Rebecca Noori is a freelance content marketer who writes about HR and careers for B2B SaaS companies. You'll also find her supporting beginner freelancers when they're starting out. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
The Future of Workplace Perks: 12 Trends in Employee Benefits
December 9, 2022
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Trends in employee benefits have changed radically over the past few years as companies better understand the importance of supporting their workforce beyond a paycheck.
Nevertheless, when Amelia Sordell, founder of Klowt, a personal branding agency, took to LinkedIn to boldly state she had canceled all of the company's employee benefits, she grabbed everyone's attention.
Why had she scrapped them?
What was she replacing them with?
Was this a cost-saving measure?
Sordell responded that Klowt's employee benefits were outdated and a waste of money!
Instead of offering unlimited vacation, courses, and books that no one was taking advantage of, Klowt's upgraded employee benefits now include:
- 30 days paid holiday;
- £100 per month towards commuting costs;
- £45 per month towards personal well-being;
- £10 per month towards home Wi-Fi bills.
Sordell explains, "These new benefits are actually costing more than the ones we had before, but they're so much better. Because they're what the team actually wants. Besides, if your employee benefits don't benefit your employees, what's the point of having them?"
Klowt is just one example of a company committed to enhancing the employee experience.
This guide explores the factors shaping employee benefits trends, the latest perks, and some examples of forward-thinking companies offering them.
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🌟 8 Factors shaping emerging trends in employee benefits
The changing employee benefits landscape is undeniably linked to current global events and the pandemic-prompted shift to flexible working. Here are eight factors shaping employee benefits trends.
1. Aging workforce
People live longer and stay in the workforce past the typical retirement age.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that by 2024, a quarter of the US workforce will be 55+, while a third will be 65+.
While mature workers bring a wealth of experience, expertise, and knowledge to their roles, they also require considerate benefits that support their health and productivity.
Employers must also support the "squeezed middle" category of worker that struggles to offer childcare for children and grandchildren while also facing eldercare responsibilities.
2. Mental health awareness
Stress levels were already increasing rapidly pre-pandemic, with the World Health Organization formally recognizing burnout as an "occupational phenomenon" in 2019.
But in a new Paychex survey, 51% of workers state that their mental health worsened during the pandemic. And a third were unable to hit their regular productivity rates due to their mental well-being.
Mental health issues have struck workers of all ages, but 53% of Millennial and 47% of Generation Z workers have sought mental health support in the last 12 months. This result comes from a MetLife report entitled "The Rise of the Whole Employee: 20 Years of Change in Employer-Employee Dynamics." This result is significantly higher than the average of 31% across all age brackets.
Employers largely understand the mental strain employees are under, caused by COVID-related bereavement, health concerns, social changes, and the switch to remote working.
As a result, 88% of companies now offer some form of emotional assistance program, a dramatic increase from 23% in 2021.
3. Diversity and inclusion
Companies are committing to better DEI initiatives but adding these values to a code of conduct, or organizational mission statement no longer cuts it.
Gallup research finds that 42% of job candidates are adept at sniffing out whether a potential employer is diverse, as it claims. And a company's DEI efforts are a critical factor in whether or not a job-seeker accepts a new position there.
Organizations must establish DEI (diversity, equality, and inclusion) as crucial elements of their corporate cultures.
You may run DEI microlearning training or offer benefits like floating holidays to accommodate religious and cultural holidays outside the Christian calendar.
Alternatively, you can create gender-neutral restrooms to serve transgender employees better.
➡️ Discover 32 additional ways to promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace.
4. Changing attitudes toward physical health
A meta-analysis of 31 studies published in "The Journal of Infectious Diseases" suggests that 49% of global COVID-19 pandemic survivors experience symptoms some four months after diagnosis.
Even for those who aren't struggling with side effects, the pandemic has shaken how people feel about their physical health.
An IPSOS research finds that 62% of Americans say their physical health is more important to them now than it was before the pandemic.
Regarding benefit offerings, 55% of employees in 2022 cite health and wellness programs (including access to gym memberships, medical screenings, and fitness facilities) as deciding factors in accepting a new position.
According to MetLife research, this is double the pre-pandemic figure for this type of perk.
5. Shift to remote and hybrid work model
Flexible working may have initially emerged as a temporary response to the pandemic. But there's no doubt it's here to stay.
While working from home or adopting a hybrid approach may be one of the only positive changes to come out of the pandemic for some workers, not all employees have embraced it.
WFH can be isolating for people who live alone or who thrive on face-to-face connections in an office environment.
