or not at all concerned. At the same time, workers are worried about how potential economic challenges will impact their finances. More than four out of five workers are at least somewhat concerned that there will be a recession in the next year or that inflation will remain high for at the next 12 months. Four in 10 workers feel at least somewhat prepared to handle an emergency expense of $5,000. Far more workers (70 percent) feel equipped to manage an unexpected expense of $500.

“What we found surprising is that this is the first year that saving for retirement is not the primary financial stress factor for employees,” says Jake Spiegel, research associate, health and wealth benefits, EBRI. “Instead, we found that day-to-day issues like emergency savings and paying for household bills are top of mind for workers.”

Spiegel says this is a pretty significant change from what was observed in previous years. Stresses at home and at work are impacting mental and emotional well-being and many are turning to their employers to get through this difficult time. In fact, the report says workers “broadly agree” that their employers have a responsibility to help them be financially well, mentally well, and socially and emotionally well.

Benefits more important

During this stressful period, workers feel employer-sponsored mental health benefits and financial wellness programs have become more important. Down slightly from last year and from 2021, this year’s report says 40 percent of employees are extremely or very satisfied with their benefits package and 22 percent are not too or not at all satisfied. At the same time, seven in ten agree at least somewhat that their benefits package is designed to meet their lifestyle and/or family needs. Health insurance is the most important benefit and 55 percent of workers are satisfied with their health coverage.

Employees really value health and retirement benefits, says Spiegel. “Workers also say, more than ever, that mental health benefits are really important. One thing that we found is that people really value having paid time off. Whether they use that time to provide care for a relative or use that time to go on vacation or go to appointments, having that flexibility is really important.”

Whether or not employees use enrol in or use their benefits, Spiegel says evidence suggests that knowing they have them should they need them makes employes feel employers are looking out for them.

He adds that company culture is also important to support employees. “Company culture can have a significant impact on workers. We see a lot more people saying a bad company culture makes them feel worse and a good company culture makes them feel better.

“[Employers should] keep in mind when they are designing benefits packages to just cultivate the best workforce that they can and be mindful of the overall culture that they're cultivating and the impact that it can have on their employees.”