Managing heightened employee financial stress with worksite benefits

Brad Ridnour

By Brad Ridnour
Brad Ridnour is Head of Worksite Distribution for the Workplace Solutions unit of MassMutual.
Posted on May 13, 2020

We are living through a disruptive moment in history. A global event that is interrupting life and work as we know it. And while the open-endedness of the pandemic is troubling, the unravelling of “business-as-usual” presents an opportunity for benefit brokers and employers to rethink benefit design with a focus on building employee financial wellness.

Even before the outbreak, the prevalence of financial stress in the workplace was pervasive. Our 2019 Financial Wellness study found that eight in 10 employers believe their employees are struggling financially.1 This is concerning because financial stress takes a toll not only on employees’ health and well-being, but also their performance in the workplace — with far-reaching impacts to an employer’s bottom line.

Recent research found that employee financial stress translated into nearly $250 billion in higher healthcare costs, lower productivity, and lost wages every year.2 It’s reasonable that as financial anxiety intensifies because of current health and economic crises that we will see associated costs grow.

Today, 88 percent of Americans say that the COVID-19 crisis is currently causing stress on their personal finances, with immediate concerns including:

  • Not having enough saved (54 percent),
  • Paying bills (48 percent),
  • Paying down/off debt (31 percent),
  • Job security (28 percent).3

Even as we emerge from the pandemic, accompanying stress is likely to persist as employees recover both financially and emotionally. For this and other reasons, it may be more critical than ever to double down on your benefits strategy and find creative ways to help employees build financial security.

A practical and cost-effective way to help employees ease financial stress is the incorporation of worksite benefits into a total rewards strategy. Worksite benefits, such as group whole life insurance, are chosen and can be paid for by the employee, making them a cost-effective solution for companies facing difficult economic conditions.

Now, how do worksite benefits help employees build financial security? It’s simple – these benefits can offer protection, portability, and personalization that employees can use to help build a financial safety net based on their needs.

An added layer of protection

Prior to the pandemic, increasing health plan premiums and rising out-of-pocket expenses were already putting an alarming number of employees in financial jeopardy. According to recent research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 67 percent of insured Americans are very or somewhat worried about being able to afford an unexpected medical bill.4 As employees face financial challenges related to the coronavirus, the burden of healthcare costs could escalate for many.

By supplementing core benefits with workplace offerings, employers can help ease concerns and provide an additional layer of protection against unforeseen risks.

Regardless of employment status

One of the distinguishing aspects of many group products is that they may be owned by the individual employee, rather than the employer. So while they may be paid via payroll deductions or direct billing, they are portable and “travel” with the individual certificate owner if they leave their employer. This could provide valuable peace of mind to employees concerned with job security.

And the choice is theirs

Worksite benefits provide employees choice. While we are all feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, experiences are not universal, and employees will have varying needs both now and as we emerge from the crisis. These benefits give employees the ability to customize their benefits package to meet specific needs, goals and budget.

We’ll move beyond this difficult time. History tells us that. But these are unprecedented times, and it’ll take time to restore financial confidence. That’s why it is important now to implement benefit solutions that equip employees to take action regarding their financial futures.

The added protection of worksite benefits helps relieve employee financial stress, without adding pressure to an organization’s bottom line. So both employers and employees are well-prepared with a game plan for financial wellness to guide them in the days ahead.

 

Looking for more information? Check out our Employer Checklist for actionable steps to guide your business’ COVID-19 response.

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