Different trends have emerged across generations. For example, Asana's Global Anatomy report tells us that 60% of Millennials and Gen Z employees see the office as a collaborative space.
In comparison, only 42% of Gen X and Baby Boomers agree.
In any case, employers who have adapted their working model must update their employee benefits to ensure they're still relevant for remote or hybrid workers.
For example, complementary lunches or on-site corporate gym memberships may not be accessible to employees who no longer attend a physical workplace.
Carolyn Stern, CEO of EI Experience and Author of "The Emotionally Strong Leader," suggests supporting remote teams and developing deep, meaningful relationships with employees. As a result, they will be committed to doing their best work.
Carolyn promises that her inside-out approach will last much longer than Free Food Fridays!
"Leaders are trying to support their remote teams, but many need to go about it differently, which is where leading with Emotional Intelligence (EI) comes in. EI is all about strengthening the relationship with your employees and their relationship with their work.
Check in with your employees and ask them three simple EI questions:
1. What do you need to feel connected to the team and me?
2. What do you need to feel appreciated for your efforts?
3. What do you need to feel fulfilled in your role?
And then be quiet and listen to their answers. If given the opportunity, employees will often tell you what they need to be successful; however, this only works if they feel they are cared for, valued, and supported. So listen attentively."
🚨 Discover 15 hybrid and remote work trends you cannot afford to ignore any longer.
6. Prioritizing work-life balance
Work-life balance should extend beyond being a buzz phrase; it must be a core part of your culture if you want your employees to thrive at your company.
According to the LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report of 2022, work-family balance is the top consideration when deciding whether to join a company.
Work-life balance means something different for individual employees, as everyone has their unique lifestyle, hobbies, and family or caring responsibilities outside of their employment.
7. Evolving technology
Technology is also championing a new culture of employee benefits, where employees are encouraged to be their own benefit managers and have more control over their well-being.
These 24/7 self-service apps provide HR leaders with precise data on how employees use benefits resources.
Meanwhile, employees can access crucial benefits info at the tap of a button and from the palm of their hand.
This ease of access makes it effortless to review pension contributions, add dependents to a health plan, take a tele-health assessment or enroll in an L&D program.
8. Employee retention
The Bureau of Labor statistics reveal that 47.2 million Americans quit their job in 2021. This "Great Resignation" has inspired employers to find creative ways to retain and attract top talent.
According to a MetLife 2022 survey, 73% of employees say they'd be motivated to stay at their company if they had access to better health insurance options.
From flexible work arrangements to financial wellness programs, employers can improve employee satisfaction by revamping the perks that accompany their regular paychecks.
📈 12 Trends in employee benefits
We now know the motivating factors prompting employers to change their approach to employee benefits. But what should you offer to swing the pendulum toward happy, healthy, highly engaged employees who want to stay with the company?
Here are some trending employee benefits in the market which will make a difference at your company.
👩💻 Flexible working
Countless reports tell us that employees want and expect flexible working arrangements in a post-pandemic landscape.
But there are many ways to approach flexible working.
For example, you can implement one or more of the following flexibility benefits:
- Following a hybrid 3:2 model (with three days in the office and two at home).
- Frontloaded workweeks to make the most of your energy levels (working 12 hours on Monday, 10 on Tuesday, 8 on Wednesday, 6 on Thursday, and 4 on Friday to bank 40 hours for the week).
- Working a compressed 9/80 schedule (80 hours over nine working days and the tenth day off).
- Working remotely and from any country.
➡️ Check out our WFH policy template that you can use to communicate transparently with their employees about flexibility expectations.
👳🏽 Inclusive benefits
Remote-first and exclusively office-based companies have a more straightforward job designing an employee benefits scheme that's inclusive for the entire workforce.
But it is far more complex for hybrid companies where some employees work from home while others attend the physical work environment.
The main point here is to ensure that employees receive the same level of benefits regardless of their location.
Example 1: If office-based employees receive free snacks and lunches, offer remote workers free home delivery subscriptions or vouchers for an online store.
Example 2: If employees attend an on-site yoga class or receive massages at work, remote employees should receive online access to virtual courses or vouchers for local wellness centers.
Example 3: Employers could offer childcare support for their remote teams if an on-site crèche is available in the office.
🧘♀️ Mental health
Employers favor mental health benefits that rethink the role of work in our lives.
Some widespread mental health benefits include:
- Duvet days (no-strings-attached time off without notice) ;
- Mindfulness apps;
- Life coaching;
- Bereavement leave;
- Mental health training (including for leaders);
- Mental health calculators;
- Addiction support;
- Yoga classes.
