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2021 Employee Benefits Trends: The impact on Your Business & Your Employees

13 Sep


As the weight of 2020 slowly begins to lift, businesses and employees are beginning to reprioritize—especially when it comes to benefits options. This year, we’re seeing employee benefits trends directly related to employee experiences over the past nearly two years. Some of the most abundant trends we’re seeing that have taken the COVID-19 pandemic into consideration, include:

  1. A greater focus on voluntary benefits.
  2. An enhanced importance on financial security.
  3. More serious focus on employee mental health.
  4. Employees want to see more alternative work arrangements.

While all four were topics of conversation before the pandemic, they are now being even more widely adopted. Employees around the country are beginning to build more comprehensive plans for their physical, mental, and financial health.

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The Rise of Voluntary Benefits

According to a study conducted by The Hartford, employees are opting for new benefits that they were previously selecting. For example, of the employees opting into new benefits, 35% of employees have opted into critical illness insurance and 32% have added a hospital indemnity plan to their coverage details.  

Employers are also taking a longer look at offering a more added-value services (i.e. mental health programs, financial support, caretaking benefits, etc.) for employees, per MetLife’s Redesigning the Employee Experience: Preparing the Workforce for a Transformed World report.

The study found that 74% of employers are offering these kinds of benefits. The study also shows that 60% of employees are interested in their employer providing a wider mix of non-medical benefits that they can choose to purchase on their own.

Understanding Financial Security

Financial security has always had a place in employee benefit options, however, HRExecutive finds the pandemic has exacerbated financial insecurity among the general public—more specifically, the ability to pay certain medical bills.

For example, 40% of U.S. households say they would struggle to cover a $400 emergency expense. The result being an increased interest in emergency savings accounts.

Employers do seem to be responding to their employees’ need for support; more than 75% of business owners have expanded their paid leave and PTO programs in an effort to mitigate the stresses tied to workplace absences, regardless of the reason.

In some cases, employees are also looking for student loan repayment assistance, a benefit on top of the extension provided by the U.S. Department of Education through the coronavirus emergency relief fund. This assistance is earmarked for borrowers with federal student loans and is extended through January 31, 2022.

Changing Views of Mental Health

There is a direct correlation between employees who suffer from poor mental health and productivity rates, or the lack thereof. Recent studies from The Hartford identify 59% of U.S. workers believe the culture of their company has become more accepting of mental health.

Perhaps the biggest employee benefits trend, in terms of mental health, is the employee’s comfort in asking for help. 48% of employees who sought help for stress or burnout used an employer resource. This is a positive trend as employee burnout is incredibly difficult to spot without additional resources like an employee burnout handbook.

This trend needs to continue, especially because burnout is even considered a phenomenon by the World Health Organization.

Get Used to Working from Home

In addition to all of the changes the 2020 pandemic brought with it, work from home is one that is likely to stick around. While employees are showing a greater interest in alternative work arrangements, like work from home, not all employers are certain they want to permanently adopt this as the “new norm”.

MetLife reports more than 76% of employees are interested in remote work and flexible schedules—68% of those employees believe they should at least have the option. but 90% of employers who adjusted work arrangements through 2021, say they expect to return to pre-pandemic working arrangements once they can.

Remote work and flexible schedule also seems to be the preferred working situation for employees in their 20s like Gen Z and Millennial.

It’s fine to work from home if an employee productivity is equal to, or better, than their in-office productivity. Resources like a remote hiring and onboarding checklist can be help in starting the conversation with current employees, or act as an additional resource in new hire onboarding procedures.

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Keep an Eye Out for New Trends

As time goes on, things change and you may need some help keeping up with the ever-changing trends. Working with a professional employer organization (PEO) will prove to be an impactful investment for your business, and provide you with the HR resources like payroll assistance, comprehensive benefits, and workers’ compensation guidance.

Consider speaking with an HR expert to learn more about how a PEO can help better your business.

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