FSA Friday - 10/19/18 - Wellness benefits need to extend beyond the office

By now, most of you have completed open enrollment (or are about to), and are probably still figuring out exactly what your new benefits will give you for 2019. Don't worry, you're not alone. In between the big decisions about primary health coverage and retirement planning, there were probably a bunch of other perks you didn't realize you were signing up for.

But are they the ones you want? According to a recent poll from benefits provider Unum, a lot of the perks employers toss into their benefits packages, like onsite gyms and dog-friendly offices, might not be what workers want.

Instead, the focus seems to be on overall life wellness - not just health insurance and office-based benefits.

The 15 most popular employee perks - Kathryn Mayer, Employee Benefit News

Flexibility - it's a word that means different things to different people. For some, having PTO days is enough to maintain work/life balance. For others, benefits need to encompass all aspects of a healthy life, in and out of the office.

In the Unum survey, participants were given a list of 15 perks -- none of which related to insurance or retirement -- and asked to choose their top five. And the results seemed to indicate that this balance is something workplaces still need to work on.

Leading the charge? Adequate time off for parents or other caregivers. This includes better maternity and paternity leave, adoption and foster parenting needs, and even surrogacy. While recent trends are showing growth in these areas, employees still want more for paid parental leave needs.

Another major focus was the ability to work from home, either full-time or some of the time. With an increasingly connected workforce, and more platforms to collaborate than ever before, many employees aren't seeing the point in being at the office. Fighting traffic, poor weather and the clock seems to be taking its toll… especially when workers get to the office and spend most of the day communicating through digital means.

While the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes that more than 70% of companies now offer some type of telecommuting options, the remaining 30% seems to want access to this opportunity.

But the results didn't all focus on convenience and comfort. More than one-third of those surveyed claimed professional development was a huge benefit, expressing a desire to learn and expand their career growth.

(It's not a bad plan, either, since Kaplan Financial reports professional development programs help companies improve retention and efficiency. Win-win!)

There were plenty of other hot-button benefits discussed in the article, as well. Everything from gym memberships to student loan debt relief and even healthier snack options all qualified as important to participants. But, while the wish list was varied, the unifying theme was that employees want benefits to improve all aspects of their lives… not just the time they spend at work.

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