Fringe benefits plans are vital to building an appealing company culture that attracts the right workforce. Employees who feel comfortable and influential in their work environment have a higher motivation to achieve. Moreover, the ability of organizations to respond and adapt to changing expectations will significantly impact success in employee retention and recruitment efforts while preventing high turnover costs.

Currently, workers are in high demand as companies increase operations or resume pre-pandemic operation levels. Many employers are raising wages to compete for workers. Wage growth in the leisure and hospitality sector alone have risen at a 14.5% annualized pace.

Employers looking to retain their existing workforce also face challenges as experts predict pent-up demand for turnover. During the pandemic, quit rates reached a nine-year low. However, in February of this year, 52% of employees reported looking for a new job compared to 35% in 2020.

As employers compete for talent, potential candidates report that better compensation and benefits account for 35% of why employees consider new positions. To retain or attract talent, employers may need to look beyond traditional group health benefits and compensation. Fringe benefits can be a connecting piece that enhances your benefits plan and helps attract your desired workforce.

Looking Past Current Fringe Benefits

Historically, fringe benefits covered a wide range of perks for employees, including wellness programs, subsidized childcare, flexible working hours, and paid family leave policies. Widespread benefits in recent years included paid time off for volunteering, free food in the office, pet insurance, intern housing, in-office daycare, dress for your day policies, and student loan reimbursements.

While many of these benefits are still relevant for today’s workers, in-office perks may not be effective in attracting a remote workforce. Employers must refresh fringe benefits to match employees’ new priorities.

Fringe Benefits to Consider

Flexibility as a Requirement

Unquestionably, COVID-19 altered flexibility expectations for employees. In a survey of 9,326 workers, 83% reported to prefer a hybrid work model where they can work remotely a minimum of 25% of the time, and 90% of employers said that working remotely did not hurt productivity. Employers can adapt to this new expectation by building a robust work flexibility policy that aligns with company priorities and values. Accordingly, 83% of companies plan to add more flexibility to work policies already in place.

Mental Health Continues to Rise in Importance

With more than half of employees reporting burnout, up from 43% in 2020, employers are taking this opportunity to invest deeply in mental health benefits. Accounting firm PwC offers a $250 vacation bonus for employees who take 40 consecutive hours of vacation. This benefit is available on a quarterly basis, and employees can earn up to $1,000 each year in vacation bonuses. Additionally, performance goals now include wellness objectives.

Other employers are expanding mental health benefits in new ways. This ranges from increasing no-cost sessions for counseling to extending mental health benefits to family members, household members, and domestic partners. Companies are adding additional time off by providing more paid time off around major holidays or designating one day where all employees are given a day off as a mental health day.

Looking Beyond the Office

With the office taking less of a focal point, employers are offering benefits that aid employees at home. These benefits include basic stipends for a remote work setup and monthly Wi-Fi reimbursement.

Other employers are offering lifestyle spending accounts (LSAs) that can be used on expenses that typically include monthly gym memberships, meal services, nutrition counseling, athletic wear, nutrition counseling, food supplements, or life coaching. The goal of an LSA is to offer flexible benefit funds that employees spend on health and wellness services or products. Some companies take a more liberal approach to the LSA and define lifestyle as anything that promotes an employees wellness and can include sports equipment, cookbooks, or activities that challenge them.

An LSA provides companies with extensive opportunity to create benefits that employees will value and actually use. LSAs can replace low-performing benefits and instead give employees expanded choice in caring for their wellbeing.

Benefits That Support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Increasingly, both current and potential employees are inquiring about companies’ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, actions, and results. One way to actively deliver on promises is to add more DEI-related benefits and policies that address any existing disparities.

These DEI-related benefits and company policy options are wide-reaching and work to address systemic issues that exist in the company or in the greater society at large. These changes can include expanded parental leave, paid sick time off for all employees, adoption benefits, gender-neutral restrooms, gender identity options, free in-person or virtual mental health, tuition assistance, and dependent and eldercare programs.

Benefits and company policies are another way companies can demonstrate their commitment to creating a diverse, inclusive and equitable work environment.

Covering Pandemic Pets

It is estimated that 11.38 million U.S. households welcomed a new pet into their household in 2020. New and existing pets served as important companion animals for many employees throughout the pandemic, and employees may now relate differently to their pets after spending extended time at home. Pet insurance is rising in popularity as pet owners are choosing to insure their pets to help cover routine care or an unexpected veterinary bill. Companies have been extending new group and voluntary pet insurance offerings at unprecedented rates in response to growing demand.

Continued Focus on Caretakers

The struggles of caretakers, both for parents and children, were exacerbated during the pandemic. Fringe benefits in the caretaker space may resonate strongly with employees and can be another tool to help prevent burnout.

Creating a Program

Before revamping your fringe benefits program, evaluate your employees’ wants and needs to see how you can align them with your company’s objectives and values. There are endless ways to create a fringe benefits plan, and your specific offerings should be tailored to your company and employees.

Building a comprehensive benefits package, including attractive fringe benefits, positions your company to recruit and retain your optimal workforce. If you are looking for new ways to build a strong workforce in a post-pandemic landscape, the consultants at Hays Companies are ready to assist you in creating a benefits plan that not only supports your employees but also your company’s budget, goals, and values.

This document is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered legal or tax advice or legal or tax opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. Readers are urged to consult their legal counsel and tax advisor concerning any legal or tax questions that may arise.

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