Many companies offer flashy benefits as a way to attract and retain employees. The assumption is that employees will flock to work where lunches are catered and retreats are exotic. Unfortunately, benefits like these don’t make sense during economic slowdowns, and they’re also not the benefits employees need or want during those times. That’s why benefits managers should think about perks that are actually sustainable.
What Makes a Benefit Sustainable?
When considering sustainability, benefits managers need to consider the following:
- Is the benefit essential? In other words, is the benefit one that potential employees will insist upon having to join your company? Essential benefits include such things as healthcare, PTO, and competitive salaries.
- Is the benefit cost-effective? When looking at the bottom line, is the return on investment strong? During a recession, look for benefits that give a big bang for the buck.
- Does the benefit offer your employees the stability they seek? During hard economic times, employees are most concerned about benefits that will allow them to feel stable in unstable times. Consider offering benefits that help employees achieve life goals such as paying off student debt, saving for their children’s college, and retiring comfortably.
- Does the benefit provide for employee work/life balance? In addition to seeking financial stability, employees want to be sure that they have the time and energy they need for life outside of work. Offering benefits like flex-time and remote options fall into this category.
When looking for sustainable benefits, the best thing to do is avoid the extremes. You don’t want your benefits package to swing from lavish to austere.
Instead, focus on benefits that make sense regardless of the economy. Here is a list of 31 benefits to consider as the economy slows.
Health and Wellness Benefits
The first group of benefits includes things pertaining to health and wellness. According to the Robert Half Salary Guide Research Report, three out of four employees state that healthcare benefits are a top priority1.
A TransAmerica Institute study, Americans Settle in During Healthcare Uncertainty, found that three out of five American say healthcare benefits are highly linked to job satisfaction, while half of those surveyed determine whether to switch jobs based on healthcare options2.
1. Healthcare Insurance
Employees seek employer-sponsored coverage because it is often less expensive than other options and provides peace of mind to employees that their families are covered in case of illness or injury. Of course, adding healthcare is also good for companies as it encourages new hires, reduces absenteeism, and increases employee engagement and retention.
2. Mental Health Insurance
A recent ComPsych survey found that 62% of US adults feel high levels of uncontrollable stress, while another 33% have constant but manageable stress. That leaves only 5% of the population with little to no stress3. It is no wonder that the National Alliance on Mental Illness statistics show that one out of five Americans experience mental illness each year4.
Fortunately, companies who offer mental health insurance see a 4:1 return on their investment5.
3. Dental Insurance
LIMRA found that 78% of employees feel that dental insurance is an important benefit6. The same survey found that offering dental benefits raises employee health and morale.
4. Vision Insurance
Another coverage with a high ROI is vision insurance which sees a $1.45 return by lowering healthcare costs and improving productivity7.
5. Health Savings Accounts (HSA)
An HSA allows employees to save pre-tax money to cover out-of-pocket medical costs. HSAs increase employee retention and have an added federal tax deduction for your company.
6. Reduced Prescription Drug Costs
By offering employees a discount drug card, they can save up to 95% on their prescription costs. The best part is that many of these programs are free to employers, don’t have deductibles, and don’t need pre-authorizations to use.
7. Wellness Apps
Wellness apps help employees gain better physical and emotional health and learn better habits. Companies that offer wellness apps include Castlight, Virgin Pulse, WebMD, and others.
8. Resilience Training
By helping employees build resistance, you are helping them learn to manage stress. Resilient employees are happier, more engaged, and more productive.
9. Local Gym Memberships/Discounts
Americans with sedentary jobs are feeling the negative health effects that include heart disease, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes. By offering a local gym membership or discount, you can reduce healthcare costs and increase productivity.
10. Telemedicine Services
By offering telemedicine benefits, employees get remote access to board-certified providers regardless of the time of day or where they live. Doing so helps keep your employees healthy in a cost-effective way.
Offering financial benefits help employees feel stable and secure in a world with rising costs and financial uncertainty. Employees are more likely to look for financial benefits over things such as vacation time or fun perks like free coffee and donuts.
Generally speaking, employees want help getting their finances in order while preparing for the future. By offering employees the financial benefits they seek, you can help with employee retention and talent acquisition while increasing employee morale.
Here are some financial benefits to consider.
11. Financial Wellness Program
This is a program that goes beyond retirement planning and investing, helping employees learn about basic financial concepts and developing a stable relationship with money.
A holistic financial wellness program would include such topics as budgeting, debt reduction, building credit, student loans, saving money, goal setting, handling financial emergencies, and more. Enrich data found that participating in a financial wellness program reduces stress and increases job satisfaction8.
12. Short-term Employee Loans
Two out of five US adults are living paycheck to paycheck9. If faced with an emergency, these employees often have no choice but to use high-interest credit cards or turn to payday loans.
Offering low-interest, show-term employee loans can help employees avoid these high-interest debts. These are especially useful when paired with a financial education that will help employees learn better financial management for the future.
