2020 Future of Benefits Study Reveals Shifts in Attitudes About Employee Benefits Amid Pandemic
The Hartford released research on the Future of Benefits, finding that both employee and employer attitudes about benefits have shifted in the wake of COVID-19.
The company’s 2020 Future of Benefits Study is part of The Hartford’s ongoing effort to deliver new insights about U.S. workers and their benefits preferences and the benefits employers provide to their workforce. The study surveyed both employees and employers (human resources benefits decision makers) in two waves – first in early March and again in June, providing insights into the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on employee benefits.
The study found that the pandemic has changed how employees and employers feel about benefits. Although most employees continue to positively view their benefits, their perceived value of the benefits provided and trust in their employers’ benefits decisions have declined since the onset of COVID-19 in the U.S.
2020 Future of Benefits Study Key Findings
In wave two of the study, more employers said they are likely to offer additional benefits and services that they do not currently offer, such as additional paid time off (PTO) employee assistance programs (EAP), hospital indemnity insurance, and behavioral/mental health services.* Employers’ increased interest in these offerings align them with employees’ stated preferences for the benefits they would like to see their companies offer. The greatest increased interest from employers were in the following benefits from wave one to wave two of the study:
Employer interest levels in offering other benefits that they currently do not offer generally remained the same, increased or decreased slightly:
- Critical illness insurance (36% to 50%)
- Student loan repayment plans (27% to 38%)
- Behavioral/mental health services (42% to 51%)
- Wellness benefits (42% to 51%)
- Pet insurance (22% to 29%)
- Paid bereavement (56% to 61%)
- Flexible work from home (n/a to 56%)
- Long-term disability insurance (47% to 53%)
- Short-term disability Insurance (50% to 52%)
- Life insurance (50% to 52%)
- Paid maternity leave (45% to 44%)
- Paid parental leave (40% to 46%)
- Paid family leave (42% to 46%)
- Accident insurance (40% to 46%)
- Financial wellness programs (42% to 46%)
- Substance abuse (n/a to 47%)
Employers Consider Virtual Tools
Of those polled, 63% of employers say their open enrollment strategy will depend more on online resources this year. Other key findings:
- Smaller employers (those with fewer than 50 employees) are the least likely to depend more heavily on online resources (42%).
- Overall, half of all surveyed employers plan to offer all-online benefit education and enrollment.
- 52% of employees indicated they would like to manage their benefits enrollment online
Causes of Employee Stress
The pandemic has caused employee stress factors to shift from the workplace to more personal reasons. Employee stress factors such as social/political climate (increase from 11% in wave one to 25% in wave two), caring for family members (8% to 12%) and debt (18% to 26%) have all increased since March. Although workload remains one of the top stressors for employees, there was a 31% decrease in the number of employees who chose this as a top three stress factor since March (45% to 31%).
The Hartford’s 2020 Future of Benefits Study was an online survey fielded in two waves. The first wave was fielded from Feb. 27-March 13, 2020, just before the pandemic escalated in the United States, and included 761 employers and 1,503 employees. The second wave was fielded from June 15-June 30, 2020 and included 567 employers and 1,038 employees. The employers surveyed were HR professionals who manage/decide employee benefits and employees surveyed were actively employed. The margin of error is employer +/-4% and employee +/-3% at a 95% confidence level.
* Note: While the difference was significant the sample size on PTO was much smaller than other options as most employers surveyed already offered some type of PTO.