Programs That Help Employees Help Themselves May Have Mutually Beneficial Results

The economic crisis has created a significant shift in employers’ benefits objectives. Controlling benefits costs is now the top benefits objective for employers, edging out employee retention for the first time since 2006. And while improving employee productivity remains the third most important benefits objective, employers have renewed focus on this area due to the economy — 84% of employers now report that this is a very important benefits objective, up from 79% in 2008. At the same time, however, economic pressures confronting employees may negatively impact productivity. According to MetLife’s 8th annual Employee Benefits Trends Study, released today, 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.

“In a still-fragile economy, organizations are searching for ways to maximize their benefits programs to improve employee productivity as well as control costs. Programs that help improve employee health and financial security can be strategic tools for helping address these objectives. However, these programs, which in many cases have only a nominal cost to implement, are still underutilized by many employers,” said Anthony J. Nugent, executive vice president, U.S. Business, MetLife. "The ‘next benefits frontier’ will focus on providing employees with access to these programs along with the education needed to become a healthier, more financially secure workforce.”

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 as approximately eight out of ten employees say that they believe their productivity would be favorably impacted by these programs.


  • 77% of employees said financial advice and guidance programs would improve their productivity.
  • 81% said that health and wellness programs would improve their productivity.
  • 82% 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.

Wellness Programs May Influence Productivity: Win-Win for Employers and Employees
The popularity of wellness programs continues to slowly, but steadily, increase among employers. According to this year’s 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. This increase is likely attributed to the value that employees perceive from wellness programs. Consider that:

  • 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. Yet it is significant to note that 60% of employers who say that cost saving and employee productivity are important benefits objectives do not offer wellness programs.

“More than ever before, employers are recognizing the value of a healthy workforce and are viewing wellness programs as an investment to help address their business objectives,” says Dr. Ronald Leopold, vice president, U.S. Business, MetLife. “However, many appear to be underestimating this tool, especially compared against the perceived value by their employees.”

Employees who participated in wellness programs reported success with the following wellness goals:

Wellness Goal Success Rate
Get regular checkups 89%
Lose weight 85%
Increase exercise 84%
Improve diet and nutrition 84%
Manage blood pressure 81%
Manage cholesterol levels 81%
Manage stress levels 81%
Lower alcohol consumption 78%
Stop smoking 63%

Easing Financial Worries May Translate Into Increased Employee Productivity

An employee’s health status can impact his or her financial status which, employers state, impacts productivity at work. According to the MetLife study, employees in poor health are more likely to report financial concerns. 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.

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. It is not surprising that one-quarter of employees admit feeling more distracted at work because of financial worries given that 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. 

One of the major lessons that employees learned this past year is the need to focus on their long-term financial health. 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. To achieve this, many are seeking advice and guidance in the workplace — 42% 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.

“Employers have an opportunity to slow the ‘snowballing effect’ that the combination of employee health and wealth concerns can have on their bottom line. By promoting programs that can help employees help themselves, employers can remove some of the financial burden from employees’ shoulders,” adds Dr. Leopold. “Employers, in turn, can reap the benefits of a more productive, loyal workforce. Of employees highly satisfied with their benefits, 81% were also satisfied with their jobs. Of employees not satisfied with their benefits, only 23% said they were satisfied with their jobs.”


The 8th Annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends was conducted during the fourth quarter of 2009 and consisted of two distinct studies 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 sample comprised 1,305 interviews with full-time employees age 21 and over, at companies with a minimum of two employees.

About MetLife
MetLife is a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc.(NYSE: MET), a leading provider of insurance and financial services with operations throughout the United States and the Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions. Through its domestic and international subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife, Inc. reaches more than 70 million customers around the world and MetLife is the largest life insurer in the United States (based on life insurance in-force). The MetLife companies offer life insurance, annuities, auto and home insurance, retail banking and other financial services to individuals, as well as group insurance, reinsurance and retirement & savings products and services to corporations and other institutions. For more information, visit


Karen Eldred
Joseph Madden