Fridays (with Benefits) - Is talking benefits really THAT bad for employees?

We're right on the verge of open enrollment season, and as much as we may love helping working professionals out with their benefits, we're increasingly learning that talking benefits ranks pretty low for enjoyable activities for most people. We're talking really low.

One in Three U.S. Employees Would Rather Talk About Their Weight Than Their Employer-Offered Benefits - MetLife, Business Wire

According to a new survey sponsored by MetLife that analyzed the actions and prevailing thinking of working professionals around open enrollment, despite how important these decisions are for workers' health and finances, there is little excitement to be had around this time of year. In fact, nearly half dread the open enrollment process as much as asking their boss for a raise, and an astounding 33% would rather talk about their weight than their employee benefits.

Some other metrics that came out of the survey should be enough to keep human resources reps up at night. One in five workers only spend a few minutes on their benefits offerings before making a decision for the year, while respondents said that activities that were preferred slightly higher than the open enrollment process including renewing a passport or driver's license. But any way you slice it, it's not a good report for employee enthusiasm around benefits decisions.

How to improve employee morale this open enrollment

At, open enrollment is one of our favorite times of the year so we have no idea how to relate to these responses, but this isn't our first benefits rodeo. It can take some extra effort on the employer's/HR department's part to really get people on board. Here are a few suggestions from SHRM:

Don't spring it on them!

Advanced communication is key for helping employees get into the swing of things for open enrollment. And no, that doesn't mean boring boardroom meetings. Give workers supplements that they can review on their own time that allows them to compare plans and options so they can find the appropriate level of coverage for themselves and their dependents.

Focus on people

Whether your workforce trends toward younger workers with less experience in benefits election or well-established workers who may be more set in their ways, a "one-size-fits-all" communication strategy doesn't work for anyone. Make HR available early and often during the open enrollment process so workers can talk over their benefits options and have an informed opinion when it's time to choose a plan.

Cost savings

What can really get employees excited for open enrollment is finding out how much money they can save over the course of the year. Specifically, calculators for FSA or HSA users are extremely helpful in giving employees a view into how much their contributions will affect their yearly tax savings and estimating how much they'll spend on health care expenses in the coming year. If you know there's a chance you can save hundreds with a different plan, that's a better way to look at open enrollment.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Fridays (with Benefits) - Communication can make-or-break your open enrollment

Yes it's still the middle of July, but we in the benefits industry run on a different calendar, and this time of year we're in the thick of open enrollment planning. For FSA users, this is a critical time to calculate your yearly contribution and make any necessary changes to your account before re-enrolling. FSA users tend to be benefits pros, but what about everyone else? The key ingredient to a successful open enrollment is communication - early and often!

Employee engagement: Why it matters for workers enrolling in benefits - Evelina Nedlund, Employee Benefit News

This week, we're taking a closer look at an Employee Benefit News interview with Rebecca Ray, executive vice president of human capital at The Conference Board, a non-profit business membership and research group organization, on the subject of open enrollment engagement. She had 3 interesting takeaways that every HR rep should stand up and take notice of:

Employees DO care about their benefits

While blank stares are common during most open enrollment presentations, research shows that employee benefits are massively important to workers. Benefits are part and parcel why your employees consider a place a great place to work, and they need to know how they can navigate them to get the maximum return from their hard work. It's not just another event on the calendar - it's pivotal for the entire employee base.

Employers need to take a larger role

Benefits administrators are key in communicating how benefits fit into a worker's overall financial picture, but employers have to do their part to open up these discussions to a larger audience. In addition to traditional benefits presentations, open forums where employees from all backgrounds can ask questions that go beyond the standard "what will my co-pay be?" shows that the company cares not only about work-life balance, but helping them achieve goals that extend outside of the office.

Student debt is a major issue to consider

Millennials make up the largest segment of today's workforce, but many are far more concerned with paying off their student loans than contributing to a retirement account. This is a wholly unique new trend for employers and benefit administrators to tackle, and one that will only become more relevant each year.

Financial wellness programs have become a common trend to help millennials better plan their finances and make the right choices for the future, but it shouldn't stop at one group. Workers at various life stages have all manner of important financial decisions to make, so offering these programs to multiple generations can give workers the tools and know-how they need to make smart financial decisions as they relate to their benefits choices.


Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Fridays (with Benefits) - 3/15/19 - The real-world impact of inequity

We know what you're thinking - "isn't this where FSA Friday is supposed to be?" Yes, it's true -- we've decided to change things up a bit. Over the last few months we've noticed that our weekly flex spending coverage has shifted to a broader view of employee benefits.

In other words, the articles we select don't just talk about just tax-free healthcare spending, but also the people affected most by employee benefits trends, policies and changes. Oh, we're still going to talk about flexible spending accounts -- we are FSA Store, after all. But we also see a need to paint the bigger picture, to show how the world is learning to -- as we like to say around here -- benefit better.

