Mercer Encourages Employers to Better Support Their Workers

The firm says employee satisfaction tends to trend higher for employers that offer superior benefits.

The more supportive an employer is, the more optimistic and loyal its employees will be, Mercer says in a new study.

As the Delta and other variants of the coronavirus prolong the pandemic, more employees say they’re looking for support from their employer and that getting it (or not) affects their well-being. Mercer’s latest “Health on Demand” study found that since the onset of COVID-19, employees who say they received good support from their employers are much less likely to view their personal experience with the pandemic as mainly negative, compared with those who received little to no support, at 25% vs. 49%.

Additionally, 45% of those receiving good support say they are less likely to leave their job as a result.

The Mercer study underlined the physical, emotional and mental tolls the pandemic has taken. More than half of U.S. employees said they felt some level of stress in the past year. Nearly a quarter of employees say they experienced mental health issues such as depression or anxiety; a fifth are financially worse off; and nearly a fifth feel less physically healthy or fit. Low-wage earners were more likely to experience each of these negative impacts—and less likely to feel supported by their employers during the pandemic, according to the study.

While 59% of employees said they feel some level of stress, one-quarter reported being highly or extremely stressed. And while 48% of employees rate employer support for mental health as highly or extremely valuable, 40% say it is difficult to find and access quality mental health care. It’s even harder for some employees: Among low wage earners, that number rises to 47%.  Likewise, employees identifying as LGBTQ place the highest value on employer support for mental health—61% say it is highly or extremely valuable, but nearly as many (58%) say quality mental health care is difficult to find and access.

Mercer also said participants with plans that hold a variety of benefits tend to have better outlooks. Of employees who are offered 10 or more health and well-being benefits or resources by their employer, 52% say their benefits are a reason to stay with their company, compared with 32% of those that are offered one to five benefits.

The types of benefits matter as well, especially with a growing interest in digital access to health care. One-fifth of employees reported using telemedicine for the first time during the pandemic, and another 23% increased their usage of the benefit. Of those who tried telemedicine for the first time, 72% say they plan to keep using it.

Compared with the 2019 Health on Demand survey, a greater percentage of employees in the 2021 survey found digital solutions to be highly or extremely valuable. Mercer says this reinforces the idea that employers need to plan for a future in which most health care journeys include virtual visits and digital health care support.

As health inequity persists in the workforce, Mercer recommends employers target strategies to help low-income workers and those who generally cannot afford high medical costs. For example, participants with a household income at or below the U.S. median are significantly less likely to feel confident they can afford the health care that their family needs (60%) compared with those above the median (83%).