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Employee Benefit Trends to Watch and Implement in 2022

No matter what your thoughts are on the current U.S. labor market, it seems like the terminology, “The Great Resignation” or “The Great Reshuffle” is here to stay. There are varying opinions on what is causing the trend. LinkedIn’s chief economist, Karin Kimbrough, weighs in that “People have been living to work for a very long time. And [she thinks] the pandemic brought that moment of reflection for everyone.”

A recent article in The Atlantic describes The Great Resignation as “mostly a dynamic ‘free agency’ period for low-income workers switching jobs to make more money, plus a moderate surge of early retirements in a pandemic.”

Whatever the reasoning, it’s likely that workers will continue to prioritize their well-being over the workplace grind in 2022, especially in sectors like retail, hospitality, education, and health care. Whether that be switching careers or career fields, going back to school, retiring, or families choosing to rely on a single income – there are many factors that contribute to the state of the labor market as it stands today.

Based on the last few years, we can expect that employees will continue to demand more from their employers, from increased wages, customized benefits, to updated and more flexible work arrangements. Kimbrough also observed that “It’s as if that social contract of work is being rewritten, and right now the worker’s holding the pen.” Whether you agree with Kimbrough or not, it’s evident based on the number of job openings in certain sectors that candidates are being choosy for a myriad of reasons.

Employees are also staying put for a number of reasons – including benefits. Prudential’s January 2021 Road to Resiliency survey found that more than two-thirds of employees say they’re more dedicated to their employer because of the benefits they provide.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that overall feelings of uncertainty are likely to remain prevalent in 2022 as we slowly learn to manage our lives around potential new COVID-19 variants and economic instability. Anything employers can do or offer to help ease the burden of living with these uncertainties will have a positive impact on their workforce. 

Here are just a few employee benefit trends to watch and implement in 2022.

Personalized Benefits to Eliminate Wasteful Spending

There’s no single best solution for every company and employee, which is why a tailored benefits plan can be an effective option. Tailored plans help eliminate wasteful spending towards unused benefits. With these types of benefits packages, employees have an increased understanding of what they have enrolled in and are more likely to use their benefits, which is a win for both parties.

If you’re looking to customize your benefits plan, consider looking at the average age of your employees. Looking at this data as well as other demographic trends across your workforce can help you assess what would likely be the best options to support their needs (i.e. offering more family planning or retirement resources). In conjunction with that, be sure to survey your employees on what’s important to them to make sure you are on the right track.

Mental Health Benefits Are The New Standard

Given the uncertainties and stressors of our current environments, health care plans and resources related to behavioral health are becoming the standard, and falling short could cost you new and existing talent. Keep in mind that Gen Z, the newest generation entering the workforce, has grown up with an increased awareness of the importance of mental health, even more than Millennials. Many health care plans offer $0 for telehealth visits that include behavioral health services. It’ll be increasingly significant that employers communicate these resources to their employees, especially the younger generations, as they may be confused or even missed altogether.

Increased Flexibility with Schedule and Location

Despite the unexpected transition into increased remote work, it has benefits. Employees save money on commuting, while employers save money on office infrastructure expenses. But, flexibility in the workplace doesn’t only have to mean remote work options.

For jobs and sectors where remote work is not possible, consider offering flexibility in your employee’s schedules, like start and end times, or alternative breaks. If possible, offer longer breaks periodically to allow for physical activity, such as walks. Making employees feel that they are supported when they take time off to prioritize their physical and emotional health can be very impactful on their overall performance and satisfaction.

Money Stress Means More Financial Wellness Benefits

We can’t ignore the current economic climate when we talk about employee wellness and satisfaction. In fact, 73% of Americans say money is the number one cause of stress in their lives (work and family also ranked high). Financial stress can be tied to a number of areas including student loan debt, credit card debt, inflation, stock market fluctuations, the cost of childcare, the cost of health care, ability to save for retirement, just to name a few. Any financial advisor will tell you that in times of uncertainty, it’s important to prioritize your financial goals and proper management of your current and future assets.

Communicate to your employees the importance of financial wellness and the resources that are available to help. These could include discounts on home and auto insurance or free telehealth visits with a behavioral health therapist or one-on-one sessions through your EAP program. Also, consider providing direct advice from experts by bringing in a financial planner to educate your employees on how to plan for retirement through 401k contributions, save for college, purchase their first home, pay down debt, and other relevant financial topics.

The Importance of a Benefits Consultant in 2022

With the pandemic and the “Great Reshuffle” still in effect, coupled with inflation at the highest levels since 1982, it’s almost certain that both an employee’s cost of living and an employer’s cost of operating will continue to rise in 2022.  Employers who want to recruit talent and retain high-performing teams must support the individual health and financial wellness of their workers – both in and out of the office – through a robust, tailored benefits program.

For organizations that do not currently have a benefits consultant or for those who are not satisfied with their existing consultant, now is the time to make a move.

Valley Schools partners with Arizona public sector employers on all employee benefit-related matters including benefit administration, benefit programs, budgeting, forecasting, wellness, enrollment support, and more. For a complete picture of how we can help your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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