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work-life balance

Providing Employees with the Resources to Blend

Work, Life: Providing Employees with the Resources to Blend

When we meet someone for the first time, the first question we often ask is, "What do you do for a living?" This is often followed by, "Where do you live?" or "Do you have kids?" These two aspects of our lives—our jobs and the personal side—have always been central to how we define ourselves. And they used to exist in very separate worlds. But as we all well know, the technology that allows us instant access to information anytime, anywhere, has radically redefined the boundaries between the two worlds.

Today, it feels as if our two worlds have merged into one. We check our work emails at night after putting the kids to bed and we shop online at our desks while quickly eating a sandwich at lunchtime. It's the fast-paced reality of doing business in the 24/7 global economy that we're all eager to manage.

"We're hearing more and more from HR managers about the importance of work-life balance among the workforce," says Douglas Choo, vice president of National Accounts Strategy at MetLife. "But it's much more like a work-life blend. As people's work and personal lives continue to blend, it becomes increasingly important for HR managers to support the personal aspect of their employees' lives to ensure they feel the support they need to be focused and successful at work."

Addressing Employee Needs

Understanding how companies can help their employees in their personal lives is a key strategy for helping them manage work-life blend. Benefits, in particular, can play a significant role, especially given that employees across industries say their top concern is financial well-being. According to MetLife's 14th Annual Employee Benefit Trends Study, 41% of all employees live paycheck-to-paycheck and one in three families report having no emergency savings.

Younger workers are especially anxious about finances. The study also shows that 40% of Millennials—the demographic equal to more than one-third of today's American workforce—lie awake at night worrying about money. No doubt the burden of substantial student loans also weighs heavily on their minds. The Wall Street Journal reports that the average amount of debt owed by the class of 2015 is a staggering $35,000,1 an average that's greater than that of any graduating class before them.

These financial anxieties can have a disruptive impact on worker productivity and can contribute to an imbalance in the work-life relationship. Coincidentally, they also provide companies with a unique opportunity to offer much-needed stability and protection to their employees. With 71% of employees looking to their jobs as the foundation for financial security,2 offering benefits can help fulfill this need and potentially reduce the stress and anxiety that is often part of the work-life blend.

Building a Financial Foundation for Employees

One way employers can respond is by offering a variety of benefits that employees can choose from to meet their individual needs and help them successfully manage unexpected financial situations. Half of employees strongly agree that the benefits they receive at work help them worry less about unexpected health and financial issues.3 Consider these scenarios:

  • The Millennial who plays in a band on weekends. Having the option of renter's insurance to protect personal property like musical instruments can help take the anxiety out of a dreaded apartment break-in.
  • The Generation X mom whose son breaks an arm at soccer practice. She can find comfort in knowing that she can meet the unexpected expenses through supplemental health benefits (such as accident insurance) that will provide money to help pay for out-of-pocket costs.
  • The Baby Boomer with an eye on retirement who has been dutifully socking away savings in an IRA. A homeowner's policy that protects at least part of those financial assets offers peace of mind even as the economy fluctuates.
  • The Traditionalist who suffers a heart attack and is worried about depleting their savings. Critical illness insurance can provide needed money to help pay for expenses such as medical costs (e.g. deductibles, co-pays, travel) not covered by insurance, or other financial responsibilities like mortgage or bill payments—which can ease financial woes while they are on the mend.

Win-Win for Employers and Employees

Douglas Choo says that HR managers who engage effectively with their employees see higher returns from the benefits programs they offer. To that end, Choo recommends acknowledging the financial concerns of your workforce and providing them access to the appropriate employee benefits they need to feel financially secure. By offering a variety, employers can cultivate an environment where employees will have a sense of stability and feel loyal to the company. In fact, in companies where the number of benefits offered is higher, employee appreciation is also higher—including intent to stay and likelihood of employees recommending their organizations as great places to work.4

However, companies must think beyond just offering the right benefits and must shift their focus to understanding how to communicate to their employees so they understand the value and relevance their benefits have in their lives. Tracking participation then becomes a key measure for success, so that you know your employees are protected appropriately and have the stability they need. Communication and engagement have become central to unlocking the value of the benefits for both employees and employers.

1 Wall Street Journal. "Congratulations Class of 2015: You're the Most Indebted Ever (For Now)". May 8, 2015
2 14th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study
3 14th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study
4 13th Annual MetLife U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study