Employee benefits are no longer considered to be perks or additional extras. They are now viewed as essential services that not only play a significant role in recruitment and retention but also in employee motivation, engagement and productivity too. In a global economy that is increasingly being shaped by mobility and skills gaps, companies need to make sure they stand out in a competitive job market. Employee benefits are about more than flexible hours, they are a vital way to support employees both inside and outside the workplace.
The distinction between work and a person’s private life used to be clearly defined. Similarly, the relationship between employers and employees was viewed in narrow terms. Employers simply had no place in an employee’s life outside the workplace. Technology and attitudes have started to undermine this view in the last two decades, with effects that can be viewed as both negative and positive.
The digital revolution has enabled people to work in a way that suits them, as long as they have an internet connection and access to the right tools. But this positive development has also caused the once clear distinction between work and home to blur. This blurring has also happened in other areas too, with far more beneficial outcomes. The evolution of employee benefits is redefining the impact that employers can have on the lives of their employees, helping to ensure that they are supported in every area of their lives.
Looking beyond the workplace
Work is a huge part of people’s lives, with the average person spending around a third of their lifetime in the workplace. This makes it a hugely influential factor in people’s health and wellbeing and the changing nature of employee benefits is largely about addressing this. Having access to the right tools and addressing inefficiencies in workflows are crucial elements to performance and productivity, but so are harder to define factors like culture, wellbeing and health. According to CIPD, investing in wellbeing has been shown to lead to more engaged employees, reduced absence and higher productivity.
But addressing wellbeing effectively is not simple. This is because wellbeing is such a broad category and touches on nearly every aspect of how an organisation is led and managed. Trying to drive engagement with increased social events, for example, is unlikely to be successful if employees don’t feel like their feedback and concerns are being listened to. In fact, if they are seen as being insincere, these limited initiatives may lead to more disengagement.
The right package of benefits can address factors that lead to increased stress and presenteeism in the workplace, as well as help employees live with more financial security and confidence outside of it too.
The four kinds of employee benefits
Employee benefits make companies stand out to the best and brightest talent. If actions speak louder than words, then a tailored and comprehensive benefits package does much more to demonstrate a company’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of its employees than any communications ever will. But many companies are still focusing on a limited range of benefit types.
Here are the four areas that all companies should be considering:
- Workplace-related benefits include among others flexible working, clubs and skills development. These allow employees to better fit their working obligations around their personal lives. Parents are able to account for school pickups and drop-offs and others are able to fit exercise and physical activity into their working day. Skills development is an important way of maintaining employee engagement as well as helping the company adapt to changes in technology or the market.
- Financial benefits help employees live with more economic security. While pensions and paternity leave are mandated by law in many countries, many employers also offer insurance-based services. Insurance gives people the security of knowing that a serious injury or accident doesn’t have to result in a sudden drop in income for their family. Financial stress can have a huge impact on people’s mental health, so many companies now offer support on how to save and budget effectively.
- Health benefits typically include things like gym memberships and related services like physiotherapy and chiropractic sessions that provide physical, emotional and other benefits to employees. For people that have physically demanding or high-pressure roles, these services can be an important way of fighting fatigue and preventing burn-out.
- Finally, wellbeing benefits look to ensure that people can maintain a healthy work/life balance. Many companies considered remote working to be a benefit of this kind until Covid-19 made it the norm for many workers around the world.
Supporting financial self-determination
Taken together, these four kinds of benefits extend far beyond the workplace as well as traditional conceptions of the relationship between employers and employees. They form a network of support that provides value in potentially every part of a person’s life. When deployed effectively, people no longer have to balance their work commitments against their personal obligations. Rather than being two distinct parts, work and personal goals can work together to benefit of both employees and the companies they work for.
Flexibility is key when it comes to employee benefits. Packages need to be able to evolve with the needs of companies and employees over time, to ensure that both employers and employees have more choice and control over the ways they work. When it comes to employee benefits there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all. And that is something that should be celebrated. It guarantees that both companies and their employees get the most benefit from their work.