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Help your clients reduce and manage stress

Covid-19 might be novel. But one of its biggest cohorts—work-related stress—is anything but.

Even before Covid hit, an Ipsos poll1 showed that 64% of employees in the United States said they felt stressed at work. In fact, it’s hurting their lives to the point where a third have seriously considered changing jobs. Employee stress has a real impact on a company, both in productivity and potential hiring and transition costs.

“Chronic stress takes a toll on us,” says executive coach and leadership consultant Susan Bernstein, MBA, Ph.D. That’s true of all employees—but for the leaders responsible for making decisions that directly impact employees, the stress is compounded.

That’s where brokers come in. On paper, benefits brokers are charged with assembling benefits plans that serve their clients’ needs. In practice, brokers are much more than that: They’re trusted allies who cut through the stress faced by business leaders, helping them make choices that best serve their employees.

“As leaders, we need to be mindful of what that stress is doing to our people,” Bernstein says. For brokers, “our people” aren’t just colleagues. They’re the clients and employees who rely on their benefits to help navigate for coverage as a way to make it through a stressful world.

The broker-client relationship matters to benefits decision-makers

Broker support directly relieves some of the stresses business leaders face every day. That begins with getting employees in the door and keeping them there: 50% of employers surveyed for the 2020 Aflac WorkForces Report say that offering supplemental insurance helps them recruit talent, and 60% say it helps them retain employees.2

But it’s not just the employee benefits plans that help alleviate business leaders’ stress. Sometimes, it’s the brokers themselves. Seventy-six percent of employers say they get more for their money when they work with a broker, and 70% say the broker-client relationship strengthens their overall benefits package.2 And when asked about the most important reason for working with a specific broker, 29% responded with “strong knowledge of employee benefits best practices;” 19% said “customer service and support.”2

All of which adds up to brokers being able to position themselves as partners who help decision-makers navigate a perennially stressful business climate. Given the stress levels among business leaders and human resources employees, that partnership is crucial.

When brokers help leaders relieve their stress, all employees benefit

It’s not just human resources and business leaders feeling the strain, of course. But when brokers support decision-makers in the complex choices they make on behalf of their staff, they’re supporting employees, too.

Smart benefits choices directly affect employees: The Ipsos poll that 58% of Americans working full time feel their direct managers support their efforts to stay healthy. But only 16% said they strongly agree that they know how to get the needed help to do so.1

“Companies should make resources easy to access, with no gatekeepers,” Bernstein says. That includes having an easy-to-access website with the employee assistance program phone number and sign-up information. “Having an easily accessible portal where somebody doesn’t have to tell anybody they’re using them lowers their burden of stress,” she says.

Companies don’t need to spend a bundle to provide these resources. Some forms of supplemental coverages and value-added services, including many offered by Aflac, can be provided by the employer but paid for by the employees who want to use them. Many value-added services are offered at no cost if supplemental insurance products are offered. More employers are now offering expanded options along these lines, including legal plans, telehealth services, mental health services and identity theft protection, according to The Washington Post.3

Companies that offer these benefits want to empower employees in hopes of bringing out their best, Bernstein says. When employees feel like management has their backs, they’ll feel more loyal. The numbers support this: 35% of employees surveyed for the Aflac WorkForces Report say that improving their benefits package is one of the top things an employer could do to keep them around, second only to increasing pay.2

“Companies that don’t show that they care are being labeled toxic workplaces. That leaves a bad taste, and others don’t want to work there,” she says.

On Bernstein’s first day at a large employer years ago, her supervisor showed her the on-campus fitness facility, restaurants, dry cleaner and other resources on site. “My manager said, ‘Please don’t think we’re super benevolent. We do this so it’s easy for you to give your best at work.”

With 78% of employees reporting that financial stress hurts their productivity,4 a benefits plan that helps relieve that stress by helping protect employees from health care costs, the #1 financial pitfall in the U.S.,5 fits right alongside all those other perks. Consider it a trickle-up effect of supplemental coverage that provides even more financial protection to employees for the expenses their health insurance doesn’t cover: When employees are satisfied, benefits decision-makers can rest more easily. Voilà—broker’s goals, accomplished.