Using Benefits to Trim Work Life Tension

by | Oct 14, 2021 | Media & Resources | 0 comments

What is a benefit?  Merriam-Webster defines it as “something that produces good or helpful results or effects or that promotes well-being.”   We offer benefits for the well-being of our employees.  So how are we doing?  How would we score on a report card?  Let’s take a look…

  • 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress (Everest College)
  • US businesses lose up to $300 billion yearly as a result of workplace stress (AIS)
  • 57% of the stressed out are paralyzed by the stress (Everyday Health)
  • 51% of US workers are mentally “checked out” at work  (Gallup)
  • 49% think they will need to use their retirement money prior to retirement (PWC)

Clearly, if we were in school we would be failing.  Leaders must take an active interest in the well-being of their people.  Organizations must begin to trim work life tension and help employees be successful not only at work but within other aspects of their lives as well.

We now have five generations in the workplace.  Our benefits packages tend to be generic at best and minimally meet our people’s needs or veer in the direction of a particular population at the expense of the others.  Maybe it is time we rethink benefits all together.

Benefits are entering a new era and growing in importance.  They are becoming a bigger part of the picture for organizations to demonstrate and dedicate themselves to caring about and retaining their employees.  Benefits are more effective and influential when they are personalized and not a one-size-fits-all approach.  Clearly we can’t provide each employee with their own unique benefits package.  Approaching benefits from that extreme perspective would prove inefficient, unrealistic, cost prohibitive and unfeasible.  However, we do have the ability to identify smaller, more personalized benefit investments that drive retention, reduce stress and help each of your employees thrive.

So how do we exercise hyper-personalization of benefits?

Today we can design our own sneakers, glasses and so much more.  There are services that send you outfits and boxes of products tailored to you. Music streaming services create playlists based on your needs.  Your employees are used to the world reflecting them and benefits are no different.  Benefits that reflect the individual sends the message that each employee matters and is being heard.  Here are some ways to move towards personalization:

  • Adapt as you go.  We may have open enrollment once a year, but that does not mean healthcare plans have to be static.  Employees may be unable to change until the next enrollment period or unless there is a life event, but the employer has leeway.  If you listen to your employees there may be modifications you can make during the year to better meet your employee’s needs.  In many cases, changes can be inexpensive and make a significant difference.  More importantly, shifting policy let’s employees know you are listening.
  • Follow their stress.  When changing benefits is not an option, find ways to support members of your team.  We have seen teams donate PTO to an individual going through challenges and more.  We as colleagues and team members must be there for one another.
  • Pick and Choose.  Organizations can no longer serve each employee’s needs with a limited set of big benefits programs.  Creating benefit plans that are personalized, allowing employees to decide what is best for them.  Making it simple and good communication are key when adopting these types of solutions.
  • Flexibility.  Some benefits have more to do with how one works rather than additive benefits such as remote work, flexible shifts, self-service scheduling, and more.  Anything you can do to allow employees more control over managing their life productively helps.
  • Wellness.  Focusing on wellness, mindfulness and managing stress are proactive efforts companies can utilize to support their associates.  Changing our daily habit structures can create significant benefits.
  • Follow the money.  Determine where the financial stressors are for your people.  If you as an organization can help alleviate financial stress your employees enduring than you can make a real difference.  Companies are offering financial literacy courses and more.

An Innovative and Cost Effective Benefit Idea

There are a number of innovative benefits that the corporate world is employing these days.  Sabbaticals, vacation funds, in-office pets, yoga classes, gym memberships and many more.  However there is often one that is overlooked.  Many employees these days have children that are going to go to college.  While college debt is most often associated with student loans, it is actually more often the case that their parents sacrifice more.

The college environment is a maze of complexity and costs.  What constitutes a good education?  How much money is reasonable?  What is the best decision for a child and the family as a whole?  Often parents are left struggling to answer these questions and do not realize the longer term impact of these decisions.  Students are even more overwhelmed and feel pressure to go to the best school possible.  Many students do not understand the costs associated with these decisions.  There are over 17,000 colleges to choose from and 482 students to every one college counselor.  How does this all play out for employees?

The average cost for a four year private college is $50,770 and a four year in-state public college runs approximately $22,180 according to the College Board.  College costs have outpaced inflation and family income.  Princeton review’s 2021 College Hopes and Worries survey says affordability and debt burden are people’s top concerns.  In fact, 98% of families said that financial aid was necessary to pay for college.  Some economists have even stated that the debt burden from college is a significant weakness in our economy.

Helping your employees make sense of the college decision making process, the financial aid process and scholarship opportunities is an extremely valuable benefit to not only the employee, but the company as well.  Ironically, the cost for services like that are not that expensive.  The impact and ROI on offering those services is a huge and an innovative way to create stability, financial and otherwise, within your employee population.  It also reduces stress and time consuming work for the employee.

Parents often become the accountability partner in the college process.  In other words, they are policing their children.  Most high school students are overwhelmed by the process and procrastinate.  Many parents are making a choice between arguments with their child and the path of least resistance.  Parents also feel pressure to provide their children with the best and do not want to let them down.  An objective 3rd party that knows the system and has relationships within the system can help tremendously.  Yet few companies offer this as a benefit!

If a benefit is something that produces good or helpful results or effects or that promotes well-being, then isn’t it time we move toward benefits that actually promote well-being and are personalized to meet the challenges of today’s employees?  Based on the report card we reviewed above I would have to loudly and clearly say, “Now is the time!”

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