Number of the day: COVID-19 support and retention

When employers stepped up to provide essential support during COVID-19, it made a positive difference, according to research from consulting firm Mercer. Employees who say they received good support–like varied benefits, virtual healthcare and mental health help–from their employers are much less likely to view their personal experience of the pandemic as mostly or entirely negative compared to those who received little or no support–25% vs. 49%. And nearly half (45%) of those workers who report receiving good support say they are less likely to leave their job as a result, according to Mercer’s 2021 Health on Demand report, which surveyed 14,000 employees.

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What it means for HR leaders

COVID-19 has challenged employees in innumerable ways–while also emphasizing just how important employer support is. Employers and organizations who have stepped up over the past year and a half with enhanced healthcare, employee benefits, mental health support, bonuses, childcare, flexibility, empathy and more have helped employees stay productive, happy and healthy during the ongoing pandemic. Mercer’s research also confirms just how impactful that support can be for employees–and employers–in the form of retention.

That finding is significant for employers in general, but even more so now during the Great Resignation, when scores of employees are leaving or considering leaving their jobs. Research has found that burnout is one of the biggest reasons behind mass resignations.

Related: What’s behind the Great Resignation? Blame burnout

Mercer’s survey finds that more than half of U.S. employees have felt some level of stress in the past year; nearly a fourth say they experienced mental health issues such as depression or anxiety; a fifth say they are financially worse off; and nearly a fifth feel less physically healthy or fit. Low-wage earners were more likely to experience each of these negative impacts, and less likely to feel supported by their employers during the pandemic. This all indicates that employers have plenty of room for improvement, which in turn can help attract, retain and support workers.

“The research is clear–employers that place health and humanity at the center of business transformation will build a more energized and adaptable workforce that is better able to persevere through periods of crisis,” says Martine Ferland, president and CEO of Mercer.

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.