Today, a decent 401(k) match and employer-sponsored healthcare just don’t cut it as an attractive benefits package. Employees expect robust benefits from employers that cover everything from student loan repayment to family planning, financial wellness, and mental health—especially in this new world of work.
But it’s not just workers who reap the rewards of comprehensive company-sponsored offerings. Employers benefit, too. Prudential’s January 2021 Road to Resiliency pulse survey found that more than two-thirds of employees say they’re more dedicated to their employer because of the benefits they provide.
As we edge closer to open enrollment for next year, let’s look at some of the top benefits trends we see for 2022.
1. Flexible work location and hours
The pandemic was the push remote work needed to truly go mainstream. In an attempt to balance the demands of the ongoing health crisis with the workforce’s desires, more companies are opting for a hybrid or work from anywhere model.
Over the last year and a half, companies often talked of how and when to bring employees “back” to the office. In response, workers everywhere made one thing clear: flexibility was a new non-negotiable.
A May 2021 survey found that 40% of workers would consider quitting their jobs if denied flexibility to work from home, at least some of the time. Pointing to remote work benefits—like time saved commuting, more time to spend with one’s family, more sleep, and better health—it’s easy to see why employees would be willing to look elsewhere if denied “some flexibility” to work remotely.
Takeaway: Going into 2022 and beyond, companies that want to attract and retain the best talent while supporting a better quality of life will continue to offer flexible work options.
2. Financial wellness
If your money woes skyrocketed during the pandemic, you’re not alone. Nearly 7 out of 10 (69%) people say the pandemic has intensified their financial stress. Stressed workers make distracted and unproductive workers—a win for no one.
But 80% of people who feel their employers are committed to helping them strengthen their financial resiliency are more likely to stay with the employer. As a result, it’s no surprise that people-centric companies are choosing to offer financial wellness benefits.
Takeaway: To be effective, a financial wellness benefit must be holistic and offer one-on-one advice with a Certified Financial Planner™, provide tips on taxes, make available financial literacy education, and be accessible through an intuitive and easy-to-use platform.
3. Family planning
Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce today, and this generation of workers are at the age where they are considering starting families or have already done so. Employers, driven by the need to remain competitive and the desire to be seen as family-friendly, offer employer-sponsored benefits that assist employees in family planning and fertility services.
Many big companies are doing so to be inclusive, too. A May 2021 survey by Mercer found that 40% of large employers covering fertility benefits are doing so to “support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts”. The services top employers are assisting employees in covering are IVF, egg freezing, surrogacy, and adoptions services and provide access to support in planning for the child before they arrive and once they’re here.
Takeaway: There’s a range of options when it comes to family planning benefits. What was once viewed as a perk at large companies is now being offered at smaller companies as a competitive advantage when recruiting employees.
4. Student loans repayment
Student loan repayment is a benefit aimed at reducing the burden that student debt places on the workforce. This offering is relatively new but quickly gaining popularity as companies try to attract and retain millennials, the generation with more debt than any other and the largest age group currently in the labor force.
The CARES Act, passed in March 2020, contains a provision that further incentives companies to offer student loan assistance by making $5,250 per year, per employee of student loan repayment, tax-free for employers.
Tax benefits are just a teaser, though.
The real value lies in the bolstered loyalty and retention that comes from giving a helping hand. A 2018 study by the American Student Assistance, a non-profit aimed at helping young people eliminate financial barriers to higher education, found that 4 in 5 young workers would commit to an employer for 5 years if they helped pay their student loans.
Takeaway: As widespread student loan proposals have stalled in Congress, having companies take on loan repayment assistance is becoming a popular benefit. It’s a perk that lures workers and gives you a tax break.
5. Mental health services and well-being benefits
Financial stress soared throughout the pandemic, but so did regular stress, too. Mental health struggles like anxiety, depression, and substance abuse climbed as the country first went into lockdown then faced recurring COVID cases. These are costly issues to ignore, both in terms of the human suffering involved and the company's bottom line: Depression alone is estimated to have cost employers between $17 to 44 million in lost productivity, as reported by SHRM.
While many companies have long offered employee assistance programs (EAPs), which provide access to a (usually) fixed number of counseling or therapy sessions, today employers are expanding their well-being benefits.
Takeaway: Subscriptions to meditation apps, tele-mental health sessions, and mental health stipends are readily embraced by employers hoping to support employee mental health as a formal company-provided benefit.
Looking ahead to 2022
Great employees expect great employers. Companies who want high-performing teams who create innovative products and services must be willing to support workers in and out of the office.
Employer-sponsored benefits like mental health support and holistic financial wellness programs give employees access to valuable tools and resources and make them feel cared for by their company. And employees who feel like their companies are investing in them are more likely to invest in their company; it’s that simple.