How Financial Crises Affect Employee Benefit Perception

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It is interesting how people perceive the value of their employee benefits packages based on current life circumstances. For instance, the monetary value of an employee’s health insurance plan doesn’t change based on that employee’s ability to manage their finances. It is what it is. Yet how employees perceive their own financial situations affects how they see their health insurance.

If you doubt that this is true, take an informal survey among your coworkers or employees. Ask their current perceptions of employee benefits as compared to their perceptions in the months before the start of the coronavirus crisis. You might be surprised by what you hear.

A person’s finances heavily influence their perception of employee benefits. For example, an employee whose limited income prevents them from seeking routine medical care for their family tends to consider comprehensive healthcare coverage to be as valuable as gold. On the other hand, someone making six figures might take health insurance for granted. To this person, paid vacation time is where it’s at.

  1. Financial Wellness Benefits

The types of benefits employers offer can reveal how employees view their own financial situations. In a February, 2021 blog post from BenefitMall, financial wellness benefits are discussed as something brokers should be pushing among their clients. As the thinking goes, American workers are more attuned to financial wellness as a result of problems caused by 2020 lockdowns and business restrictions.

BenefitMall sees an opportunity for brokers to help employers who are looking to help relieve some of the financial stress their employees are experiencing. By adding financial wellness benefits, employers can help their workers begin recovering from 2020’s economic damage.

  1. Most Americans Took a Hit

BenefitMall may be on to something. A study they cited in their post reveals that some 68% of American adults experienced some sort of financial setback related to the coronavirus crisis. Some lost their jobs. Others saw a reduction in household income or had to pay increased expenses for childcare. Many had to draw down emergency savings just to keep their heads above water.

In addition, 38% of the respondents said they expected to have to live 2021 in survival mode. In other words, they will be cutting expenses while simultaneously avoiding frivolous purchases. Many expect to have to rely on personal loans and credit cards more than they want to.

In survival mode, health insurance and retirement benefits become less important. Employees are willing to pull out of both types of programs in order to increase take-home pay. Meanwhile, they are also more likely to latch onto financial wellness programs that can help them get their finances back on track.

  1. Free Lunch Doesn’t Taste So Good

There are those employee benefits that don’t directly impact worker paychecks on a weekly basis. Yet, employee perceptions of such benefits are still subject to change during times of financial crisis. The free catered lunch illustrates this point perfectly.

When things are going well, employees appreciate free lunches provided daily in the cafeteria. That perception can change when employees are facing a financial pinch. When push comes to shove, they would rather brown bag and have the money their employers are spending on catered lunches put into their paychecks instead. Free lunch just doesn’t taste so good when you’re struggling to make ends meet.

It is clear that America’s employers are adjusting their benefit packages to align them more closely with the times in which we live. At the same time, they are also having to concern themselves with how employees perceive their benefits. If employees perceive little to no value, modifications are pretty much unavoidable.

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