How Public Sector Employers Can Improve Worker Well-Being

MetLife Employee Benefit Trends Series

How Public Sector Employers Can Improve Worker Well-Being

As the COVID-19 crisis roiled the economy, employees across industries navigated a host of new challenges, from cuts to work hours to new work-from-home policies. Amidst these changes, public sector workers faced unique difficulties. This was especially true for teachers, who suddenly found themselves tasked with educating students online as schools around the country closed down. 

Public sector employees across the country rose to the occasion, but they also felt the impact. For instance, 33% of government workers and 25% of public education workers reported that they were stressed out during the pandemic, according to MetLife's 18th Annual Employee Benefits Trends Report.  

The study revealed how stress, burnout, and financial worries affected public sector workers, both before and during the COVID-19 crisis. The research also highlighted the importance of prioritizing the holistic wellness of public sector workers. By doing so, employers can drive productivity, engagement, and loyalty in their workforce. 

Public sector employees risk burning out
40% Tired Government
42% Stressed Out Government
45% Tired Public Education
40% Stressed Out Public Education
38% Tired General Workforce
34% Stressed Out General Workforce

Public sector passion—and problems

So many people hope to pursue a career that not only provides an income but also fuels their desire to make the world a better place. MetLife's research of public sector employees shows that most feel like their work offers this opportunity. For example, about 75% of public sector employees say that their work contributes to the greater good of society and has relevance to their community. Also, 71% of public sector workers say that their work provides meaning to their life. 

Yet, all that passion also comes with a fair amount of stress. Consider that nearly four out of 10 public sector workers say that work is their top cause of stress. This is a figure that's been on the rise since last year. Understandably, public sector workers were also more apt than employees in the general workforce to say that they're tired. Given the trials of 2020, it's likely these sentiments may continue. 

Financial concerns add another layer of complication. As schools and governments wrestle with the pandemic fallout, many face severe budget cuts and resource shortages even as they try to resume or sustain their services. 

Why holistic wellness matters

During these times of undue stress, finding ways to help employees become holistically well is essential. Holistic well-being encompasses employees' physical, mental, social, and financial health. It's a powerful combination that yields happier, healthier employees—and more successful organizations.

Right now, there's room for improvement when it comes to the well-being of public sector employees. MetLife's research shows that only 38% of public sector employees say they're holistically well. Teachers, especially, could use some support with mental wellness. Sixty-six percent of public educators report that they're mentally well compared to 77% of other government workers. 

Making strides in public sector employee well-being pays off. Consider that only 20% of holistically well workers say they're burnt out versus 34% of those who aren't holistically well. Broadly, employees who are holistically well across all industries are also more engaged and productive at work.

Benefits connect the dots

So how do employers improve employee well-being, especially as the public health and economic challenges continue? The answer is by ramping up the support of the people who make their organizations successful. A comprehensive approach to benefits serves as a tool for doing just that. 

For instance, consider that public sector employees are more likely than other workers to say that access to benefits reduces their stress. What's more, one in three public sector workers says that benefits also help them feel valued. These positive feelings provide a significant counter to work-related stress, as employees leverage the financial safety nets and services that benefits can provide. 

As employers look forward, considering ways that benefits reduce employee stress and provide peace-of-mind can be game-changing. One in four public sector employees, for example, say that their employer doesn't offer mental health benefits that meet their needs. An Employee Assistance Program can fill this gap, providing support to employees when they need it most. Financial Wellness programs can also go a long way toward reducing employee concerns about their financial health. 

While eliminating all the causes of employee stress would be ideal, many (like the pandemic) remain out of our control. But by giving public sector employees benefits to help them navigate their challenges, employers can show they care— and empower their employees to continue to pursue their passions for the benefit of the organization and the community. 

Want to learn more about the well-being of public sector employees? 

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1 Wave 1 of MetLife’s 18th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study gathered pre-pandemic employer and employee insights (from late summer 2019) and Wave 2 gathered insights from the start of the pandemic (a narrower study fielded in early April 2020).