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Looking Ahead: The Work-Life Trends Defining the Next Normal for Small Businesses

While 2020 has been anything but business as usual for America’s small businesses, their entrepreneurial resilience and optimism continue to shine through. MetLife’s new small business report, based on its 18th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, examines how the pandemic is impacting work-life dynamics and the strategic role for benefits.


At mid-year, as small businesses continued to navigate the roller coaster of operating during a pandemic, 82 percent reported concerns about the pandemic’s impact on their business, with six in ten concerned about having to stay closed or close again due to another wave of COVID-19.¹ At the same time, many small businesses expressed a positive outlook. Among businesses with fewer employees than at the start of the year, 55 percent anticipate rehiring or bringing back most workers over the next six months.¹


People priorities

Looking ahead, small businesses remain employee-focused but recognize the challenges of an increasingly complex work-life reality. Forty-eight percent of small businesses report they’re struggling to keep up with the changing work-life world—a significant jump from 41 percent in 2019.²


Small business employees rely on their employers for support to navigate a variety of needs and stressors, both inside and outside of the workplace. Seventy-six percent now believe their employers have a responsibility for their health and well-being, up eight percentage points over pre-COVID responses. Small business employers agree, with 70 percent saying they have a responsibility for their employees’ overall well-being.²


The impact of holistic well-being

When employees successfully manage the stress of the blended work-life world, they are more likely to feel productive, engaged, and valued at work, which can help drive tangible outcomes for small businesses.


Pre-pandemic, only 38 percent of small business employees saw themselves as holistically well – or well across physical, mental, social, and financial dimensions. And, after the start of the pandemic, three in four small business employees reported concerns about at least one aspect of their well-being as a result of the virus.²


Improving holistic well-being among employees by one point on a seven-point scale can translate to overall increases of 9 percent in productivity, 12 percent in engagement, and 10 percent in loyalty for the employer.²


The pivotal role for strategic benefits

Offering competitive benefits remains a top business challenge for small business employers. While COVID-19 brought crisis management, day-to-day operational concerns, and in some cases, business survival to the forefront, small business owners haven’t lost sight of the strategic value of benefits.


As small business employers navigate the effects of the pandemic and their business’s recovery, a comprehensive approach to benefits can play a critical role in driving company and employee well-being. However, only one in three small businesses says they currently offer comprehensive benefits to their employees, citing costs as the biggest hurdle.²


Voluntary – or employee-paid – benefits can provide a practical option for small business owners looking to strategically expand their benefits, but not their budgets. Forty-six percent of small business employees are interested in a wider array of benefits, even if they are responsible for paying all or part of the costs. Non-traditional benefits, like critical illness and hospital indemnity insurance, legal plans, financial planning tools, and pet insurance, are all trending upwards on the “must-have” list for small business employees.²


As small business leaders define their next normal, there are opportunities to tap into the strategic value of benefits to help mitigate stress, improve retention, and navigate business recovery. For more insights from MetLife’s research, download and share the complete small business report.


For questions, please contact a member of your B&P Sales Team - 888.722.3373.



1 MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Coronavirus Impact Poll, June 3, 2020.

2 Small Business Focus: The Work-Life Trends Shaping the Next Normal, 18th Annual MetLife U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, 2020.