What Stands in the Way of People and Their Work/Life Benefits?
Healthy, wealthy, and wise. How can you help your employees reach that goal? And should you?
In the last two installments of this series, we talked about how to remove barriers between employees and their health benefits, as well as their financial benefits, and why that’s pivotal to a happy and productive workforce. While some employers may view those two elements as enough to bring work/life success, many HR leaders now understand that work/life benefits are just as important in their own right. And more action is needed on the employer’s part to help employees achieve that necessary balance—first, by providing those benefits, and next, by making them accessible.
More and more companies are expanding benefits offerings to meet the individual needs of a diverse workforce. According to a recent survey of employers by Willis Towers Watson, financial planning and counseling—once a benefit mostly offered to only the top tier of management—is now offered by approximately half of the respondents. Many employers are reacting to the evolving needs of today’s younger workforces as well, by offering student-loan assistance. In fact, student-loan consolidation benefits are now offered by 8% of companies, and 34% are likely to offer it by 2021.
A tight labor market and the changing landscape of benefits reflect the reality of people being unafraid to change jobs in search of one that supports their lifestyle best. For many employees, managing their benefits means managing their life, too. The right offering of work/life benefits is increasingly meaningful to today’s workers—and should be to employers as well.
Improving work/life success with benefits
Many companies focus on making an employee’s experience at work successful—but how many are extending this approach to the employee’s life outside work? There’s a reason this category of benefits references both work and life, and when employers see the value in bringing those pieces together, a positive experience in both areas can occur.
Possibly the biggest barrier between employees and these benefits? Employers may find this category ambiguous, and feel unsure as to how to please everyone in their workforce with them. After all, what are some of the benefits that can help people achieve work/life success?
Among some of the most popular being offered at Working Mother’s top 100 companies are:
- Family counseling
- Back-up elder care
- Tutoring services
- Paid parental leave
- Child care or back-up care
- Prepared take-home meals
- Legal assistance
- Autism support
- Fertility assistance, surrogacy, and egg freezing
Think about what each of these benefits might mean to someone. It could mean not having to choose between going back to work and staying with the kids. It could mean an easier time earning that degree. It could mean less pressure taking care of an aging parent. These are just a few examples of life events that can weigh heavily on people, and how the right benefits can help them cope. When employees are better supported to thrive at home, they’re better positioned to thrive at work.
Also consider benefits that can more indirectly help people deal with tough, at-home situations. Many companies offer onsite gyms or discounted health-club memberships, for instance, to make it easier for employees to fit exercise into their busy schedules—and lessen some of their anxiety about work-family conflicts.
So, for companies struggling with the somewhat undefined nature of work/life benefits, they can think of: a) what would directly ease the burdens people face at home, and b) what would help people reduce the stress caused by those burdens.
Picking the right options for your workforce
Since no two employee situations are exactly alike, how should companies begin to identify which work/life benefits will be most meaningful to their employees?
For one, getting familiar with the packages other companies are offering is a great start. This can help HR leaders stay in the loop regarding what’s popular and successful. Secondly, pulse surveys are a great tool for determining what a specific workforce is interested in. Learning from peers, and learning from the employees themselves, is the key to developing the right mix for each workforce.
Putting unused benefits to use
After the selection is complete, communicating specific work/life benefits options to employees in a consistent, targeted manner helps drive engagement and utilization. Most people only think about these types of benefits when they need to make an urgent choice or decision. However, a benefit like elder care or tuition reimbursement may suddenly become important, and employees need to know it’s there when they need it.
Educating employees—and keeping them informed year-round—increases the likelihood that they’ll find just the right benefit at the time it’s most relevant. Ultimately, this can help people manage those personal situations with more confidence and feel more compelled to stay with their employer.
In the United States, more than half of workers still leave unused vacation time on the table. If vacation time—one of the most visible and known work/life benefits—is being neglected, how many other valuable benefits are getting lost? Employers should let their teams know they care about work/life success, and encourage people to embrace it. Helping people capitalize on the benefits available to them will go a long way toward that goal of healthy, wealthy, and wise.
Want to help your employees get there? Start with the benefits love approach.