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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Employees retaining core benefits, working harder, study finds

Associated Press

CHICAGO If it seems like you're working harder than you used to, it's probably not your imagination.

Many companies have increased employees' workloads and put a higher priority on productivity since the recession began, according to a MetLife Inc. study released yesterday.

The study found that employers have mostly held the line on core benefits, such as life insurance, and matching workers' 401(k) plan contributions despite the worst economic turbulence in decades. Only 18 percent of surveyed companies with more than 1,000 employees reduced any benefits from late 2008 to late 2009, while 19 percent reduced or suspended 401(k) matches.

Retaining those benefits comes at a price for many employees, though: They're being asked to do more to justify their benefits.

MetLife's annual study on employee benefits trends found that 40 percent of employees surveyed said their workload had increased in the past 12 months. Employers did not dispute that, with 36 percent saying productivity improved as they put a higher priority on getting more out of their workers.

The focus on productivity was the highest in the eight years of the survey, with 84 percent of employers describing it as a very important objective, up from 79 percent a year earlier.

Bill Raczko, senior vice president of MetLife's U.S. business, credited companies for avoiding the temptation to cut employee benefits in the face of bottom-line pressures.

Despite the heavier workload, nearly half of workers indicated more satisfaction with their benefits. A total of 42 percent of employees said they were highly satisfied with their benefits, compared with 37 percent a year earlier.

Still, financial concerns continue to weigh on workers. About two-thirds of employees surveyed, or 68 percent, said they were affected in the past 12 months by increased feelings of job insecurity, a decrease in the quality of their work or being distracted at work because of financial worries.

The study by New York-based insurer MetLife was based on separate surveys of employers and employees in the fourth quarter of 2009. It has a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.