What Benefits Are Employees Looking For?

Eric Mochnacz
September 3, 2020

Simply put, employees want to look forward to going to work every morning.  Workers want to know their contributions are valued.  There are a number of ways your organization can demonstrate its appreciation and investment in its workers.  We know one way to do this is by offering competitive salaries that are aligned or in reasonable excess of what the current labor market recommends.  Have you thought about your employee benefits package as another way to find and retain talent?  Offering a comprehensive benefits package, with benefits your people actually want, is another way your business can invest in its workforce.

Flexible Scheduling Benefits

For years, workers were told there was no way they’d be successful in their jobs if they were allowed to work remotely, so their employers didn’t allow it.  There’s this older work philosophy that people are only productive if someone is there to see it.  However, with our backs against the wall as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world at work was forced to go remote, and we found that a majority of workers could be successful at working from home.  Anecdotally, a number of my peers, having been permitted to telework for the first time in their professional careers, said they felt they were MORE productive being able to work remotely than if they were in the office.

However, as businesses reopen, it’s reasonable for employers to require some employees to return to the office.  Some positions may be effective remotely for the short-term, but perhaps it’s not sustainable.  Despite employee and employers’ best efforts, some jobs may not be conducive to teleworking.  And, some employees may actually want to return to the office.  

Even if your company isn’t in the position to offer long-term teleworking arrangements like Google, you should consider offering flexible scheduling to your employees.  You’ve hired adults, so treat them like adults.   Ultimately, the point of flexible scheduling is giving your employees the freedom to choose from where and when they do their work, aligned with when they feel they are most productive.  It’s even possible with the freedom to choose, some employees will choose to be in the office more frequently because that’s when they are able to get the job done!   As long as employees are delivering towards business objectives and meeting KPIs, is it important if they are doing it at 9 am or 9 pm?  

For example, we know schools are still figuring out their education plans for the year.  Without notice, one of your direct reports has found themselves in the position of having to oversee remote learning for their children.  When your company shifted to remote in March, this employee was responsible for remote learning at that time as well.  Their work never suffered, but they were most productive after 3 in the afternoon when the kid’s school had ended for the day.  It’s logical to allow that employee to continue with the same schedule.  

Paid Time Off

Naturally, when evaluating your employee benefits package and how it impacts your employees’ work life blend, after considering flexible scheduling, you want to evaluate your paid time off policy.  PTO is a combination of paid vacation, sick and/or other personal time that you provide to your employees to spend outside of the office to rest and recharge.  For PTO, there’s no one size fits all policy.  It’s a matter of evaluating your business needs and the reasonable amount of time your people should have available to take a break so they can recharge before getting back to work.  

Keep in mind that what you choose to offer and what you’re required to offer is often dictated by the size of your company, where you’re located, and state and federal leave laws.  For example, in New Jersey, employees earn 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours, or 5 days, of paid sick leave.  So, our clients are required to track and provide NJ Earned Sick Leave to their employees, but they are permitted to offer in excess to further support employee wellness.  Outside of state and federal leave laws, paid vacation, sick of personal time is not required of employers.  However, employees want to work where they are supported and encouraged to take time away from work, so we would always recommend offering additional PTO to supplement what your state or the federal government requires.

What’s even more important about offering PTO is that leadership and managers truly treat it as time off.  If you market vacation, personal and sick time as the opportunity for the employee to be out of the office and not think about work, don’t put them in a position where they are forced to think about work.  Allow them to put an out of office message on their email, encourage them to turn their company email off on their phone, and promise not to call them with anything work related while they are taking their time.

Family Planning Employee Benefits

Similar to PTO, there are federal regulations, namely the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that provides unpaid, but job protected, leave to individuals who are starting a family.  A number of states provide financial support to help offset the lost wages as a result of the need to take FMLA to care for a newborn, newly placed foster child, or a child borne by a gestational carrier.  Although compliance with FMLA is required by law, it only applies to companies with 50 or more employees, and similar state leave laws have employee headcount thresholds.  All businesses, large or small, should consider offering additional leave and developing policies that support employees looking to start a family.

For example, a large business can still comply with FMLA, but support the employee by offering paid familial leave at their full or portion of their salary.  This allows the employee to receive pay, a condition not required of FMLA, with the confidence they have a job to return to, as FMLA leave is considered job-protected.  A small business, although not required to, may offer job protected paid or unpaid familial leave to their employees.  To additionally support employee family planning, when vetting health insurance providers, your benefits administrator can investigate if fertility services and other family planning methods can be covered through potential group health plans.  

If you are a company that supports starting a family, what other things can you do to help support employees and their families?  We’ve already talked about the importance of flexible scheduling to allow people to manage family obligations and their work responsibilities with the support of company leadership.  Providing a generous PTO policy allows individuals to reconnect with their families and address health issues with paid vacation and sick leave.  One additional way some business have supported working parents is by providing on-site childcare or offering a certain level of flexibility for children in the office.   

Healthcare Benefits

In America, healthcare is intrinsically linked to employment.  It is one of the greatest benefits an employer can provide to their employees.  Healthcare for employees may look different from company to company.  For example, you may be able to offer more affordable rates to employees who choose to enroll through the plan your company offers.  A number of businesses will pay a portion of an employee’s health insurance premiums, while some may cover the entire cost.  Employers may also choose to cover a portion of the employee’s dependent’s health premiums.  You as the employer can also support a health benefits plan that includes a flexible spending account, where the employee is able to earmark pre-tax funds to pay for any medical expenses that may arise through the course of the year.  If you are a company that supports overall wellness, you can support employees by paying for their gym membership or providing reduced cost gym memberships.  Some insurance providers will offer reduced premiums if an employee can demonstrate consistent attendance at a gym or fitness studio.  Obviously, these perks and add-ons to a group health insurance plan will come at a cost, and it’s up to the employer to decide how much of the cost they will assume, but a company with comprehensive health benefits (in conjunction with the aforementioned benefits) is one that is appealing to job seekers.

Mental Health Benefits

When we talk about healthcare benefits, our immediate thoughts go to physical illness or well-being.  But, employees also want to know that they can provide care and support if they are living with mental illness as well.  Especially now, as businesses begin to reopen with protocols to keep employers and customers physically safe, employers also want to consider what they can do to keep employees psychologically safe.  When going through the RFP process with your health benefits provider, do your due diligence about mental health services they offer.  Does your current insurance provider cover the costs of therapy appointments?  Will they pay for telemed appointments with a counselor in response to the pandemic?  Beyond that, Human Resources can consistently provide mental health resources to employees and remind them of the company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if one is in place.  Start thinking about employee health and wellness as more than just physical health but as overall health and what you can provide as an employer to support and care for the employee holistically.  

How Can Red Clover Help Your Company?

The extent to which an employee feels engaged in your organization is based on the level of support they receive from the organization.  Support while at work is multi-faceted, but employee benefits play a big part in your employee’s desire to invest and commit to your company.  A positive employee experience is essential to developing a strong company culture and employer brand.  Red Clover specializes in helping your small business develop its identity and culture to appeal to top talent in the job market today.

We are adept at creating PTO and flexible schedule policies that enhance your employee experience while still supporting business goals and productivity.  And although we aren’t health insurance providers, we’ve been in the industry long enough to provide guidance on what questions you need to ask of any benefits provider looking for your business.  We’ve also cultivated a network of connections in the benefits industry to help businesses identify the best benefits plan and employee perk offerings for your workforce.  

Also, we will always recommend an office dog.
If you’re interested in learning more, reach out!

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