This year has seen some of the most drastic changes to the way we work. From lost jobs, to shifting to remote work, to a “new normal” we’ve yet to define, the workplace has played an instrumental role in how people adjust to a post-COVID world.
Whenever there’s a shift in priorities or way of life, it’s often reflected in what employee benefits are in the highest demand. This year is certainly no exception.
Here are 2020’s most in-demand benefits, and why you should be offering them during your next open enrollment.
Student Loan Repayment Aid
The average student debt amount for Americans is between $20,000 and $25,000. With substantial interest rates, that amount is likely to actually increase over time unless significant payments can be made.
This financial burden puts a tremendous amount of strain on your employees, who may struggle to make progress on their loans because of other financial priorities. Programs are on the rise that allow employers to match an individual’s loan contribution, either directly to the loan or in another financial area like a retirement account.
If that is not an option for your organization, you should still be addressing the situation. You can bring in experts and provide resources for debt consolidation and loan refinancing to ease your employees’ debt burdens.
With the rise of payment apps like Venmo, Zelle, and PayPal, people are becoming accustomed to receiving fast payments. Companies like Walmart, Uber, and Lyft have payday programs that give employees access to their earnings as soon as those hours are logged.
While that might not be the exact right solution for your organization, recognize that people are seeking more flexible payment options -- responding accordingly will help your organization attract and retain top talent.
Lower Premium Healthcare Plans
With a pandemic unfolding this year, predictable healthcare costs are a higher priority for employees than ever -- especially those with dependents.
In the past 10 years, however, average premiums have risen 54% while wage increase has only been 26%. Employers had to shift much of that disparity to their employees, who felt the financial hit in the form of high premiums and high deductibles.
Smart organizations will be taking the burden off of their employees by shifting to lower-premium plans and finding other ways to reduce the cost, like contracting with health care providers.
Recent events have left many people wary of going to the doctor for routine visits or ailments that aren’t severe. Telehealth is instrumental in making sure people keep up with their healthcare while avoiding physical trips to the doctor.
It’s also a great tool for providing more options to those in rural areas with less access to in-network doctors or specialists.
Mental Health Coverage
Employers need to make mental and behavioral health a priority when building their benefits package. Issues such as anxiety, depression, substance use, and trauma impact the majority of employees, yet they have been widely overlooked in traditional healthcare plans.
Mental health and well-being plans can include:
- On-site counseling
- Reimbursement of medication
- Treating out of network mental/behavioral services as in-network to reduce costs
- Cover out of network mental health services even if other out of network services are not covered
- Setting lower co-insurance amount for mental and behavioral health than other services
More than a sixth of the workforce are caregivers. Whether caring for children, adults with special needs, or aging parents, caregiver absenteeism is responsible for billions of dollars in lost productivity per year.
In the wake of a global healthcare crisis, assistance for caregivers is essential. Offer legal resources to help with caregiving assistance, flexible work options, and care subsidies. If you are in one of the eight states that have a state-specific family medical leave program, make sure your employees are properly educated on how it differs from the federal FMLA program.
Many organizations implemented temporary work from home and flexible scheduling during the government mandated shutdowns this spring. If your organization did not run into any major issues doing so, consider making this a permanent option at least part time.
According to the Society for Human Resources Management, almost 70% of organizations allow for at least part time telecommuting arrangements. Doing so increases productivity, provides work-life balance, and reduces stress on employees who are juggling multiple responsibilities.
Personalized Career Development
A 2019 survey found that providing opportunities to advance was the second most effective way to improve employee satisfaction, behind higher salaries. However, employees want to feel like you are investing in them specifically, so it’s important that career development programs are ultra-personalized.
It’s also important to go beyond basic upskilling. Ask your employees what other areas they would like to develop in, so they can make horizontal development as well.
As the year continues to unfold and priorities continue to shift, the benefits that are most in demand may change as well. The most important thing is to keep having conversations with your employees -- find out what their current priorities are and how different benefits can meet those needs.
So much has changed and will continue to change throughout 2020. Make sure your benefits package is keeping up by exploring these in-demand benefits.
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