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The Benefit Trends That Support Total Well-Being Outside of Work

The employment landscape is transforming, new technology is reshaping the way we work, and talent has become the most important factor in business success. As a result, employee well-being has never been more consequential.

Johnny C. Taylor, the CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), shares the growing trends reshaping the role and nature of workplace benefits as employers aim to satisfy both employees and stakeholders. Employee well-being has never been more consequential.

As employers aim to satisfy both employees and stakeholders, several growing trends are reshaping the role and nature of workplace benefits. In its most recent Employee Benefits Survey, SHRM found employers are expanding their benefits to address employees’ life outside of work, including paid leave and flexibility, medical care access, and financial wellness.

“When employees feel supported by good benefits, they can spend more time managing life outside of work with less stress—whether it be through more flexibility, financial wellness, or health care accessibility,” Taylor said.

“HR professionals and business leaders must open and expand the dialogue about workplace benefits with executives and decision-makers. Our employees are counting on us.”

Why do you think remote work is becoming much more common? What advantages does working remotely offer both an employee and their employer?

Telecommuting is becoming a popular benefit in many industries as technology makes remote work easier. It can offer many advantages to employees, including reduced commute times and costs and the ability to accommodate individual work habits.

Perhaps the greatest value remote work offers is empowering employees to better manage work-life integration. More flexibility means people have more time and freedom to take care of their family, home, community, and social obligations.

How does working remotely impact in-house company culture?

Some employers choose not to offer remote work options, preferring employees to be physically present in the workplace where they can strengthen relationships, reinforce workplace culture and increase collaboration. On the other hand, remote work opportunities can improve employees’ quality of life—and even work ethic—if they don’t have to travel long distances for work or can work hours that better fit their personal and family needs.

Do you have data to support remote work? Is there a correlation between employee efficiency and working remotely?

Remote work has steadily increased as more employers offer telecommuting benefits. Our survey found that 69 percent of organizations allowed employees to work from home at least some of the time in 2019, and 27 percent offered full-time telecommuting arrangements. Several studies have also found a positive correlation between telework and employee productivity.

How does telemedicine improve the lives of today’s workforce?

The core benefit of telemedicine, which allows patients to access medical care and counsel remotely, is convenience. Instead of taking time off work and traveling to an office or clinic, patients and parents can communicate with their providers via telephone, text message, e-mail, video, and home monitoring devices. This saves time, allows for flexibility, and can reduce costs from hospital, ER or urgent care visits.

Telemedicine is on the rise. In 2019, the number of employers offering this benefit increased by 10 percent. At the same time, employees’ use of telemedicine jumped from 23 percent in 2016 to 72 percent this year — a huge shift.

How can employers assist employees on their path to financial wellness?

With a multigenerational workforce, promoting financial literacy to workers at different stages in life is more important than ever. Providing employees with onsite resources to help them understand how best to budget, save, and invest their money can help them make educated decisions about their money. Whether it’s helping younger workers start saving or enabling older workers to retire comfortably, educating employees about financial wellness can help them feel more secure and supported in the workplace.

Why is it crucial that workplaces offer resources such as student loan debt relief?

Student loan debt is an escalating problem for the national economy. According to the Federal Reserve, more than 44 million Americans collectively owe $1.5 trillion. Tuition assistance has been a popular benefit for many years, and now student loan relief is emerging to address this growing debt crisis and offer employees something they really want.

Still, because the benefit offers no tax savings for employers, it remains rare. Just 8 percent of employers offered student loan repayment assistance in 2019, up from 4 percent in 2018 and 3 percent in 2015. That’s why SHRM backs the Employer Participation in Repayment Act, which would allow employers to voluntarily give tax-free student loan assistance up to $5,250 annually per employee.

What are the benefits of offering programs such as a 401k match?

A robust savings program is a critical — and now almost expected — benefit for most employees. It offers a relatively easy way for workers to plan for retirement, and employer match programs provide great incentives to save money for the future. By offering a competitive financial savings program like a 401k, employers can better compete in the talent marketplace, improve financial literacy across the company, and encourage workers to meet their goals.  

Do you recommend that companies bring in a financial advisor?

It never hurts to ensure employees are comfortable asking questions about their finances and how to best save and invest their money. According to SHRM’s Benefits Survey, 57 percent of organizations offer retirement investment advice, 36 percent offer non-retirement advice, and 18 percent offer credit counseling services. Financial wellness resources help workers manage and navigate their finances and empower them to make the right decisions for their families and their future.

Who should be top of mind when setting up policies that allow for paid leave?

Employees in all stages of life should have the opportunity to receive paid leave when they need to take time off to handle illness and important personal matters. In addition to helping workers with growing families, this benefit eases the burden on those caring for elderly parents and relatives.

Eldercare benefits are becoming more popular as our population ages, with about 10 percent of organizations taking part—up from six percent in 2015. I expect this trend to grow steadily as employers develop more holistic leave packages for multigenerational workforces.

What are employees looking for within these policies, and how can investing in this help recruit and retain employees?

Paid leave isn’t one-size-fits-all. Workplaces are being challenged to offer leave benefits that are attractive to a multifaceted workforce—not just new parents. Moreover, it’s important for workplaces to go beyond traditional leave and consider offering programs to help workers transition back to the workplace after an absence.

Employees are expected to be flexible and agile in the workplace, and it’s only fair that employers reward that by investing in competitive paid leave policies that work for people in all stages of life. This can increase employee engagement, boost retention, and attract top talent amid a competitive job market.

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