13. Integrated Savings Accounts
Also known as sidecar savings accounts, these are savings accounts that grow with payroll deductions. Such accounts can be set up to allow employees to save for short-term emergencies while also saving for retirement.
14. Savings Match
Adding a savings match to integrated savings accounts helps employees meet their goals faster. The most well-known savings match is the 401(k) match. However, companies can also match HSA funds, emergency savings, and more.
15. Student Loan Repayment Assistance
This benefit helps employees pay off student loan debt. The Paying for College Survey found that 75% of respondents felt that companies should help pay for college or reduce student loan debt10. Student loan assistance can come in the form of refinancing assistance, matching programs, or debt reduction contributions.
16. Child Care Assistance
Child care is a huge expense. The Economic Policy Institute determined the cost of child care in each state. The average cost for an infant is $786 per month, with a toddler costing about $625 per month11.
For families with two children in daycare, they can expect to pay more than the average monthly rent. Providing child care assistance can make a big difference to these families.
17. Area Business Discounts
Consider offering discounts on local business products your employees regularly use. This could be coffee, movie tickets, groceries, office supplies, haircuts, and more. The way to make these benefits useful is to make sure they are for products your employees use often and can be found locally.
Work/Life Balance Blessings
Work/Life balance is the ability to balance one’s responsibilities at work and at home. It means working hard while at work while having the ability to leave the work behind to attend a t-ball game or ballet recital. It also means taking time for self-care.
When employees have a good work/life balance, they are healthier, more productive, more focused, and less likely to feel burned out.
Here are some benefits that can help your employees achieve a work/life balance.
18. Paid Time Off (PTO)
PTO should go beyond the paid vacation and sick days. Many companies have successfully implemented unlimited PTO as long as employees meet deadlines and produce the desired results. Although the idea seems crazy, they have found that when managed correctly, their employees are more engaged, productive, and happy12.
19. Flex Hours
Employees want the ability to choose what hours they work. In fact, 80% of employees would choose a job with a flex schedule over one that is not, with half of those stating they would do so over having vacation time or a more prestigious title13.
20. Remote Options
PwC has found that 55% of surveyed employees would like the option of being remote at least three days per week14. The reason comes down to flexibility.
When working from home, employees have the ability to choose when, where, and how they work, allowing them to interact with their families and take their schedules into consideration.
21. Paid Volunteer Hours
Also known as Volunteer Time Off (VTO), this benefit allows employees to spend some time helping others in their community without having to give up pay to do so. This is a great benefit to offer to show your company is concerned about social responsibility.
22. Matching Gift Programs for Charitable Contributions
Like VTO, matching charitable contributions shows your social responsibility while allowing your employees to help others in their community.
23. Extra Holiday Time Off
Holidays are family events. Whether an employee plans to stay home with family or travel to see family, the ability to enjoy the holidays without the burden of work is a compelling benefit.
Consider offering extra time off during major holidays. Or, better yet, let employees pick the holidays they wish to celebrate with extra time off.
24. Generous Family Leave
When thinking about work/life balance, employees want the ability to be with family during the birth of a baby, when someone becomes ill, or when adopting a child. Providing family leaves makes an employee feel understood and valued.
25. Home Office Stipend
If you allow employees to work from home, then helping them set up a permanent work arrangement at home makes sense. A stipend would help them get the furniture, accessories, and technology they need to be productive at home.
Life and Work Goal Benefits
Finally, there are benefits that help employees achieve their goals, both at work and at home. By providing these benefits, you show employees that you care about them and seeing them grow, both within the company and in their personal lives.
Employees who feel that their employers care are more engaged and less likely to look for work elsewhere.
Some life and work goal benefits to consider include:
26. Retirement Savings
Currently, almost half of American employees do not have access to a company retirement savings plan15. Unfortunately, those without such a plan are less likely to retire comfortably and on time.
By offering a plan, especially if you can offer a match, you’ll find employees are more satisfied with their benefits package and less likely to switch jobs.
27. Life Insurance
A major goal for many employees is to make sure that their family is taken care of in case they should die. Life insurance is the key way to make this happen. If employees aren’t worried about how their families will survive, they are more productive.
28. Leadership Development
According to the data, there will be around 10,000 people reaching retirement age each day for the next twenty years16. This means that those with the most knowledge will be retiring. Helping current employees become leaders is beneficial to the employee and your company.
29. Skill-building Courses (on-demand/online)
A Voice of the Workforce survey found that 41% of employees stated that learning opportunities kept them engaged at work17. Offering employees the ability to learn new skills needed for the job is a great way to retain and retrain employees.
30. Tuition Assistance
The cost of college classes is increasing, making it more difficult for those without an education to attain one. This cost can be offset by offering tuition assistance in which your company offers to reimburse employees for classes taken that meet specific guidelines, such as being pertinent to their job or meeting specific grade requirements.
31. Peer Mentoring
Peer mentoring happens when a more-experienced employee mentors a less-experienced one to offer knowledge transfer and psychosocial support. Offering peer mentoring increases engagement and retention while reducing the knowledge lost to retiring employees.