Five Societal Changes That Are Shaping the Future of Employee Benefits
Competition to attract and retain top talent is high, and candidates are looking to work for companies that understand them and cater to their lifestyle and needs. While it’s important to honor current employees’ needs, as HR leaders, we also need to be prepared for possible future scenarios.
So what does the future of employee benefits hold? We do not have a crystal ball but the Nua Group team predicts that these societal changes are likely to shape the future of employee benefits.
Rapidly deteriorating mental health
A recent review published in the Lancet medical journal, got experts from around the world to agree that our world is experiencing a “monumental” health care crisis. Its cost is estimated to reach $16 trillion by 2030, and if treated properly and in a timely manner, more than 13 million people’s lives could be saved every year.
The World Health Organization has recently classified burn-out as an “occupational phenomenon” drawing attention to the employers’ role in employee mental health and wellbeing. “While it’s a good sign that companies are offering wellness benefits such as massages and discounted yoga classes, business leaders need to start thinking fresh about the way workplaces are designed and how they impact employee wellbeing,” - said Nua Group Consultant Laura Muldoon.
“Mental health and wellness benefits that we anticipate in the coming years include: having a radically new approach to designing wellness-focused workplaces, allocating “mental wellness time” in employees’ schedules (some companies already offer a mental health day/leave to their employees), subsidized mental health services (such as covering a monthly therapist appointment), offering a paid sabbatical leave, introducing required vacations or an allowance/rewards to take vacation and many more. If employers were to have one important takeaway from this trend, it would be that they should offer real solutions in supporting employees’ mental health rather than applying a band-aid,” - added Laura Muldoon.
The increasing need for affordable housing
The big unmet need of employees is affordable housing near their primary work location. As employers battle to attract and retain employees, could providing corporate housing near campuses be the next big benefit?
Nua Group Partner Chris Renz says: “Considering the high cost of housing and the long commutes faced by employees, there could be great value in nearby housing.
It could be high density and take advantage of either public transportation or an employers own private transportation service. It could also have technology linked to the company and provide for conference/offsite meeting space.”
The growing attraction of a nomadic lifestyle
Now that millennials make up for majority of the workforce, it’s not a surprise that companies want to find ways to make this group of employees engaged. Millennials, among other things, travel more than other generations, which, together with the growing popularity of the gig economy and remote work, makes nomadic lifestyle an attractive way to live and work.
“Employers who are keen to address employees’ aspiration to explore the world, have a number of options: from offering travel perks and discounts such as a corporate frequent flyer or travel status, to unlimited PTO, remote work in distributed teams, and office exchange programs.
Not only these benefits will align with the employees’ lifestyles, but they will also encourage the employees to experience other cultures, understand and embrace the workplace diversity and bring innovative ideas back to the table,” says Ravali Kondoju, a Consultant at Nua Group.
Choosing “fur babies” over kids
Raising kids is more expensive than it’s ever been before, meaning that millennials opt for having “fur babies” rather than having a family. According to CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, The number of children born in the U.S. in 2018 fell to the lowest level in 32 years. While owning a pet does not come cheap (according to American Pet Products Association’s annual industry-wide report, pet lovers in the United States spent $72.56 billion on their pets in 2018), it’s cheaper than raising a child.
“Many companies already offer access to pet insurance as an employee benefit, but we anticipate that in the coming years employers will start offering a wider range of pet benefits to their employees.
These can include: creating even more pet-friendly offices, granting a “parental leave” to employees adopting a new pet, subsidized pet care, pet bereavement leave or even pet cloning,” said Jon Meyers, a Consultant at Nua Group.
Aging population disrupting the workforce
We often talk about Millennial employees and their needs, but there is another group of people that deserves as much attention: Silver Surfers. Due to a number of societal improvements, people live longer meaning that workforces gain more aging employees and employees have elderly dependents to take care of.
“For employers, it means two things: HR leaders need to plan for a number of scenarios that accommodate and support aging employees in the workplace, as well as provide elderly care benefits to the employees,” said Nua Group Partner Gerry Murphy.
“In this context, future benefits may vary from offering pay based upon skills acquired, phased retirement or - the opposite - bringing Silver Surfers back into the workplace once they become “empty nesters”, to subsidizing elderly care costs, whether it’s software, hardware or even robots. In fact, I won’t be surprised if in the future companies will be covering employees’ elderly parents’ robot nurses (In Japan, there is already a variety of care robots available to the elderly).
There are many more changes happening in the world that are impacting the way people live and work and that HR leaders should plan for. But there’s no need to panic: instead of rushing to roll out some or all of these benefits to your workplace, carefully consider what employee cohorts you have in the organization, what needs the employees have, and what truly resonates with them. That way you can start identifying the benefits that will create true value.