Employees are more satisfied with work, but financial security concerns remain high, according to a Mercer survey 

October 30, 2023

United States, New York

  • Covering monthly expenses still tops employees’ concerns, followed by the ability to retire
  • The number of employees planning to stay with their employer has risen to 68%, though it remains lower than in 2021
  • Employees who work from the office four days a week are the most engaged and satisfied

According to Mercer’s 2023-2024 Inside Employees’ Minds© study, US employers’ investments in pay, benefits, and flexibility have resulted in employees having more positive attitudes about work this year. Concurrently, financial stressors remain a top concern across all demographics as many employees are struggling with making ends meet, increased debt and rising healthcare costs.

“This year’s data indicate that we are settling into a new way of working and living – one where people prioritize their well-being amidst uncertainty, and where there is an increasingly stark divide between lower-income employees and the rest of the workforce in terms of the ability to survive and thrive,” said Lauren Mason, Senior Principal in Mercer’s Career Business. 

Satisfaction is up amidst total rewards investments 

The study found the number of employees who are planning to stay with their employer has increased to 68%, compared to 64% last year – but still remains below 2021 levels of 72%. Pay and benefits continue to be the top reason employees are attracted to an organization – and the top reason they stay.

Over the last year, employers delivered the largest pay increases since the 2008 financial crisis, while also making significant investments in total rewards, which has contributed to higher satisfaction with compensation, benefits, and career opportunities this year, as well as a greater sense of work-life balance and belonging. The study also found pay transparency has benefits – employees who believe they are paid fairly were twice as likely to have been provided with pay data from their employer – and were also 85% more engaged and 62% more committed to their organization.

Still struggling with financial security  

Employees are significantly more concerned about personal debt than they were in 2021, and it is the #2 concern of lower-income employees (defined in this report as those making less than $60k per year). Additionally, more than half of employees across all pay levels report reducing their discretionary spending (51%), and another 37% report they have reduced savings or tapped into their current savings due to continued high inflation.

Another financial concern amongst employees involves healthcare affordability. Twenty-five percent of employees say they can’t afford the healthcare they need and that number increases to half (49%) at the lowest income levels (those making less than $30K per year).

Long-term financial security, focused on the ability to retire, remains employees’ #2 concern overall, for two years in a row. Retirement benefits are among the top three reasons employees stay with their organization, behind only pay and healthcare benefits. 

Working towards wellness

Outside of financial security, ‘workload and life balance’ is a leading concern for employees. Employees again ranked mental health among their top 5 concerns in this year’s survey. Mental health worries are more pronounced among young employees, LGBTQ+, Black women, people with disabilities, and the lowest earners.

Employees say more flexible and more balanced work will help support their mental health and ease burnout. The top three benefits or actions employees report will help them the most are more time off, reduced workload, and more resources. 

Hybrid work pays off

A substantial portion of employees (38%) still prefer to work fully remotely, slightly less than last year’s 42%. Hybrid employees were found to be the most engaged and satisfied across a number of dimensions with those who worked on-site four days a week reporting the most positive experiences of any group. This group feels more energized, fulfilled, and appreciated, as well as less exhausted, frustrated, and under-utilized than any other work arrangement group. 

Mixed feelings about AI

Overall, employees are more optimistic than pessimistic about new technologies. More than half (51%) of employees say that new technologies, such as automation, AI, and robotics will help them do their jobs more efficiently and effectively, while only 35% say these technologies will make their jobs more frustrating or difficult.

On average, employees are tied in their concern about new technology’s impact on job security: 41% of employees think their job security will be impacted, 41% don’t. 

Employers can embrace this new reality

“While employers have slightly more bargaining power in this economy compared to last year, the job market is still tight, and employers should not become complacent. Employees today have shifting needs and expectations about work – and employers who acknowledge those needs and address critical gaps to support employees’ lives – both in and outside of work – will become an employer of choice for the long-term,” Mason added.

About Inside Employees' Minds

This study includes 4,505 full-time employees in the United States, working for organizations with more than 250 employees. The study was conducted during the second quarter of 2023. The report also includes actionable advice for employers to help address unmet needs in their workforce. Learn more here.

About Mercer

Mercer believes in building brighter futures by redefining the world of work, reshaping retirement and investment outcomes, and unlocking real health and well-being. Mercer’s approximately 25,000 employees are based in 43 countries and the firm operates in 130 countries. Mercer is a business of Marsh McLennan (NYSE: MMC), the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people, with more than 85,000 colleagues and annual revenue of over $20 billion. Through its market-leading businesses including MarshGuy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit mercer.com. Follow Mercer on LinkedIn and X.
Ashleigh Jang
(917) 647-0070