Study: Employees Looking for More From Benefits Plans

The Employee Benefit Research Institute’s survey found higher demand for financial benefits and dissatisfaction with current overall offerings. 

As open enrollment season continues, a new study has found that employers are hustling to satisfy increased employee demands for improved benefits.

The 2022 Workplace Wellness Survey, conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Greenwald Research, is based on interviews in July with more than 1,500 U.S. full- and part-time workers. A majority of respondents (58 percent) say that employers’ efforts to “help manage their overall well-being”—via healthcare, wellness, and financial benefits—have stayed the same in the past year. 

It’s not necessarily that the benefits are any worse, just that the impact is worse.

Craig Copeland, EBRI

But the status quo has become a source of dissatisfaction: Fewer than half of those surveyed rated their employer’s efforts toward their emotional or physical well-being as “excellent” or “very good.”

Craig Copeland, EBRI’s director of wealth benefits research, said the poor marks may have less to do with a drop in quality of the benefits than with workers needing to make more use of their benefits in the past year, and facing more negativity around an erratic stock market. (According to the new survey, the percentage of employees “at least moderately concerned about their household’s financial well-being” increased from 49 to 60 percent over last year, prompting more interest in financial benefits in 2022.)

“Last year, the stock market looked good and people weren’t going to the doctor as much, unless they had a particular COVID incident, so they weren’t really as focused on their benefits,” Copeland said. “It’s not necessarily that the benefits are any worse, just that the impact is worse.”

On a similar note, the EBRI survey found a significant drop-off in employees saying their work-life balance is “excellent” or “very good.” Copeland attributed some of this shift to more employees returning to the physical office at a time when remote work still receives high marks from workers. “There seems to be different expectations on what employers think employees should be doing versus what the employees think,” he said.

Despite that division, Copeland said employers have been making increased efforts to diversify the range of benefits offered to employees, especially around caregiving and financial coaching. Support for mental health benefits among employees has increased in the past year, with 59 percent saying “mental health wellness programs have become more important for employers to offer in the past year.” Approximately half the employees who are offered counseling or coaching sessions make use of them; three-fourths of those who don’t have access to those benefits say they want them. 

Employers are attempting to address those concerns, Copeland said, as they are mindful of the increased role that benefits have in attracting and retaining employees. 

“There’s a drive to provide better worker satisfaction, because employers are seeing that people are dissatisfied, that they’re losing their work-life balance, and employers don’t want to lose their best employees,” he said. “So they’re starting to provide these benefits, communicating them better, and developing ideas. I still think there’s a lag in providing successful benefits. But they’re working on it.”

(matdesign24/iStock/Getty Images)

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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