Wait, I know what you're thinking again… "Enough of the intro, Brad. Let's get to this week's headlines."

Women Share Harrowing And Heartbreaking Stories About Hiding Their Periods At Work - Jamie Feldman, HuffPost Life

It's rare to sum up the mood of an article in one line, but Jamie Feldman does just that with this all-encompassing gem: "If you're screaming 'that's BS,' you're not alone."

Of course, Feldman is discussing something we've covered once or 10 times around here, menstrual equity and the need for these products, in particular, to be tax-free. But after reading this piece, you'll see the raw emotion about the subject, thanks to quotes and anecdotes from people who struggle with this rule everyday in the workplace.

As a company focused on highlighting the thousands of health products eligible for purchase with an FSA or HSA, we're among the many that wonder why feminine products haven't made the jump to a better classification. But we're still bound by these words:

"A regular menstrual cycle indicates a normal, healthy function of the body…" Because of this, the powers-that-be don't see hygiene products as 'treatment.'" But we're pretty sure millions of people who need these products wouldn't exactly classify them as a "nice to have" luxury.

The article goes on to discuss how Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) has been fighting for years to foster menstrual equity, in hopes that the ruling will finally pass through Congress later this year. But the legislative details are only part of the story -- the emotional power in the article comes from the real-world stories of alienation and discomfort, from the people truly affected.

Can Your Employer Cure Your Money Woes? - Liz Weston, NerdWallet

Onto happier things, NerdWallet reported this week that companies are exploring ways to help employees pay down debts like student loans as part of their benefits packages. The goal? Helping to eliminate the financial worries that can reduce productivity and time away from work.

To put that in perspective, according to a poll by accounting firm PwC in 2017, more than half of the 1,600 surveyed employees polled were stressed about their finances. In related news, human resources company Mercer has estimated financial stress costs U.S. businesses up to $250 billion a year.

To get ahead of this, some companies are trying to empower employees to take bigger steps toward eliminating debt. A few examples from the article:

  • Discounts on medical debt and interest-free loans repaid through payroll deductions.
  • Connecting workers to debt consolidation loans and student loan refinancing.
  • Payday advances or emergency loans so workers can avoid resorting to payday loan services with escalated interest rates.

Another interesting option mentioned in the article was the option to transfer PTO to cash, used to pay down debts directly. It's an interesting option, for sure. But is shifting work/life balance in that direction going to add to stress in different ways?

While these opportunities are making the news, they're not that common. But if companies begin to see happier, healthier, more secure employees -- and increased productivity alongside it -- we'd bet that more of these plan options will start popping up in the very near future.


Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


FSA Friday - 3/1/19 - The end of "one-size-fits-all" benefits packages

Happy March! Not only does today signify that we're just a little bit closer to thawing out from winter, but it also means the 3/15 Grace Period deadline is just two weeks away! If you're sitting on some remaining 2018 funds, now's the time to put them to good use.

(If you're still debating how to spend your leftover FSA dollars -- even if you have a good amount left -- don't stress. Our Deadline Buying Guide has been updated for the 3/15 Grace Period!)

Speaking of options -- some industry voices think that's exactly what's missing from today's employee benefit selection and that the time is right to make it happen. And you know what? We kind of agree...

Employee Benefit Packages Should Permit Personalization - Steff Chalk, 401kTV

Employee benefit packages are shifting toward personalization. And this is because of the people signing up for them. The "one-size-fits-all" approach was never an ideal fit for a contemporary workforce, but these inflexible plans are more out-of-date than ever before, due to so many different generations actively working today.

As the author (and Managing Editor of 401kTV) Steff Chalk reminds us, there are five distinct generations working today, each of which has equally distinct needs and wants. And with so many baby boomers remaining in the workplace, more customized health care and retirement options are at the top of the benefits want list.

In turn, Gen X'ers and millennials are a little more focused on work-life balance and career advancement, with younger millennials and Gen-Z members seeking tuition relief and job flexibility.

Unsurprisingly, this has created some benefits complications -- at least within the old-fashioned, uniform benefits model. Because of all this diversity within the workplace, HR teams have had to think on their feet to create not only more customizable benefits options that meet more needs for more people, but also increase communication and education opportunities for employees, so they know what options to make available.

From old-school focus groups to instant communication on social media, employers are finding out what workers want, and doing their best to appease all audiences on their payrolls. Because, by crafting benefits packages that can be crafted to the needs of more workers, companies can improve employee happiness, reduce turnover, and ensure happier a happier long-term workforce.

We encourage you to check out this opinion piece… and maybe share the link with your own management teams, in case you're looking for a little more customization in your own plans.


FSA Friday is a weekly roundup of the latest topics, tips and headlines to keep you updated on all things flex spending. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the exclusively on the Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


FSA Friday - 2/1/19 - See where benefit costs go!

