Are Workers Better Off At Home?

By: Sara Rubinstein 2/27/2024

The number of U.S. workers returning to the office is increasing. The results from the 2023 EBRI/Greenwald Workplace Wellness Survey show that six in ten workers never work from home, up from 49% in 2022 and 41% in 2021.

But as workers return to the office, a troubling trend is emerging: Down from six in ten last year, only half of all workers report being extremely or very satisfied with their job overall. Overall health and emotional well-being are also down. Is an increased return to the office having a negative impact on workers?

In-Person vs. Remote Work Trends

When it comes to work-life balance, in-person workers feel worse: only 30% describe it as excellent or very good compared to 45% of remote workers. In-person workers also rate their overall health and well-being worse than remote workers. However, in-person and remote workers do not greatly differ in job satisfaction, with roughly half feeling extremely or very satisfied overall, and nine in ten being likely to stay with their current employer for the next two years.

In general, those who give a low rating regarding their overall health and emotional well-being are less likely to be satisfied with their job. So, if there is a difference in well-being between in-person and remote workers, why isn’t there a difference in job satisfaction? What else could be causing 2023’s decrease in overall job satisfaction?

Perhaps it has to do with when workers returned to an in-person setting. Workers who returned to in-person in 2023 are less likely to rate their well-being highly than those who went back to the office earlier. One hypothesis is that there is a brief reacclimating period that former remote workers must endure before their well-being returns to baseline levels. While this is an intriguing theory, there is still no difference in overall job satisfaction (49% vs. 51% in 2022 and 2021).

We also see that the gap in overall health and emotional well-being between in-person workers and remote workers is closing slightly, suggesting that something other than a return-to-office is responsible for lower health, well-being, and job satisfaction scores in 2023.

If 2023’s job satisfaction decrease is not driven by more employees returning to the office, the question why in-person workers rate job satisfaction on par with remote workers but rate well-being metrics lower still persists. Perhaps the nature of the work being done plays a role. Are workers in industries with fewer remote work opportunities less well?

The Impact of Industry

When the pandemic hit, not every worker could stay at home. Many industries required workers to stay in-person or return earlier than others, including healthcare, education, retail, food, hospitality, manufacturing, construction, transportation, and agriculture. How do these workers feel?

Compared to all others, these industries report worse work-life balance and are less likely to say their financial well-being is excellent or very good. Those in retail, food, and hospitality stand out even among other primarily in-person industries. They are least likely to stay with their employer, report worse work-life balance, are least satisfied with their job overall, and are least likely to say their well-being is excellent or very good. Similarly, healthcare workers also have relatively poor work-life balance and poor emotional and financial well-being. However, healthcare workers are more satisfied with their job overall.

So what does this mean overall? We know that job satisfaction and the well-being of workers is down. In-person workers report worse well-being and more people are returning to an in-person work setting. But their job satisfaction remains unaffected. What else could be causing this decrease? Is there something else happening to these workers that needs exploring? Or is it too soon to see the effects of this shift in work setting? It will be interesting to watch how remote work continues to impact workers’ well-being and job satisfaction overall.

To learn more about worker well-being, please view the 2023 Workplace Wellness Report released by Greenwald Research and the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) or watch Greenwald Research’s coffee break on workplace wellness.

Life’s Persistent Questions #4: How Much Life Insurance Do I Need?

By: Eric Sondergeld

So far in this series, I’ve covered the questions about when someone needs life insurance[1] what type they should buy,[2] and what makes life insurance special[3]. For us industry insiders, these may seem like simple questions. However, as I’ve demonstrated, identifying whether and when you need life insurance isn’t always obvious, and thus, the need may instead sneak up on most consumers. The question of “what type” can lead to more questions to which consumers may not readily know the answers. One of those questions is just how much life insurance to buy.

The question of “how much” is relatively unique to life insurance.         

Assuming someone has determined they might need life insurance (and even which type to buy), they must figure out how big a policy to purchase. This is something they don’t necessarily need to do when buying other types of insurance. Different health insurance policies share costs with the insured in different ways and may come with different maximums, deductibles, etc. With auto insurance coverage, the consumer can select from a limited set of options for bodily injury liability, property damage, etc. Home insurance coverage amounts are predicated on the value of the home. Disability income and long-term care insurance offer different coverage amounts, though the range of coverage amounts is much more limited than with life insurance.

How much do we need? There is no right answer.

When it comes to life insurance, there are seemingly countless needs calculators, rules of thumb, and other techniques for figuring out how much life insurance to buy. Different needs calculators provide a wide range of recommended amounts for a particular individual. Most ask questions that the consumer may not be able to easily answer, such as how many years of income replacement they want or need. Behind this question is an implicit assumption that life insurance is intended to help the policyholder’s loved ones recover financially following their death, but only for a time, after which they’ll need to support themselves. This is never explained to would-be buyers, nor do buyers explain to their beneficiaries why they bought life insurance and what the death benefit is intended to accomplish.

Payout options don’t align with the idea of life insurance as income replacement.

The fact that income replacement often contributes the most to the “how much” question suggests that life insurance is an income replacement product. Why then do policies pay a lump sum upon death? If beneficiaries were to read the policy, they would find that in most cases the ability to receive the benefit in installments exists. Yet at claim time, such options are seldom presented.

Coverage amounts diverge from needs as they change over time.

What’s more is that once a policy is purchased, the underlying “need” can change significantly over time. With most coverage having a level face amount, coverage amounts and underlying needs can diverge over time. There is usually no mechanism for proactively adjusting coverage to account for changes in these assumptions.

Life insurance is for the beneficiary.

In my previous blog on what makes life insurance so special, I reminded readers that life insurance is the only insurance where the insured is not the beneficiary. I argue that the two main benefits of life insurance are the peace of mind it brings to the insured and the financial benefit to dependents. If someone other than the insured is going to benefit from the policy, then shouldn’t we give more consideration to them in designing products, determining coverage amounts (over time), etc.?

It’s time to innovate around “how much” life insurance people need.

While there certainly have been many innovations in life insurance in recent years, such as life-LTC combination products, indexed universal life, etc., the basic structure of life insurance has remained relatively unchanged. The question of “how much” offers tremendous opportunities for innovation. This includes new ways to define how much (because there is no right answer), how benefits are paid, whether coverage amounts are set to change over time or could be changed as needed, designing for the ultimate user (e.g., the beneficiary), whether coverage is purchased all at once or over time, etc.


Please contact us if you’d like to test any of the above concepts or understand how consumers think about the “how much” question.



[1]Life’s Persistent Questions #1: When is the Best Time to Buy Life Insurance?

[2]Life’s Persistent Questions #2: What Type of Life Insurance Should I Buy?

[3]Life’s Persistent Questions #3: What Makes Life Insurance Special?

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