The great moving target: what are the most popular employee benefits today? What will they be next? Each year, forward-thinking companies reassess the benefits that are actively driving employee engagement while delivering exceptional employee experiences.

HR leaders and employee benefits teams spend all year preparing for open enrollment season. In theory, you’ve already got strategies to help employees make selections on time and a solid communication plan to translate your offerings.

The events of recent years, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have underscored the importance of flexible benefits that support employee well-being in the workplace. In this article, we’ll discuss the most sought-after benefits that go beyond what is conventionally expected to promote a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Seize the moment with open enrollment

Although it may be tempting, don’t rush to put this open enrollment period in your rearview. It can be overwhelming with the stream of last-minute questions. Think about how you can capture this attention and energy and dial it up to an advantage.

Open enrollment is your opportunity to determine the most desired employee benefits to offer next season. And with the right employee benefits platform, you can use HR technology and real-time analytics to inform how you expand and contract. The open enrollment period is your annual glimpse into exactly what’s on the minds of your people. Plus, these insights will prove invaluable as you plan your company’s ongoing moves to attract and retain top talent.

Open enrollment is your opportunity to determine the most desired employee benefits to offer next season.

If it feels a bit premature to start thinking of next year’s open enrollment in the throes of the current one, hear us out. This is your opportunity to reflect on the value being added to employees’ lives and get ahead of the game.

In the coming weeks of open enrollment, take notice of the choices your people make. Listen as they inquire about benefits. You’ll get a feel for what benefits they’re happy to have—and which ones they wish you were offering.

Build the best employee benefits package

In today’s competitive market for top talent, an employee benefits package must be flexible and tailored to diverse lifestyles and preferences. One size fits some, not all. What works for one team member may not work for another.

As you strive for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in your workspaces, your benefits offerings must reflect that employees are unique and have distinct needs and priorities. Whatever benefits package your employees help define through their actions and engagement, make sure the fit can be highly personalized.

In an Aflac 2022 workforce report, 35% of employees said that improving their benefits package is the number one thing their employer could do to keep them in their jobs besides an increased salary.

Go beyond health insurance benefits

There is a difference between the most widely offered and most widely appreciated benefits. Employees expect widely offered benefits such as health insurance and a retirement plan. Focus your consideration on benefits that move beyond your employees’ expectations and into the realm of what is surprising, engaging, and empathetic.

The best benefits to offer employees are the ones they want, which they will utilize happily. These are benefits that make job seekers say yes to your job offer and no when they are recruited later by someone else. Your philosophical values as a company matter. Your care for your employees beyond expectation matters.

Today’s top employee benefits generally fall into these three categories, according to a recent employee benefits study:

  • Health and wellness
  • Flexible work options
  • Tuition and student loan assistance

1. Health and wellness benefits

As a part of their health and wellness benefits, employees expect high-quality, fully paid health, vision, and dental insurance from their employers. As healthcare costs continue to rise, providing employee health benefits like Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts enables affordable and accessible healthcare.

Health and wellness programs have become increasingly important in recent years, and the pandemic has only amplified their significance. Employees are looking for benefits that promote physical and mental well-being, such as access to fitness facilities, yoga or meditation classes, and mental health counseling. Providing these resources not only helps employees maintain a healthy lifestyle but also demonstrates your organization’s commitment to their overall well-being.

2. Flexible work and work-life balance

Work-life balance has never been more important for employee satisfaction.

Consider Microsoft’s “Rise of the Triple Peak Day” to get the data on how the pandemic has shifted our perceptions of how and when we work. We’re a far cry from the 9 to 5; with some companies, the four-day workweek is becoming more commonplace.

Whether it’s flexible work schedules, paid time off, or working from home, people value benefits that support a higher quality of life. Tensions between companies that want their employees to return to in-person workplaces and employees who want to work remotely or on a hybrid schedule remain high. According to a recent Mercer study, 44 percent of employees want to work remotely full-time, while only 16 percent of employers plan to continue allowing full-time remote work.

Work-life balance has never been more important.

Getting the most out of paid time off hinges on believing in the importance of true breaks from work and the workplace. Employees and employers must respect the boundaries of time off. Paid vacation time yields broader retention benefits across a wider demographic than, for example, paid family leave. Also, floating holidays support inclusion and mental health. Supporting return-on-people investment, companies get back happier, more engaged, and more loyal employees.

Read also: 6 Ways to Support Working Parents for an Inclusive Workplace

3. Tuition and student loan assistance

Benefits that cover education costs can be tax-free up to $5,250 per employee. In other words, a $5,000 tuition reimbursement costs an employer $250. It’s a no-brainer to alleviate this pain point for so many of your people.

Offering a tuition reimbursement program keeps careers moving forward while reducing stress. Employees can study wherever they find themselves on the globe, knowing their costs will be compensated or subsidized.

In related news, the average U.S. household with student loan debt owes an alarming $57,520. While you’re at it, why not level up, be a real hero, and offer student loan repayment assistance? No matter what educational benefit you choose to present to your team, it will be a difference maker.

Level up your employee benefits with an LSA

A Lifestyle Spending Account (LSA) goes beyond employees’ expectations to provide more benefits they want and need. LSAs deliver global and flexible wellness benefits that are an essential part of an inclusive employee benefits strategy. LSAs celebrate and encourage freedom of choice while creating a platform that enables the things that employees care about.

Types of benefits Lifestyle Spending Accounts offer:

  • Tuition reimbursement and ongoing education
  • Family leave for child, elder, and pet care
  • Paid parental leave for adoption, surrogacy, and in-vitro
  • Meal delivery subsidies
  • Gym memberships and fitness perks
  • Wellbeing and mental health support
  • Financial wellness programs

Better yet, an LSA is a fully customizable, off-cycle benefit that you can launch any time of the year. No need to wait for the next open enrollment season like you would with traditional benefits.

Give employees the benefits they want most

As you consider what benefits employees want most, remember that no one would advise your company to invest in benefits your employees will not value. Resist the temptation to get distracted by the latest benefit or workplace trends. Pause, take a step back, celebrate a successful open enrollment effort and make sure you ask employees what they want to see for benefits in the future. Their answers just might surprise you.

Go beyond expectations and learn more about a Lifestyle Spending Account with Espresa today.

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