In The Worksite

Research Reveals Companies Are Struggling to Support Employees as New Workplace Trends Emerge

Study: Low confidence in employers’ ability to address issues like remote workers, family care and drug addiction

New research from The Standard’s Absence and Disability Readiness Index.

April 10, 2019 — PORTLAND, Ore.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Emerging workplace trends like remote employees and “gig” economy workers, as well as health issues including family and elder care and drug addiction continue to challenge employers, according to new research from Standard Insurance Company (The Standard).

The Standard’s Absence and Disability Readiness Index found that less than half of those surveyed were confident in their organization’s ability to address such challenges, especially in light of changing workplace trends and employee health needs. The findings show how collaboration between medical, disability and employee assistance partners can address the lack of support for these issues and help affected employees stay productive.

Respondents noted they were having trouble addressing the following trends specifically:

  • only 38 percent felt ready to support remote workers
  • just 16 percent felt ready to address part-time employees and “gig” workers
  • 27 percent felt ready to support family and elder care issues
  • only 1 in 4 felt ready to support drug addiction

“We often consider only the more immediate needs employees have, such as medical care, which are what traditional benefit plans have primarily been designed to address,” said Dan McMillan, vice president of Employee Benefits at The Standard. “In reality, employee circumstances and needs are far more complex. Our research suggests there’s an unmet need for all partners who support employee health and productivity to work more closely together.”

The Readiness Index also found that fewer than half of employers surveyed are confident in helping accommodate employees with chronic health problems, involving mental health and musculoskeletal conditions, even though half of those surveyed receive requests to do so annually.

In reality, employee circumstances and needs are far more complex. Our research suggests there’s an unmet need for all partners who support employee health and productivity to work more closely together....

“HR managers are constantly juggling long-term planning with daily program oversight and responding to urgent requests which can leave little time to assess and respond to employee health trends affecting the leave and disability space,” said Melissa Oliver-Janiak, HR director of benefits at The Standard. “At the same time, understanding and addressing these trends is important for the health of both employees and the organizations they support.”

Having programs in place that support both absence and disability needs can help with accommodations and have a positive effect on employee engagement. Of employers with formal programs, 32 percent averaged better employee productivity, 36 percent averaged higher workplace morale and 40 percent averaged improved employee retention.

The investment in proactively addressing these employee needs tends to outweigh the costs. Nearly 70 percent of HR decision-makers at large companies and one-third at small companies say they’ve experienced complaints or lawsuits related to their disability management practices. Overwhelmingly, 92 percent of all respondents said that formal employee disability programs had helped control costs and reduced exposure to risk.

Competitive Economy Exerting Pressure On Management

“The competitive economy is putting increased pressure on organizations to bolster support programs and their talent management approach,” said Jung Ryu, National Accounts practice leader at The Standard. “Comprehensive support programs are the most cost-effective way for employers to address employees’ health needs. Unless they’re willing to lose valuable talent, employers can’t afford to sleep on this.”



About the Absence and Disability Readiness Index
All insights are from an online survey of 501 participants conducted by Versta for The Standard in April 2018.
About The Standard
The Standard is a marketing name for StanCorp Financial Group, Inc., and subsidiaries. Insurance products are offered by Standard Insurance Company of Portland, Oregon, in all states except New York. Product features and availability vary by state and are solely the responsibility of Standard Insurance Company.
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