Half of Young Employees Say Pandemic Made Work-Life Balance Better; 3 in 4 Baby Boomers Disagree
One year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many U.S. employees across the country to transition to remote work, the youngest and oldest generations are divided on its impact. MetLife’s 19th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study finds more than half of workers in their 20s (51 percent), including Gen Z and young millennials, say their work-life balance is better now than before the pandemic, while only one-quarter of baby boomers say the same.
While employees across generations feel their holistic well-being – which includes physical, mental, social and financial health – has declined, boomers are experiencing the negative impacts of remote work more strongly. According to MetLife’s research, boomers say boundary-setting issues (33 percent) and fewer casual conversations, like watercooler chats (42 percent), are why they are less happy with their work situation now. Conversely, younger workers say the ability to spend time with their family (40 percent) and work in a better location (30 percent) are why their work-life balance has improved.
“All employees are feeling the effects of the pandemic – but it’s clear that the impact varies greatly across the different generations,” said Todd Katz, executive vice president, Group Benefits, MetLife. “Employers need to thoughtfully consider these nuances as they start to reimagine the workplace experience in the months to come, and beyond.”
Fostering a culture of well-being across generations
Understanding the different needs and values of employees across generations will be crucial for employers as they address the declining well-being of the workforce. For example, the study finds younger workers prefer flexibility in where they work over a higher salary, while boomers are more likely to say they miss in-person interactions with colleagues.
The study also finds a strong connection between time off and improved employee well-being. To address their well-being concerns, 36 percent of twenty-something workers said they took more paid time off this year, mostly for sick days for physical and mental health, while only 8 percent of boomers said the same, citing travel restrictions and too much work as top reasons for not doing so.
“Employers and managers have a critical role to play in supporting employee well-being,” said Katz. “Providing flexibility, addressing workload concerns, and promoting taking time off can make a difference for employees’ overall health.”
Benefits should address varied needs, improve employee resilience
Offering benefits that work together to complement and adapt to employees’ life stages and personal needs, as well as address their physical, mental, social, and financial health, is critical. In fact, employees who say their employer offers a benefits package that meets their needs are 42 percent more likely to feel resilient (e.g. able to adapt and rebound amid adversity). This is particularly important for employers as the most resilient employees are more productive (96 percent), engaged (91 percent) and holistically well (68 percent) – among other benefits – as compared to the national average. And yet, two in five employees say their employer isn’t offering benefits or programs that support their well-being during the pandemic.