2017 saw job satisfaction among U.S. employees fall. However, the American workforce might be out of its funk! According to new research, there is strong evidence that both workers and their employers have renewed feelings of workplace optimism and satisfaction.
However, despite many reasons to be positive, employees and employers continue to have health care financial concerns. These are two key findings from the 2018 Aflac WorkForces Report (AWR), a national online survey of 1,700 benefits decision-makers and 2,000 employees across the U.S., released today by Aflac, the leader in voluntary insurance sales at U.S. worksites.
“Our study shows more employers are realizing how the benefits package is one of the strongest influences on the overall well-being and job satisfaction of today’s more empowered, benefits-driven employees,” said Matthew Owenby, senior vice president, chief human resources officer at Aflac. “However, despite the all-around positive feelings around benefits, the AWR research also shows that employers and employees have work to do to promote better educated, more financially sound health care benefits decisions.”
Job Satisfaction Rebounds
Benefits satisfaction has reached a new high among workers since the first Aflac WorkForces Report was released in 2011. According to the 2018 Aflac study, 61% are extremely or very satisfied with their benefits, compared with 46% in 2011. More than half (55%) of employees surveyed would be at least somewhat likely to accept a job with lower compensation but a more robust benefits package. Almost two-thirds (65%) of American workers are extremely or very satisfied in their jobs, up from 49% in 2011. Additionally, demonstrating a continued upward trend, more than 1 in 4 (26%) employees report having left a job or turning down a job offer due to the benefits offered, up from 16% in 2016.
Optimistic Employers Embrace Benefits
Like their workers, employers also have reason to feel good about the employment picture. Overall, the AWR found that employers continue to be in an optimistic growth mode, with more than half (57%) of employers reporting revenue growth and 36% reporting that they have maintained revenue in the last 12 months. As a result, 46% expect to hire full-time employees and 34% expect to hire part-time employees in the next 12 months. Recognizing the strong connection between benefits and happy workers, more than 8 in 10 (81%) of employers that offer benefits agree their company’s benefits offerings increase employee satisfaction.
Health Care Hurdles Remain
While half of workers have a solid understanding of their total annual cost for health care coverage and care, a closer look shows that just 39% surveyed have a full understanding of their health insurance policy, according to the Aflac study. Nearly 1 in 5 (19%) did not feel confident they understood everything they signed up for after their most recent benefits enrollment.
A close look at employees’ benefits enrollment patterns indicate clear explanations for the gap in health care insurance understanding. For example, the vast majority (93%) of employees choose the same benefits each year rather than making changes during open enrollment periods. And more than half (56%) of employees surveyed spent less than a half hour researching their benefits options during the last open enrollment, including 19% who didn’t do any research at all.
“Lack of information is the leading deterrent to employees being confident about their benefits selections,” said Owenby. “Knowing how much time the average worker spends researching benefits options, employers need a multipronged approach to provide employees with easy-to-understand information across all channels, including face-to-face access to knowledgeable experts, which is preferred by many workers.”
Financial Impact Can Drain
Given the importance of benefits decisions, an uninformed choice now could affect a worker’s financial well-being in the year ahead, leading possibly to more serious implications like draining a savings account or 401(k) to pay deductibles and other uncovered costs. Despite progress compared to 2017, more than half (58%) of workers would not be able to cover unexpected out-of-pocket medical costs of $1,000 or more, and nearly one-third (31%) would not be able to cover an unexpected out-of-pocket medical bill greater than $500.
Employers feel their workers’ pain, with just 68% of employers saying they believe their employees have enough options available to help them meet their health care financial obligations, down from 73% last year. With many aware of their financial challenges, a strong majority of employees (85%) also see a growing need for voluntary insurance benefits, a sentiment that has grown significantly and is up from 63% in 2014. In addition to helping workers cover costs that may not be covered by major medical insurance, voluntary insurance can help pay additional dividends. The Aflac study found that job satisfaction rises from 65% for the overall population to 69% among employees in organizations where voluntary benefits are offered and 75% when enrolled.
To learn more about the 2018 Aflac WorkForces Report, visit AflacWorkForcesReport.com.
About the 2018 Aflac WorkForces Report
The 2018 Aflac WorkForces Report is the eighth annual study examining benefits trends and attitudes. Lightspeed conducted the employer survey online in the United States between June 18 and July 10, 2018, among benefits decision-makers at companies with at least three employees. Results were weighted to enable year-over-year trending. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.