Posted on 17 Aug 10
While the U.S. economy is showing signs of recovery, nearly three-quarters of Americans are worried about their jobs and are trying to make ends meet, according to a recent national survey1 by The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc.
The Hartford's 2010 Benefit Landscape Study found that many Americans are working more, spending less, but still find themselves struggling financially, announced Ron Gendreau, executive vice president, The Hartford Group Benefits, today at the annual conference of the Disability Management Employer Coalition. In a keynote speech titled, "In the Aftermath of The Storm: Life in a Recessionary/Post-Recessionary Work Environment," Gendreau said The Hartford surveyed 1,000 full-time workers in April about the economy's impact on work and home life.
"Thirty-seven percent of consumers said they feel they have experienced 'severe' financial impact due to the recession. Many have made cutbacks in their spending, dipped into savings and retirement accounts, or taken on new jobs. But Americans continue to have a shaky financial situation," said Gendreau, who leads the top-selling group disability insurance organization in U.S.2 "Our survey also found that only about half of workers who are offered disability insurance are taking advantage of this benefit that helps provide a safety net if they lose income due to a disabling injury or illness."
The poor economy has translated into extra work and stress for Americans. Nearly one in four (24 percent) of those surveyed said they have additional work or an increased workload, and 17 percent said they feel as though they need to put in more hours at work. Almost three-quarters of Americans (72 percent) feel moderately stressed, with one third feeling "very" or "extremely stressed." Plus, this stress is impacting workers' productivity.
When asked how stress is impacting their work environment, respondents' top answer was having less patience with co-workers (38 percent), followed by taking longer to complete work (19 percent) and taking work home to finish (19 percent). Discussing productivity, Gendreau outlined the importance of managing employees' absences appropriately. "With a lean workforce and tighter budget, can you afford to have an employee out for up to six months?" he asked employers at the San Diego conference.
An integrated approach to managing lost time helps employers boost productivity while lowering costs, Gendreau said. Earlier this year, The Hartford launched an innovative solution to track and manage both occupational and non-occupational leave. The Hartford Productivity Advantage integrates the insurer's group disability and workers' compensation insurance with its leave management services to help employers minimize lost time while maintaining productivity.
The Hartford's survey found that while consumers said they are working longer hours, many sought additional sources of income due to the economic downturn:
• 27 percent withdrew money from savings, investment or retirement accounts
• 11 percent borrowed money from friends or family
• 7 percent took a loan from a bank or retirement account
• 3 percent sold their home or relocated their residence.
Despite cutting back on spending, some Americans continue to struggle financially. One in four consumers said they have just enough money to meet basic living expenses, according to The Hartford's survey. More than half of survey respondents (61 percent) said they would have to make significant changes to their lifestyle if they were to lose income for three to six months. Gendreau noted The Hartford's annual survey showed that benefits participation rose in 2010 over the previous year, including an increase of more than 10 percent in disability insurance. The number of employees with short-term disability insurance rose from 41 percent in 2009 to 55 percent in 2010, and the percentage of workers with long-term disability insurance increased from 36 percent last year to 47 percent this year. "The rise in benefits participation is the good news from the recession. However, our survey indicates a continued need for income protection, with nearly half of the U.S. workforce unprepared for unplanned absences that impact their paycheck," he said. "We encourage employees to take steps during the upcoming benefits enrollment season to increase their understanding of benefits that can help protect their family finances."
Gendreau encouraged employers to help their workforce understand the value of benefits, such as disability and life insurance. He noted The Hartford's survey found employees who are very satisfied with their benefits are least likely to report high stress.
About The Hartford
Celebrating 200 years of helping its customers achieve what's ahead, The Hartford (NYSE: HIG) is an insurance and wealth management company. Through its unique focus on customer needs, the company serves businesses and consumers by providing the products and solutions they need to protect their assets and income from risks and manage their wealth and retirement needs. A Fortune 100 company, The Hartford is recognized widely for its service expertise and as one of the world's most ethical companies. More information on the company and its financial performance is available at www.thehartford.com.