"As a CEO or HR department, organizing online yoga classes for your remote employees will help your company in many ways. They can be a real water cooler moment. Participants see each other and chat about the class, the teacher, and their experiences. Socializing is extremely important for mental health.
Yoga can also help reduce stress and anxiety and allow the brain to work better. Practicing yoga regularly teaches you to be grounded and calmer (beneficial in stressful environments)." Elodie Gythiel, Co-Founder of Live Yoga Teachers.
😷 Physical well-being
People who exercise regularly are 42% less likely to die from COVID-19. They also have a 45% less chance of requiring ventilation.
So clearly, offering employees the opportunity to stay fit and healthy is far more than a retention tactic: this could prolong life.
Along with access to health insurance, we're also seeing a surge in healthcare technologies such as telemedicine services, remote diagnostics, wearable devices, and apps prompting employees to stand up and move around regularly.
Online gym memberships are a suitable alternative to the on-site corporate gyms that have been popular in the past.
At the same time, access to nutritionist and dietitian services can also turn a person's physical well-being around.
Nap facilities such as pods or chairs allow on-site employees to quickly recharge with a power nap and return to their desks feeling more productive.
Companies like Nike, Facebook, Google, Amerisleep, and PwC are among the companies offering this perk and mitigating the expensive productivity losses associated with chronic sleep deprivation.
🏠 Work-life balance
Employers have acknowledged their employees have lives outside of work with the launch of some fantastic new benefits.
Hilton Hotels supports working parents with:
- generous parental leave (for biological and adoptive parents);
- subsidized childcare;
- a partnership with Milk Stork enabling breastfeeding mothers to ship or store milk when traveling for work.
For pet owners
Pawternity leave is also on the rise for workers with fur babies. Employees of customer data platform mParticle enjoy up to two weeks of paid leave and free pet insurance when they adopt an animal from a shelter.
The pub chain and brewery BrewDog provides a week's paid leave for owners of new puppies or adopted animals.
For more personal time
A holistic employee leave strategy (for parents, pet parents, and non-parents alike!) can also incorporate a shorter working week.
For example, Kellogg's allows employees to finish at noon on Fridays from May to September.
Zavvy's learning scientists helped Freeletics transition to a 4-workday week with outstanding results.
➡️ Learn more about Freeletics' journey to transition to a 4-day week, including the success of similar trials in Iceland and Belgium.
🏝️ Generous vacations
We all know that vacation time is essential.
If you need a nudge to prioritize relaxation, a 40-year study finds that people who take less than three weeks of annual vacation have a 37% greater chance of dying.
But taking a break is more complex than it seems. Vacations can be expensive, which is why Airbnb, for example, offers their people a hefty allowance.
As part of its travel stipend policy, the employer provides $2,000 to employees, allowing them to stay at any Airbnb property worldwide.
Another common problem is that employees find it hard to switch off from work, knowing their workload will be even more stressful when they return to their desks.
Company-wide shutdowns are the solution here.
Employers like Hootsuite, the Muse, PwC, and many others force disconnection from work by ensuring that all employees take leave simultaneously. This removes the temptation to check emails, log in remotely or skip their vacation entirely—nothing is going on back in the office.
Family planning and fertility benefits
The BBC reports that some candidates actively seek and apply for roles at "companies with the best fertility and family benefits."
A Carrot Fertility survey backs this up, finding that 68% of adults would switch jobs to receive fertility benefits. Plus, 50% of Millennials expect fertility planning or treatment to form a core part of health coverage.
There's a clear case for employers to provide benefits that allow workers to pursue parenthood, regardless of their medical circumstances, relationship status, or background.
Here are some of the typical features offered in a high-quality family planning and fertility benefits package.
- Assisted reproductive technology, including IVF, IUI, and ICSI cycles;
- Low testosterone support;
- Donor-assisted reproduction;
- Gestational carrier/surrogacy services;
- Egg and sperm freezing;
- Adoption services;
- Miscarriage leave;
- Accessibility for LGBTQ+ and single employees.
🧑🦳 Menopause support
Carrot's Menopause in the Workplace survey reveals that 79% of menopausal or perimenopausal women find working during menopause more challenging than any other life stage. They also rank their 50s as the most challenging decade to get through at work.
The results are clear: employers must do more to support their female workforce during this natural phase of life.
Some employers like retailer ASOS lead the way by offering menopause leave as an employee benefit that aims to break the stigma of menopause.
Similarly, the UK's National Health Service is the country's largest employer of women, and the average female NHS worker is 43 years old. With up to 260,000 nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers approaching menopause, the NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard has recently announced new guidance to support them. This support includes:
- flexible working patterns;
- lighter, cooler uniforms;
- provision of fans;
- lighter duties as required.
