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Employee Benefit Trends That Are Shaping 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic shifted just about every aspect of our lives – including how we work, where we work, and what we want from our employers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 47 million employees quit their jobs in 2021, leading to an immense amount of job openings and employers struggling to fill open positions.

This disruption has become known as “The Great Resignation” and there’s no singular cause for it. According to a PEW Research study, low pay, lack of advancement opportunities, feeling of disrespect, and the lack of flexibility were some of the top causes for individuals who quit their job in 2021. To help alleviate the pains caused by the Great Resignation, employers are getting creative and adapting to offer improved flexibility and stronger benefits.

Here are some of the top employee benefit trends that are shaping 2022.

Benefits are Becoming Increasingly Important to Employees

Benefit and work arrangement expectations are rapidly rising and employees are expecting more from their employer or potential employer. One way to help retain employees in the ever-competitive war for talent is through increased benefit offerings. According to a 2022 MetLife study, 73% of employees say that a wider benefit offering would keep them at their present employer for longer.

In 2022, the list of “must-have” benefits by employees is growing. According to MetLife, 55% of employees cite health and wellness programs (such as access to fitness facilities, gym memberships, medical screenings, etc.) as a necessity for accepting a new position in 2022, which has more than doubled from pre-pandemic expectations. Other benefits that have become more important to employees include flexible work environments, more time off, and an overall sense of work-life balance.

A new type of employer-offered benefit that’s gaining traction is called a Lifestyle Spending Account (LSA). An LSA is an employer-funded benefit that provides employees funds for specific categories of goods that are generally out of the scope of what’s covered under a group health plan. LSAs may cover expenditures like fitness memberships, athletic equipment, home office expenses, and so much more. Employers control the amount of funds they contribute and what types of expenses the funds can be used towards. In return, employees receive financial support for areas they traditionally had to cover.

Flexibility is Key

According to the 2022 LinkedIn Global Talent Trends Report, a work-life balance was the most important factor that individuals sought when looking for a new position. To help achieve the work-life balance that employees are demanding, employers should consider where the employee is required to work, what hours they work, and how much time off they receive.

One way employers are giving employees increased flexibility is by offering remote or hybrid work opportunities to those who don’t wish to go into the office every day. Others allow employees to work less structured hours – maybe three longer days and two shorter days each work week.

If employees have the opportunity to complete their work on their time, it may lead to higher job satisfaction and lower desire to seek new opportunities.

Rising Claims and Attention to Health

In the onset of the pandemic, medical claims dropped to immense lows mainly because people weren’t able to seek preventative and elective care. However, with the changing health care landscape and reopening of medical facilities, insurers suggest upward trending claims activity.

One possible explanation for the rise in claims is that individuals are more health-conscious since the pandemic began. According to a study done by IPSOS, 62% of Americans say that their health is more important to them now than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers should consider the significance that employees are placing on their health and wellbeing when crafting a benefits package that seeks to attract and retain talent.

Many employers choose to offer tax-advantaged accounts in their benefit packages. Utilizing a flexible spending account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA) allows participants to pay for eligible health expenses tax-free and help offset the high cost of care.

Mental Health Matters

Mental health has become a rapidly-growing area of attention when it comes to employee benefits. With the hardships faced over the last few years, employers and employees are recognizing and placing more concern on mental health than in the past. Younger workers are facing higher levels of mental health struggles – with about 50% of Millennial and Gen Z workers reporting that they sought mental health help in the last 12 months, according to the MetLife study. The percentage of the workforce that Gen Z comprises is only growing, so employers should be sure to keep mental health support for workers in mind.

Across the board, employees are feeling more overwhelmed, depressed, and burned out, and decreased feelings of motivation, engagement, and productivity. Regardless of the cause, these feelings have led to the intensifying pressure on employers to provide further support.

According to The Conference Board, 88% of companies offer some sort of program that supports emotional well-being (including mental health resources and Employee Assistance Programs), which is up 23% from 2021. This represents a positive change towards what employees are looking for, but hasn’t quite caught up to expectations. Many employees have expressed interest in virtual mental health resources, but only 53% of organizations provide these online platforms to help improve employee wellbeing, according to TCB. This is an opportunity for employers to explore in order to help improve employee wellbeing.

Attention to Diversity and Inclusion

Another area that many employers are or should consider paying more attention to is diversity and inclusion of the workforce and their benefits. A 2022 Gallup poll found that 42% of employees cited that an organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts are an important factor when deciding whether to accept a new position or not. If employers want to remain competitive during the Great Resignation, it’s important they evaluate company policies and offerings to ensure they are meeting the needs of employees.

Inclusivity efforts are reaching closer to the home. Emerging family benefits include a gender-neutral parental leave policy that applies to both the birth and adoption of a child, covering fees associated with adoption, surrogacy, and in vitro fertilization, and recognizing domestic partnerships for eligible benefits, to name a few.

Additional steps include making care more accessible to LGBTQ+ employees, adding more eligible products for women, offering floating holidays to support different cultural and religious backgrounds, and more.

These are some of the tangible steps being taken to help alleviate equity concerns, however, many employers and participants alike recognize that not enough is being done. According to Gartner, 36% of HR leaders say they have a hard time holding business leaders accountable for diversity outcomes. Even if a company prioritizes diversity and inclusion efforts, it’s important to employees and potential employees that employers are following through on efforts and promises.

Above all, employers should take care to ensure their employees are treated fairly and can utilize their benefits offerings, regardless of what their background may be.

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