The pandemic is changing the way workers view their employee benefits, according to a new study from The Hartford. While many employees continue to view their benefits positively, the perceived value of benefits provided has declined, and some employees no longer trust their company to make the best benefit decisions.

The Hartford’s Future of Benefits Study polled U.S. workers and human resources benefit decision-makers through an online survey in early March 2020, just before the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. (761 employers and 1,503 employees), and again in mid-June (567 employers and 1,038 employees).

The study found that 73 percent of employees now say they value the insurance benefits their company offers, down from 80 percent three months earlier. In addition, the number of employees who say they trust their company is making the best decisions about the benefits available also declined—55 percent now compared to 61 percent in the first wave of the study.

Among the study’s highlights:

  • Employers are stepping up to try to close the gap between benefits employees want and the ones the company currently offers. They are most interested in offering employee assistance programs, hospital indemnity insurance and paid time off for volunteering.
  • How employers will educate their workforce about benefits and facilitate enrollment is also changing, with 63 percent of employers saying their company’s open enrollment strategy will depend more strongly on online resources this year.
  • Employee stress factors also shifted during the three months between waves, with employees noting more stress from the social/political climate (increase from 11 percent in March to 25 percent in June), caring for family members (8 percent to 12 percent) and debt (18 percent to 26 percent). In addition, although work/life balance has remained a consistent stressor (34 percent vs. 33 percent), there was a marked decrease in the number of employees who chose their workload as a top three stress factor (45 percent to 31 percent).