Ann Garnier, Founder, and CEO of Lisa Health, the company behind the Midday menopause app, explains why menopause support should be a no-brainer for savvy companies.
"A significant percentage of the workforce needs and wants support from their employer to manage their menopause journey. There is a clear business case and path to demonstrating a hard dollar ROI to improve health outcomes and productivity.
Importantly, employers can maximize a valuable talent asset. Fewer women will exit the workforce, and more will take advantage of career development opportunities. Investing in the health and well-being of menopausal women makes smart business sense for employers to bridge the gap in care and support."
🗣️ Social benefits
Workplace connections matter, and it's down to employers to build them in a global and diverse workforce.
Whether you're able to meet up in the office or need to adapt to a remote or hybrid company culture, there are numerous benefits you can offer to increase social inclusion and provoke those conversations that matter.
For example, Microsoft and Amazon have employee resource groups for people from different backgrounds to help build networks and support career development.
Other ways to create a sense of community and increase camaraderie include:
- Walk and talk meetings;
- Coffee and lunch roulettes;
- Virtual team-building classes (for example, Google's WFH cooking classes);
- Social impact initiatives like volunteering.
⛑️ Crisis benefits
The best employee benefits schemes continuously evolve by responding to current events and providing employees with the support they need in the moment.
Some employers have taken bold action to protect women's abortion rights in response to the US Supreme Court's devastating Roe v. Wade overturn.
One shining example is the outdoor clothing employer Patagonia. They quickly reacted to the news by offering to fund abortion costs. They also cover bail expenses for any employee arrested during protests against this shocking injustice.
Similarly, when wildfires hit the US West Coast, employer HP Inc quickly shipped air filters to impacted employees to support their respiratory health.
Jordan Casserly is a content marketer at Heka, a wellness and employee benefits platform. He explains how companies can be reactive and purposeful instead of generic and impractical in their approach to workplace benefits in the face of a crisis.
"Take COVID-19, for example; many organizations introduced better mental health support for their workforce, and rightly so; one study found that 62% of respondents agree or strongly agree that employee well-being is a top priority when applying for or considering their next job.
As for the present, the cost of living crisis deserves equal attention from leaders. Without conversations around financial well-being and other means to educate and support employees during turbulent times, any benefits package is already flawed.
But it isn't just crisis that should prompt businesses to rethink their initiatives. It must be an ongoing process — one led by conscious leadership and the intention to support employees in the immediate and long term.
If anything is true about modern employee benefits, there's a lot of uncertainty and gloom, and leaders must recognize the positive impact they can have on their people."
💸 Financial wellness
Tying in with the above, joint SHRM and Morgan Stanley research agrees that financial wellness plans could be a critical factor in retention.
It's challenging to stay afloat during recessions and the cost-of-living crisis.
Employees need support with everything from covering their increased mortgage repayments, home Wi-Fi, and energy bills, as well as long-term planning for retirement.
Brenton Tong is a Managing Director for Financial Spectrum who explains in a LinkedIn article that:
"Financial insecurity can do more than cause sleepless nights. Constant anxiety about the state of financial affairs can trigger debilitating mental and physical health issues which can have a negative flow to your business.
Employees who struggle financially are more likely to miss work. Even when they do show up, they may be so distracted by their financial troubles that it affects their productivity and performance."
🌱 Employee development
LinkedIn's Workplace Learning report cites "opportunities to learn and grow" as the number one driver of excellent company culture.
But employers, including Klowt, are moving away from offering unlimited courses and books for employees who don't have the time or inclination to take advantage of this type of benefit.
By adopting initiatives like:
- implementing 360 feedback cycles;
- encouraging workers to take ownership of their career development journey,
We can equip employees with the tools they need to succeed.
Investing in employee development will enable a high-performance culture and a real team-effort mentality resulting in positive behavioral change.
💡Learn how to improve people development at your company and why you should do it asap.
➡️ Enable your workforce with Zavvy
Do your company perks need a revamp?
It's time to move away from outdated employee benefits or those that are "enclosed," like on-site laundry or late-night food deliveries that encourage office workers to remain chained to their desks.
But what do your employees want or need?
The best way to find out is to ask them!
Zavvy's people enablement platform is your go-to solution to support HR leaders in everything from gathering employee feedback to delivering well-being boosters, resilience training, and much more.
To engage, develop and retain your employees even in the face of global challenges and disruptions, book a live intro of the Zavvy platform today.
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