In its 10th Annual Workplace Benefits Study, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian®) finds that self-reported overall health among American workers declined last year, with most employees saying their companies need to do more to support their mental, physical, and financial well-being. The study, entitled Mind, Body, and Wallet, also reveals a sharp disconnect between employer and employee perceptions, with most companies believing they are doing a good job in supporting well-being, and most employees disagreeing. Read the full Press Release here.
“The disconnect between employee and employer perceptions is particularly striking,” says Chris Smith, Head of Guardian’s Group Benefits business. “Employers have a real opportunity to close the perception gap by revisiting how they support employee well-being and helping their workers more fully utilize the benefits they already provide.”
To monitor how Americans feel about their overall health and well-being, Guardian created the Workforce Well-Being Index™ in 2016. The index measures the self-reported well-being of working adults. This latest report confirms the overall decline in workforce well-being since the onset of the pandemic, with COVID-19 (50%) as well as money and finances (46%) being the two leading causes of stress in workers’ lives. Mental health has experienced a significant drop-off in 2021 from the previous five years, which can be directly tied to the pandemic and worsening financial wellness.
The study notes that employees’ need for mental health support is particularly acute, as 21% of people in the US (or more than 52 million) are living with a mental health condition — an increase of 1.5 million individuals since 2019.1 As a percent of total disability claims, mental health-related claims have doubled in the past decade from 7% to 14%.
The study also confirms that benefits make a true difference in employees’ lives. Nearly half of working Americans, for example, believe they would face financial hardship if they didn’t have access to the benefits they receive through work.
At the same time, however, less than a third (28%) of employees strongly agree that their employer does a good job of educating them about the benefits that are available to them and how to use them. For their part, only 32% of employers say that tailoring benefits communication and enrollment for their various employee segments is extremely or very important.
“Providing benefits and helping employees use them not only promotes well-being but also enables companies to address priorities such as employee retention and productivity,” notes Smith. “Our study, for example, found that companies that have invested in mental health benefits saw increases in both retention and productivity recovered for employees who utilized those benefits.”
Unless otherwise noted, the source of all information is from the 10th Annual Guardian Workplace Benefits Study “Mind, Body, and Wallet”
1 State of Mental Health in America Report, Mental Health America (MHA), 2020