Renewed Focus on Employee Productivity Driving Benefits Offerings

April 12, 2010 ( - Controlling benefits costs is now the top benefits objective for employers, edging out employee retention for the first time since 2006, according to MetLife’s 8th annual Employee Benefits Trends Study.

However, while improving employee productivity remains the third most important benefits objective, employers have renewed focus on this area due to the economy, MetLife said in a press release. Eighty-four percent of employers now report that this is a very important benefits objective, up from 79% in 2008  

As 68% of employees said that over the last 12 months they were affected by increased feelings of job insecurity, a decrease in the quality of their work, an increase in their workload or being distracted at work because of financial worries, and the study found employees in poor health are more likely to report financial concerns, providing access to health and wellness programs, work/life balance programs, and financial advice and guidance in the workplace may prove to be a “win-win” for employers and employees alike.   

Seventy-seven percent of employees said financial advice and guidance programs would improve their productivity, while 81% said that health and wellness programs would improve their productivity. Eighty-two percent stated that work/life balance programs would improve their productivity.   

More than one-third (37%) of employees strongly believe that because of the benefits they receive at work they worry less about unexpected health and financial issues. This percentage increases to two-thirds (66%) for those employees who say they are very satisfied with their employers’ benefits. 

Addressing Employee Wellness  

According to the study, 37% of employers now offer a wellness program, up from 33% in 2008 and 27% in 2005. Among larger employers – those with 500 or more employees – 61% now offer a wellness program, up from 57% in 2008 and 46% in 2005.  

Employee participation in wellness programs is also increasing. More than half (57%) of employees with access to a wellness program now say they participate, compared to 46% in 2008.    

In addition, the survey found:

  • 71% of employees who participate in wellness programs say they greatly value the offering.
  • 70% of all employees say they participate because they desire good health.
  • 50% of employees are motivated to participate because of financial incentives.

Nearly half (48%) of employers who offer wellness programs say that they are very effective at improving productivity. However, MetLife noted that 60% of employers who say that cost saving and employee productivity are important benefits objectives do not offer wellness programs.

Addressing Employee Financial Concerns  

According to MetLife’s 8th annual Employee Benefits Trends Study, over half (54%) of employees report that the economic events of the past 12 months has made them realize that they need to more actively manage saving for retirement. Forty-two percent of employees are interested in their employer providing access to retirement planning seminars, yet only 35% of employers currently offer these.   

However, 38% of employers  believe retirement programs (i.e. offering 401(k), retirement seminars, access to retirement planning professionals, etc.) are very effective in improving employee productivity, MetLife said.  

In addition, nearly two-thirds (65%) of employees who assess their medical health as fair or poor say they live paycheck-to-paycheck, compared to 43% of people in good or better health. More than one-third (34%) of employees who assess their medical health as fair or poor anticipate that their financial situation will deteriorate in the next six months compared to only 12% of people in good or better health.   

One-quarter of employees admit feeling more distracted at work because of financial worries, and more than half (56%) of working Americans and 62% of working women are very concerned about just making ends meet. Only about one-third (37%) of employees surveyed express confidence about their ability to make the right financial decisions.  

Many employers are recognizing the impact that these financial woes may have on their company’s bottom line in lost productivity costs. Almost two-thirds (65%) of employers believe that employees are less productive at work when they are worried about personal financial problems, and over half (52%) believe that absenteeism increases when employees are dealing with personal financial issues.   

The 8th Annual MetLife Employee Benefits Trends Studywas conducted during the fourth quarter of 2009 and consisted of two distinct surveys fielded by GfK Custom Research North America. The employer survey comprised 1,503 interviews with benefits decision-makers at companies with staff sizes of at least two employees. The employee survey comprised 1,305 interviews with full-time employees age 21 and over, at companies with a minimum of two employees.  

The study is available at