In a hybrid work environment, trendy perks like on-site fitness centers, ping-pong tables, meditation gardens, etc., have lost some of their allure. Even traditional benefits like time off have taken on new meaning—employees working from home have been less likely to use up their sick or PTO time.
As employers and their benefit advisors look ahead to 2022 they’re considering, and making, some shift in what and how they offer benefits to their employees.
One primary area of focus driven by pandemic experiences—appreciating the value of time.
Giving Employees the Gift of Time
Recent research from Robert Half indicates that an emerging trend in HR circles, around the globe is giving more flexibility to employees in terms of how much time they put into their jobs. In fact, “48% of employers are giving their teams the total flexibility to pick and choose when, where and how they work—with 31% of managers adding that they ‘don’t mind’ if their workers put in fewer than 40 hours a week.” That’s likely reflective of lessons learned during the pandemic that, contrary to previously held wisdom, employees working from home aren’t less productive, they’re largely more productive.
And they increasingly crave control over how they spend their time.
Recognizing this companies are taking another look at their leave policies, says Betsy Woods, a principal with the engagement practice at Buck, an integrated HR administration and employee benefits consulting firm. “Many companies are expanding their leave policies to allow for vaccinations, quarantine and recovery from COVID, as well as refreshing polices with a focus on inclusivity, flexibility, and family-friendly designs,” she says.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to benefits these days, though, and employers are quickly realizing the need to address diverse, and often niche, needs.
Finding Benefits to Fit Diverse Needs
Another trend in employee benefit considerations are the broad and diverse needs of increasingly more niche segments of the employee population—from those with various mental health needs, to those across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, to those with all types of family situations.
“Companies across every industry need to step up their benefit offerings in order to attract and retain talent,” says Rob Morse, manager of communications with Zoominfo, a software company. The company’s newly upgraded suite of employee benefits, he says, the company believes “are without equal for a company of our size.” Zoominfo has 2500+ employees, he says. Some of these unique offerings include:
- Care.com benefit for all U.S. employees, providing 10 free days of backup childcare annually, along with childcare co-pays of $6/hour in-home and $10/day in-center.
- A newly added surrogacy and adoption benefits of up to $20 thousand.
- A TalkSpace membership, included with the company’s medical plan, which offers a 24/7 online therapy accessed to licensed counselors through an EAP.
- Comprehensive transgender benefit coverage including services that are often not covered like facial bone remodeling, trachea shave, and voice therapy and lessons.
- Low-cost pet insurance.
At Zoominfo, most employees continue to work remotely, says Morse, but have the option of working across company locations ranging from its headquarters in Vancouver, Washington, to offices in Tel Aviv, Israel, and India, among others.
“We are extremely proud of the diverse and unique array of benefits we’re able to provide for our staff,” Morse says.
Non-traditional voluntary benefits are picking up momentum, says Tom Belmont, health and benefits practice leader for Gallagher, including a couple that he says have been driven by the pandemic: “pet insurance (27%) due to soaring pet ownership, and cybersecurity (20%), due to increased online transactions and mobile app utilization driving up identify theft.”
Healthcare coverage—of all kinds—remains foundational to employer benefit offerings.
Better Access to Healthcare of All Kinds
Access is especially critical—and hard to attain—for marginalized members of the population.
“Access to healthcare has been a problem for many, especially the disadvantaged and diverse segments of the workforce,” says Brooks. Companies are addressing this, she says, by “adding digital and virtual care options, LGBTQ supportive benefits, expanded voluntary benefits, and overall improved choice.”
Mental health, says Brooks, is “probably the biggest area of focus for enterprises now.” There is, she says, “a need to locate professional advisors to participate in-network, telehealth access coverage, and tighter integration of mental health care with primary healthcare.”
In addition, says Belmont: “Technology’s elevated role in care delivery increased incrementally in recent years and I expect the utilization of telemedicine and innovation in service offerings to accelerate the pace of adoption at a plan and participant level.” Tools build into these options also are offering participants the opportunity to compare costs, he says.
Training and Development
Strong benefit plan options are obviously one way that employers can address the “great resignation”—that obviously provides a big benefit for them as well as their employees.
Another “win-win” benefit offering that is gaining traction, is training and development, says Brooks. “Some companies are looking at their career development and providing employees with more insight into career paths and training opportunities,” she says.
Charles Schilling, president of enterprise for the U.S., Europe, and Canada at Emeritus, a leader in professional education, agrees. He believes that the “antidote to the great resignation is education, specifically reskilling and upskilling education.” Education is a win-win solution for both employers and employees, he says, but it needs to go beyond simply offering tuition reimbursement. Instead, he says, maximizing the impact of education as a benefit for employers and employees will require innovation and expansion. He sees Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs) as the best way to do this because, he says, “they appeal to a broad audience, are led by experts in their fields or by leading professors at reputable institutions, and their size allows for interactive learning that is highly tailored for maximum impact.”
Clearly the landscape of employee benefit offerings is rapidly shifting, fueled by the experiences of both employers and employees during the pandemic and the widespread recognition that, even after the pandemic, workplaces are likely to never be the same—and neither will the needs of employees, or employers’ need to continually attract, engage, and retain them.