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Employee Resilience is Dependent Upon Employer Support

October 8, 2021

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

As the pandemic continues to unfold, the ability of employers to have a positive impact on employee health and resiliency cannot be understated according to a recent Mercer Survey, Health on Demand.

Since the onset of COVID-19, employers have made a big difference in their employees’ lives by stepping up and providing support where needed.  Employees who say they received good support from their employers are much less likely to view their personal experience of the pandemic as mostly or entirely negative compared to those who received little or no support – 25% vs. 49%. And almost half (45%) of those receiving good support say they are less likely to leave their job as a result.  Bottom line – empathy and support matter.

Survey results confirm that the pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental, physical, and financial health of employees.

  • Over half of U.S. employees have felt some level of stress in the last year
  • Nearly a fourth of U.S. employees say they experienced mental health issues such as depression or anxiety
  • A fifth are financially worse off
  • Nearly a fifth feel less physically healthy or fit

Low-wage earners were more likely to experience each of these negative impacts – and less likely to feel supported by their employers during the pandemic.

“There is nothing more important to the health of a business than the health of its people and the communities in which that business operates. COVID-19 challenged our global healthcare system, but the ability of employers to have a positive impact on employee health and resiliency is one of the most important findings from our 2021 Health on Demand survey,” said Martine Ferland, President and CEO, Mercer. “The research is clear – employers that place health and humanity at the center of business transformation will build a more energized and adaptable workforce that is better able to persevere through periods of crisis.”

The 2021 report outlines other key findings and implications for supporting employee health and well-being:

Provide varied and valued benefits: Well-being is at the core of an employee’s relationship with their employer. The amount of support, type of support, and ability to personalize that support matters. The ability to customize a package of benefits to meet individual needs is highly or extremely valued by 55% of employees. Variety matters as well: the more benefits and resources that are offered, the more likely it is that each employee finds something of value.

  • Of employees offered 10 or more health and well-being benefits or resources by their employer, 52% say that their benefits are a reason to stay with their company, compared to only 32% of those offered 1-5 benefits or resources.
  • Employees receiving 10 or more benefits are more confident that they can afford the healthcare they need – and more likely to agree that their employer cares about their health and well-being.

ASE’s new On-Demand Benefit Series outlines several voluntary benefit programs that can help your employees in a variety of areas.  View the on-demand webinars here.

Enable digital access to healthcare: COVID-19 necessitated that healthcare be delivered in different and innovative ways. One-fifth of employees used telemedicine for the first time during the pandemic, and another 23% increased their usage. Of those trying telemedicine for the first time, the great majority – 72% – intend to keep using it. The survey also revealed a sharp increase in employee interest in other digital health solutions, ranging from apps that help find healthcare providers to virtual reality tools for self-care. Compared to the 2019 Health on Demand survey, a greater percentage of employees in the 2021 survey found digital solutions to be highly or extremely valuable. The ability to access care virtually has gained momentum and become a valued option for employees.

ASE’s 2021 Healthcare Insurance Benefits Survey found that 63% of Michigan employers surveyed offer telemedicine as part of their healthcare benefits.  It has been found to be an effective cost containment strategy as well as improving healthcare access for their employees.

Reduce stress and anxiety: U.S. employees are more stressed than those in many other countries. While 59% of U.S. employees say they feel some level of stress, one-quarter report being highly or extremely stressed. That’s the highest percentage of the 13 countries included in the survey. In the UK, for example, only 16% of employees feel highly or extremely stressed. With 48% of U.S. employees rating employer support for mental health as highly or extremely valuable, employers that provide robust mental health and counselling benefits will foster greater loyalty and create a stronger bond with their employees. However, 40% of employees say it is difficult to find and access quality mental health care. It’s even harder for some employees: among low wage earners, that number rises to 47%. Employees identifying as LGBTQ+ place the highest value on employer support for mental health – 61% say it is highly or extremely valuable, but nearly as many (58%) say quality mental health care is difficult to find and access.

Easy access to affordable mental healthcare is needed more than ever.

  • 49% of all U.S. employees say that programs that reduce the cost of mental health treatment are highly or extremely valuable.
  • Employers looking to provide affordable mental health care support should note that many employees would highly value virtual counselling via video chat with a therapist (42%), virtual counselling via text with a therapist (38%), and even virtual mental health advice via AI-powered text chats, with no human involved (31%).

Tackle healthcare inequities: Healthcare inequality persists, with higher-earners better able to access medical coverage, income protection, and mental health counselling than low-earners. Participants with household income (HHI) at or below the U.S. median are significantly less likely to feel confident they can afford the healthcare their family needs (60%) than those with HHI above the median (83%).

The survey revealed a gap of 21 percentage points in access to employer-sponsored medical coverage between those with HHI at or below the median and those with HHI above the median and a 19-point gap in access to life insurance.

Employers should consider a strategy that targets benefits to the groups that need them most. In a time of labor shortages, a strategy for achieving greater equity may also give employers a competitive advantage.

“Every good leader knows that when employees feel they are treated well they are more likely to stay, be engaged, and flourish,” said Kate Brown, Mercer’s Center for Health Innovation Leader, “With significant shifts in attitudes towards mental health, sustainability and digital healthcare over the last year, employers must evolve their health strategy to reflect a modern workforce that prioritizes flexibility, choice, a caring culture, and digital access to support their health and well-being.”

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