NEW YORK, N.Y., June 29, 2021 – Today, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian Life) released its 10th Annual Workplace Benefits Study, which uncovered how COVID-19 has reshaped employee benefits and workplace culture. The data shows how the pandemic prompted rapid change in areas that had already been gathering momentum pre-pandemic, including flexible work arrangements, employee mental health support, and technology adoption, resulting in profound, enduring shifts for both employers and employees.
According to the study, employee loyalty is strongly tied to how they believe their companies handled COVID-19. Handling it well includes measures such as flexibility, strength of employee communications, and support. Among employees who agree their company handled it well, nearly half (49%) say they would like to stay at their company for more than a decade compared to just 28% of those who say their companies handled it poorly. This reveals important insights into employee expectations moving forward.
”COVID-19 created disruptions that deeply impacted productivity and morale, and the extent to which those are positive or negative is directly tied to how employers responded. Our findings showed that more than half of employees who rate their company’s culture ‘highly empathetic’ have flexible work schedules,” said Chris Smith, Head of Group Benefits, Guardian Life. “Employers today must examine how the pandemic has changed employee expectations and focus on promoting flexibility through strengthened paid leave polices, expanded telecommuting or hybrid work arrangements, and stronger mental health support to bolster their employee’s quality of life and promote wellbeing.”
The report’s key findings include:
- Though many prefer in-person work, the majority want the option to work remotely. The percentage of employers offering a remote work arrangement increased from 30% pre-pandemic to 73% currently, with 58% planning to continue remote work in some capacity post-pandemic. Meanwhile, although 42% of employees prefer working on-site, 56% of employees agree they’d prefer to work remotely at least part of the time in the future.
- The pandemic spurred a significant increase in benefits technology adoption. As remote work necessitated a digital Open Enrollment, more than a third (37%) of employers say the pandemic accelerated their organization’s use of benefits technology. More than half (55%) increased their use of collaborative tech during the pandemic to enable better communication.
- Paid leave programs and flexible schedules are key to employee well-being. The significant number of employees who took extended leave due to COVID-19 meant 75% of employers changed their unpaid leave policies to paid. There was also a significant uptick in companies prioritizing flexible schedules: 58% of employers agree flexibility is important for employee well-being vs. 48% in 2019.
- More employers responded to the worsening state of workforce mental health. More than a third of employers say the pandemic negatively impacted employee well-being (35%) and morale (34%). As a result, 56% agree expanding employee use of mental and emotional health resources is a priority. However, only 16% added mental health benefits as a result of the pandemic. As for employees, more than a quarter (28%) agreed they have experienced increased anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues as a result of the pandemic. In particular, Generation Z and Young Millennial workers were more than twice as likely to say COVID-19 impacted their emotional health than Baby boomers (36% vs. 17%).
To download 10th Annual Guardian Workplace Benefits Study “Inflection Point,” click here.
The Guardian 10th Annual Workplace Benefits Study was fielded in February and March of 2021 and consisted of two online surveys: one among benefits decision-makers (employers) and another among working Americans (employees), allowing us to explore benefits issues from both perspectives. Survey data collection and tabulation were managed for Guardian by Zeldis Research, an independent market research firm located in Ewing, NJ.
Every day, Guardian provides Americans the security they deserve through our insurance and wealth management products and services. Since our founding in 1860, our long-term view has helped our customers prepare for whatever life brings whether starting a family, planning for the future or taking care of employees. Today, we're a Fortune 250 mutual company and a leading provider of life, disability, dental, and other benefits for individuals, at the workplace and through government sponsored programs. The Guardian community of over 9,000 employees and our network of over 2,500 financial representatives is committed to serving with expertise when, where and how our clients need us. Our commitments rest on a strong financial foundation, which at year-end 2020 included $9.5 billion in capital and $1.7 billion in operating income. For more information, please visit guardianlife.com or follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.
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