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It’s August already and for HR pros that means it’s crunch time as you finalize the benefits packages you’ll be bringing to open enrollment this fall.
Like years past, it’s a delicate balance between cost containment and offering a comprehensive package that will both attract and retain employees. But unlike other years, employee and candidate expectations are high and they are asking more of their employers. And the continuing tight labor market means that they can.
Some of the themes for this year’s open enrollment are consistent with the past few years (spoiler alert: mental health tops the list) and some are new. In general, the overarching idea behind most of these is the concept of creatively addressing the needs of employees beyond the four walls of the office (if the office even exists anymore.) How can companies help their teams beyond the traditional health plans and PTO?1. Mental health: No longer a “nice-to-have”
According to a Conference Board study 88% of large companies offered benefits supporting emotional well-being, up from 66% in 2021. This can incorporate a range of benefit options from comprehensive access to treatment programs to subscriptions for online therapy and wellness apps.
With both awareness and prevalence of mental health issues on the rise, providing benefits in this area is a must. But companies need to also be cognizant of the way their workplace is impacting employees’ mental health. Does your workplace have a culture that supports or negatively impacts the emotional well-being of employees?2. Benefits packages for our hybrid world
In the past, benefits packages were built for an in-office environment where the bulk of employees were in a specific set of geographic locations. The occasional employee who was remote was treated as a “one-off” and package workarounds were developed.
Many companies today need to build benefits packages with the assumption that employees will be dispersed across the state, country or the globe. If the health plans you currently offer have a limited geographic footprint, you’ll need other options for your remote employees.
Additionally, if you offer in-office perks such as meals or fitness centers, it’s important that remote employees receive a commensurate benefit. If not, it can foster an “us vs. them” mentality that is not good for culture.3. The new vacation: forced disconnection
In the past, companies boasted generous vacation policies, but the joke was vacation just meant “working someplace with a better view.” And that’s assuming people are using their PTO in the first place.
A recent article in Employee Benefit News noted that 40% of employees did not take any PTO in 2022. And that’s not good for the employee or the company.
Some companies today are instituting policies that run the gamut from mandating to incenting employees to take vacation. HR leaders and managers are increasingly paying more attention to which employees may not be taking vacation and having proactive discussions to encourage those employees to take a break. This may help in environments where employees perceive that there is a stigma about taking vacations.
Additionally, managers should lead by example when it comes to both taking vacation and disconnecting while away. At the end of the day, organizations should focus on building a culture where “out-of-office” means “out-of-office.”4. Childcare and beyond
Childcare has been on most benefits trends list for a while (including ours) as progressive companies do what they can to make balancing work and parenthood easier. But this year we go beyond childcare.
More workplaces are recognizing that children aren’t the only population that depend on your employees to be there when needed. An estimated 18 – 22 percent of the workforce is comprised of family caregivers and they overage about 20 unpaid hours of caregiving a week on top of their job.
These employees are seeking policies, benefits and flexibility that make it easy for them to take care of other family members including elderly parents or a sick or disabled spouse. And it’s in the best interest of employers to engage in discussions about what they need. If not, these employees are a significant flight risk. According to a whitepaper “Invisible Overtime” by the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, close to one-third of caregiving employees have voluntarily left their job as a direct result of their caregiving responsibilities.
As for what’s up next for the benefits space in the caregiving category, “Pawternity” benefits for employees who get new pets will be coming your way soon.5. Life insurance and short-term disability
If the pandemic taught us anything it’s that life is unpredictable, and health is fragile. To that end, employees, even younger employees, are focusing more on some benefits that they may not have given much thought to in the past. Life insurance and short-term disability benefits have moved higher up on their priority list.
For generally healthy team members, they may have all but overlooked the life insurance formulas or short-term disability equations. Now they’re paying attention, asking questions and are increasingly aware of the importance of these benefits.
Piecing it together
A snapshot of trends is not a roadmap, but rather food for thought as HR leaders are finalizing 2024 plans. If you’re looking for more insight or ideas, be sure to download our Guide to Building a Better Benefits Package.