Employees Taking a Greater Interest in Specific Benefits

Life insurance, dental insurance, health and flexible spending accounts, and financial planning tools are on workers’ radar, according to MetLife.

Workers say getting benefits right this year is more important than it was in the past, citing the coronavirus pandemic, according to a MetLife survey on open enrollment. Forty-eight percent of respondents say open enrollment is more important this year than it was last year.

Of particular note is workers’ interest in specific benefits, namely life insurance, dental insurance, health and flexible spending accounts, and financial planning tools. Roughly one in four are more interested in life insurance and dental insurance, and one in five are more interested in pre-tax health and flexible savings accounts, i.e., health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible savings accounts (FSAs), as well as financial planning and educational tools.

A similar survey by Aflac found that 63% of workers are looking for at least one benefit, such as supplemental insurance or telemedicine, to be expanded. Forty-five percent expressed great interest in insurance that helps offset financial costs related to COVID-19 or other pandemics.

The Aflac survey also found that 33% of employees are either not confident or are unsure it their health benefits will protect them if they are affected by COVID-19.

Forty percent in the MetLife survey say they intend to invest more time this year selecting employer benefits this year, and 57% have already spent a few hours researching and choosing their benefits.

Sixty-seven percent say the reason why they are paying more attention to their benefits this year is the pandemic. However, they say they also have other concerns, including personal finance issues (34%). These include worries over financial security and potentially losing income due to COVID-19. Thirty-one percent are worried about rising health care costs.

“The pandemic has caused a serious disruption to employees’ lives, fundamentally changing the way they approach nearly every aspect of their short- and long-term decisionmaking—including their benefits selections,” says Meredith Ryan-Reid, head of financial wellness and engagement at MetLife. “Workers understand that benefits play a vital role in achieving financial security and will use this year’s enrollment to be more deliberate in how they use these offerings moving forward.”

Sixty-nine percent of workers say improving their financial health is one of their most important goals this year, with 45% saying they feel insecure about some aspect of their finances. This includes feeling behind compared with their peers and lacking experience with personal finance.

One in eight employees say they feel insecure about making a benefits decision, and 51% say discussing benefits with their loved ones makes them more anxious than discussing fitness and nutrition goals. MetLife suggests that sponsors can assuage these concerns by providing their workers with benefits tools.

“In this tough environment, it’s important that employers demonstrate an understanding of employee stress, anxiety and insecurities,” Ryan-Reid says. “People have an overwhelming amount of information to digest, so benefits education and enrollment should be easy and accessible. The goal is to give workers a sense of ownership even when the rest of their lives are filled with uncertainty.”