Employee Benefits That Are Most in Demand 2 Years Into the Pandemic

While sitting in a comfortable waiting room, female doctor listens to her patient about mental health problems.
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What do employees want most in a post-COVID-19 landscape? As people evaluate what the future of their work looks like, they are showing less interest in office perks and significantly more interest in what becomes part of their total compensation package. Here are some of the most in-demand employee benefits — and the biggest asks employees are making of their employers.

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Mental Health Support

Logan Mallory is the VP of Motivosity, a company helping keep employees engaged in the office and while working remotely. Support for mental health is at the top of the list of many requested benefits Mallory has received over the last two years. 

Mallory said their team has worked to incorporate mental health support into the workplace to the best of their abilities and highlights the perk in their company hiring materials. Mental health initiatives are a key aspect of how the company is able to recruit Gen Z, as these benefits are of utmost importance to them.

The availability of mental health support offered by employers has become a key factor in employee retention and the ability to recruit. Connor Patros, Ph.D., chief clinical officer at Mindyra, said over the course of the past two years a large majority of American workers have seen their mental health worsen. Many, especially the younger generation of employees, are looking to their employers to offer a wider range of support options.

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“Smart employers are really investing in mental health benefits that allow employees to be the drivers of their own care,” Patros said. 

With a wide range of resources available, including mobile apps and online resources, Patros said his team works with employers to help them empower their employees to find the mental health solutions that make the most sense to them. To truly benefit from individualized care, the employee needs to be the driver of their journey — and the employer can help make that happen. 

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Flexibility

Over the last two years, many Americans have adapted to remote work and working from home. The option to work from home, or from anywhere, is now expected and included in negotiations for those in the mobile workforce changing jobs. Brad Sherry, vice president at World Insurance Associates LLC, said flexibility in where to work and when to work is now part of the core ask employees are making of employers. 

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“One of the most needed services, and flexible work aspects, is around support for employees who are also primary caregivers at home (whether for children or parents or spouses),” Sherry said. “It is paramount that parents with school-aged children have the flexibility in new working conditions and times to be at home or to start and stop work at different times so that they can be available for their children’s needs.

The need for flexibility has led to many employers not only allowing flex scheduling but also providing stipends or direct reimbursement for office equipment that can be used at home. Sherry said making the home/work environment more conducive for that purpose is a win-win for those employees whose jobs permit remote work. Generally, it has been found that it also makes employees more efficient.

EAPs With Extended Service

Beth Scherer is the director of CBIZ HR, Consulting and Outsourcing Services. Over the last two years, Scherer said she has seen employers significantly revamp their employee assistance programs (EAPs). Among the many additions includes more consulting therapy sessions, fuller outreach for services like child and adult care and many more mental health options. 

A push for well-being benefits, particularly apps that provide on-the-go mental and physical health services, is another addition incorporated into plans. Pet insurance has also received an increase, which Scherer said is a valuable benefit as many employees invested in pets during their remote time in the pandemic’s heaviest moments.

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“No longer are the simple, free plans though the medical or life insurance carrier the best option anymore,” Scherer said. “Clients are going outside and finding very solid EAPs with extended services.”

Financial Wellness Programs

Kristen Carlisle, general manager at Betterment at Work, said she has seen a rise in demand for financial wellness programs that help employees with their increasingly complicated financial picture. One critical ask from employees is for student loan management solutions. Employees dealing with this particular kind of debt are facing heightened financial anxiety, not made any easier by increasing market volatility and uncertainty, and look to their employers for help alleviating this financial burden.

“Because employees are looking to employers to support them throughout their financial journeys, they’re increasingly seeking benefits that go beyond the 401(k) and focus on holistic financial wellness,” Carlisle said. 

Aside from student loan matching programs, Carlisle said other in-demand employee benefits include a high-quality 401(k), a 401(k) matching program, wellness stipend, flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) and an employer-sponsored emergency savings fund. These benefits represent the short-term support and long-term financial guidance employees need. 

With the pause on federal student loan repayments extended to Aug. 31, Carlisle expects to see even more employees looking toward their employers for support — where student loans may be concerned as well as financial well-being in a post-COVID-19 world.

“Supporting employees with their debt, whether it’s through direct contributions or tools that make payments simpler and more manageable, shows employees their employers are investing in their long-term financial future,” Carlisle said.

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About the Author

Heather Taylor is a senior finance writer for GOBankingRates. She is also the head writer and brand mascot enthusiast for PopIcon, Advertising Week’s blog dedicated to brand mascots. She has been published on HelloGiggles, Business Insider, The Story Exchange, Brit + Co, Thrive Global, and more media outlets. 

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