Press release

25 Feb 2020

The EY Better You survey uncovers benefits preferences of employed adults and college students

According to the research, today’s workforce is focused on long-term benefits and overall mental health

Press contact
EY Americas

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

Related topics Workforce

According to the research, today’s workforce is focused on long-term benefits and overall mental health

New York (February 25, 2020) – The rise of the multigenerational workforce brings significant opportunities for organizations and employees alike, especially when it comes to benefits offerings. As organizations work to appeal to all age cohorts, employees bring their own unique motives, preferences and concerns to the table. To better understand the sentiments of today’s workforce around workplace benefits, Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) conducted research into how benefits resonate across generations, including both Gen Z workers and college students.

In addition to 1,000 employed Americans, the Better You survey polled 1,000 undergraduate college students in the US to take a deeper look at perceived versus actual benefit needs and the rationale for valuing certain benefits over others. It also looked at how preferences vary across gender and race.

KEY FINDING NO. 1: Today’s workforce is focused on long-term benefits, but they may not be using all of them.

The majority (70%) of employed adults across generations are more interested in long-term benefits (401(k) plans, etc.) than short-term benefits.

  • Two-thirds (67%) of employed Gen Z and 76% of college students prefer long-term benefits. Even baby boomers, who are in the later stages of their career, are more interested in long-term benefits (78%) than immediately available offerings like personal fitness memberships.
  • Despite this interest in long-term benefits, nearly one-third (29%) of the employed workforce say they are not taking full advantage of their company’s benefits offerings, with 37% of this group admitting they are not sure they even understand all of the benefits available. 
    • Over a third (36%) of female respondents who are not taking full advantage of their benefits say this is because the benefits offered to them do not meet their needs.

“There is a clear disconnect between the number of employees who believe they are taking full advantage of their benefits, and those who are actually doing it,” says Carolyn Slaski, EY Americas Vice Chair – Talent. “It is imperative that companies break down barriers of benefits to provide employees with the access and understanding of their needs. At EY US, we’ve launched the ‘Better You’ benefits portal to make sure our people have the tools to be empowered to understand their benefits and, in turn, bring their full selves to work each day.”

KEY FINDING NO. 2: Mental health days take precedence, even over traditional vacation days and time off, among employees and college students alike.

While almost one-third (29%) of employed adults do not use all of their company’s allotted paid time off (PTO), 40% have taken a mental health day.

  • More than half (56%) of college students have taken a mental health day. 
    • Two-thirds (67%) of female college students have done so, compared with 46% of male college students.
  • Two-thirds (63%) of working adults would feel comfortable speaking about their emotional, psychological or social well-being at work, while only 29% of college students have used their college’s mental health services/benefits.
  • Nearly one-third (29%) of the overall workforce does not use all of their company’s allotted PTO days. 
    • Two in five (38%) of millennials who do not take all of their allotted PTO days say it is because they want to demonstrate their dedication to their careers. Among those who are offered PTO, if offered unlimited annual PTO, half of adult employees say they would take between 1 and 10 days.

KEY FINDING NO.3: Health care means more than just insurance in today’s workplace. Mental health and mindfulness matter too, especially for Gen Z.

When it comes to workplace benefits that matter most, employed adults prioritize a competitive salary (61%) and a generous health care benefits package (60%).

  • Belonging to a workplace that supports mindfulness is important for 87% of adults.
    •  Nine in 10 (89%) of millennials, 91% of Gen Z and 77% of baby boomers agree.
  • Health care benefits are top of mind for younger generations.
    •  Employed members of Gen Z prioritize generous health care benefits (47%) first, even over a competitive salary.
    • Nearly 20% of employed Gen Z prioritize mental health/addiction support as a workplace benefit that matters most.

“As mental health and mindfulness continue to take the workplace by storm, ensuring that benefits are constantly evolving to meet the needs of employees is key to recruiting and retaining top talent,” said Wendy Edgar, EY Americas Director of Human Resources. “It is now more important than ever to foster a flexible work environment that is attuned to the needs of individuals from different generations and backgrounds.”

KEY FINDING NO. 4: Employed adults – even those who have recently graduated college – don’t want learning to end at the classroom.

Just over half of employed adults (52%) feel they are taking advantage of their company’s professional development opportunities, and 57% of employed Gen Z are too.

  • More than four in five (86%) of employed adults’ companies offer professional development programs/opportunities.
  • For respondents whose companies do offer professional development programs/ opportunities, these programs include:
    •  Skills-based training/credentials programs for learning future-focused skills (52%)
    • Conference/workshop attendance (38%)
    • Formal/continuing education (35%)
  • In line with the above, the top offerings college students want from their future employer include:
    •  Skills-based training/credentials programs for learning future-focused skills (54%)
    • Formal/continuing education (17%)
    • Mentorship programs (12%)
  • Nearly three in five (57%) of Gen Z and 54% of millennials say they are taking advantage of professional development opportunities, while only 39% of baby boomers say the same.
  • If their role was changing in the face of disruption, 64% of adult employees would take an opportunity offered by their company to be retrained for another role rather than accepting a severance package.

“We know that learning requires going beyond the classroom, and while we have a world-class curriculum available to all of our people, we also provide on-site coaching and mentoring among peers and supervisors,” said Slaski. “Building transformative leaders starts with empowering people to identify their purpose in and outside of work.”

EY US supports its people’s personal and professional success with a holistic suite of benefits and well-being programs. Visit Better You to learn more.

To learn more about EY US’ People Advisory Services, visit

Survey methodology:

Better You research is based on findings from two Online CARAVAN Surveys commissioned by EY US and conducted by ENGINE Insights. The first survey was among 1,339 full-time working adults in the US ages 18 and older. Responses were collected during October 21–30, 2019, with a margin of error of +/-2.7% at a 95% confidence level. The second survey was among 1,004 undergraduate college students in the US ages 18–23. Responses were collected during October 22–November 1, 2019, with a margin of error of +/-3.1% at a 95% confidence level.


About EY

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more, of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. Information about how EY collects and uses personal data and a description of the rights individuals have under data protection legislation are available via For more information about our organization, please visit

This news release has been issued by Ernst & Young LLP, a member firm of EY serving clients in the US.