The new realities of the ongoing pandemic and its effect on the workplace continue to be more evident. It's likely going to be six more months until many Americans have received the vaccine, furloughed employees are back to work, benefits of the 2021 stimulus spending bill take effect, and we're seeing somewhat of a “business as usual” environment.  

In the meantime, employees' COVID-enhanced financial stress continues to take its toll on their life, their work and ultimately their employers' bottom line. What is currently causing them financial stress and how can employers help?

Purchasing Power recently conducted an informal survey of 93 HR professionals to assess the impact that both COVID-19 and financial stress is having in their workforces.

According to the survey, key indicators to HR that their employees are struggling with finances more now than prior to COVID-19 are:
•    56% of employers reported more 401K withdrawals;
•    36% had requests for financial assistance from the company; and
•    6% saw requests for payday advances.

The survey also asked about the financial challenges their employees are facing right now. Employers reported the following circumstances:
•    81% said employees had a spouse or partner laid off or furloughed during the pandemic, so money is tighter than ever;
•    49% said employees had family or household members who contracted COVID-19 and there are unexpected medical expenses involved;
•    48% said employees had college-age children return home from school and are back living at home; and
•    34% said employees had extended family members out of work right now who needed financial support.

Voluntary benefits can address many of the specific needs that employees have as they continue to struggle with and overcome pandemic challenges. In fact, the survey revealed that 22% of HR professionals plan to add new financial wellness benefits to their employee benefits package.

Purchasing Power also surveyed 93 benefit brokers about pandemic-related financial issues. We learned that over 85% of benefit brokers surveyed said they are very likely to recommend additional voluntary benefits to their clients for their employee benefit packages in 2021. 

We also asked those benefit brokers which voluntary benefits they would likely recommend to their clients in 2021. Their list included:
•    81% - Critical illness insurance 
•    75% - Accident insurance
•    59% - Employee purchase program
•    57% - Identity theft protection
•    50% - Student Loan Repayment Assistance
•    45% - Legal insurance

Financial recovery from the far-reaching impact of COVID-19 is going to take time for companies as well as for their employees, who are struggling to meet the twin demands of their work and home lives. Employers have a significant opportunity to show they care through a well-rounded benefit package that offers peace of mind by decreasing financial stress.
 

Written by: Trey Loughran, Purchasing Power CEO