A picture is worth a thousand words. It might be a dated thing to say to an Instagram audience, but when it comes to adding some impact to data, it couldn't be more relevant. Especially when it comes to an area as confusing as health care costs.

This week's headline is built on that premise. Scott Wooldridge of BenefitsPRO gets to the bottom of a new analysis on the cost of employee benefits. And not just the overarching totals, but rather a clear view on how certain variables -- like geography, industry and size -- all affect the value of our benefit packages.

Breaking down benefit costs: 6 charts that show where the money goes - Scott Wooldridge, BenefitsPRO

The analysis was put together by Bay Alarm Medical, which published a report that compared a slate of employee benefits to overall costs of compensation (supplied by data on more than 27,000 roles and 6,600+ industries). The goal? To find out where companies are spending the most money on employee benefits.

We obviously won't repeat the report in full - they did a fantastic job on their own. So, here's a link to the full "Worth of Your Well-Being" report, followed by a few highlights we thought might be of some interest to you, starting with what the report calls 'the big picture.'

Overall cost of compensation

As the related chart points out clearly, almost 70% of employer compensation costs come from wages and salaries, with most of the remainder going to benefits -- an average of nearly $22,000 per employee, per year. Yet, health insurance covers just 7.5% of overall compensation, and other, more fringe benefits like student loan repayment are barely represented.

Benefit costs are increasing rapidly

This area saw a 28% growth over the last 14 years -- likely due to more chronic illness, aging workforces, and the higher costs of premiums.

The analysis finds that total costs of benefits to employers have increased 368% over that same 14 years. During that time, health benefit cost has increased by 28%, which the study attributes to chronic illness and rising costs from health care providers.

But it should be mentioned there was also a 161.8% boost in vacation use -- remember what we've been discussing each week about work/life balance being a factor to young employees? Well, now we have some visual data to back it up.

The charts and breakdowns are very well done and worth a look, even if you're just a little interested in seeing where your company might be allocating its money. After all, employees are a company's greatest asset -- and you deserve to know how they're investing in you.


FSA Friday is a weekly roundup of the latest topics, tips and headlines to keep you updated on all things flex spending. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the exclusively on the Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


FSA Friday - 1/18/19 - Gauging and measuring employee wellness

For the last several months, we've taken a close look at the shifting priorities of modern workers. Not only discussing what employees want from their benefits, but also their motivations for doing so. However, we've never had much of an opportunity to see how these changing benefits are -- well -- benefiting the companies that made this happen.

This week, we do just that. Thanks to this article, centered on a Gallup study of employee engagement and wellness, we have a better idea of which shifts have had the most impact, and which areas still need some serious attention.

10 Timely Statistics About The Connection Between Employee Engagement And Wellness - Naz Beheshti, Forbes

Right from the outset, the author Beheshti sets a good tone for the piece, indicating that employee engagement is on the rise, topping out at 34% at the time of the survey. But then she asks a pivotal question: "...should we really settle for a situation where two-thirds of our workforce is still not fully engaged?"

The answer is (obviously) "no." Because, as good as it is to hear employee satisfaction is on the upswing, the effects of unhealthy, disengaged employees on workplaces are still damaging productivity in a very big way.

The author goes on to cite 10 key points from a Gallup survey that add some quantification to the still-ambiguous subject of employee wellness. We all know that engaged employees tend to be more productive - but now we have some more-recent data to support these claims.

Obviously, we can't highlight each of the 10 points here. But there are a handful of findings that caught our attention, as it relates to the work we do here.

First, the report found that "highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability."

That's right - 21%. And truthfully, we're a little surprised it isn't a touch higher. Because it all comes down to efficiency. As the author points out here, successful companies engage employees at all levels, increasing productivity, reducing the number of times workers call out, and limiting turnover. Happy employees like their work, and show up each day to do it.

The flip side to this approach? Well, check the "loss" column for more insights. As we learn here, disengaged employees cost U.S. companies up to $550 billion a year.


Data culled from a collaboration known as The Engagement Institute -- which includes contributions from Deloitte, ROI, The Culture Works and more -- not only highlights the financial ramifications of disengaged employees, but also maps out the reasons why this is a crucial, but often overlooked part of organizational culture.

In short? Workers that are healthy are simply more productive, and believe in the work they do. Companies can foster these positive feelings by engaging employees at every level, from physical surroundings, to wellness programs and an increased focus on work-life balance, so they come to work refreshed and fully behind the company's mission.

There are a wealth of other meaningful findings in the article, including some salient points about how employee wellness programs are even permeating healthier home lives. It's a worthy read, no matter which side of the employer/employee relationship you reside.


FSA Friday is a weekly roundup of the latest topics, tips and headlines to keep you updated on all things flex spending. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the exclusively on the Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.