These 5 Employee Benefits Are Trending – and Can Give Your Company a Competitive Edge

October 22, 2018

We tend to think of benefits as employee benefits. But they aren’t just good for employees –-benefits are also rewarding for the companies that provide them.

In fact, a recently issued report by The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) that examined benefit trends among U.S. companies over the last four years shows just how valuable benefits can be:

These findings come from SHRM’s survey of more than 30,000 HR representatives and compare benefits offered at companies today with those offered in 2014.

It’s no surprise that thoughtful benefits can help companies attract and retain highly skilled employees. On top of that, they can also spur productivity and help develop healthy employees and healthy company cultures. Because of this, the survey also found that more than a third (34%) of reporting companies had increased their benefit offerings in the last 12 months.

According to SHRM's report, here are five benefits that have gained traction in recent years and are helping companies attract talent:

1. Companies embrace telecommuting

Increasingly, employees are looking for flexibility in when and where they work. And, companies have taken note. In 2014, 59% percent of the HR representatives surveyed said their companies offered a telecommuting option, according to SHRM. Today, that number is 70%.

Inc.com recently called work-from-home the “world’s smartest management strategy.” That's because telecommuting and other flexible work opportunities, it turns out, can actually make individuals and teams more productive and successful, according to research from the UK’s Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service.

For example, the Chinese travel site Ctrip gave call center employees the option to work from home for nine months. The results were astonishing: Employees who worked from home finished 13.5% more calls than colleagues back at the office.

And that’s not all: Gallup conducted a study that found that employees who work from home for three to four days per week are 33% more likely to feel engaged than employees who work at the office every day of the week.

2. More employers offer onsite wellness programs

Companies are also offering benefits that can help employees reduce and manage their anxiety, stress, and insecurity at the office. SHRM’s survey found that 12% of companies now offer some form of stress management program for employees, a fourfold increase from 3% in 2014.

Although the number of workplaces offering this benefit remains small, those programs could have a profound impact. The American Psychological Association found that “65% of Americans cited work as a top source of stress.” Meanwhile, just 37% of U.S. workers felt they’re doing “an excellent or very good job managing stress.”

The types of stress-reduction programs that companies offer include massage, yoga classes, and meditation exercises along with wellness coaches or counselors who are available during work hours. The potential upsides of such programs include reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, and reduced medical costs, says The Wellness Council of America.

And, the savings could be huge. According to an infographic published by Eastern Kentucky University, stressed-out employees cost U.S. businesses $300 billion a year in health care and missed work days.

3. Employees get paid time off for volunteering

Corporate philanthropy these days is about way more than companies simply writing the occasional large check. Today, more and more companies are giving their workforces paid time off to volunteer, according to SHRM’s report. Nearly a quarter (24%) of companies offer this perk, up from 16% four years ago.

A 2017 Deloitte survey found that nearly nine out of 10 (89%) working Americans “believe that companies who sponsor volunteer activities offer a better overall working environment than those who do not.” Plus, 70% of those responding to the survey said that the chance to volunteer actually boosts their morale more than company happy hours. Notably, 77% of respondents consider volunteering “essential” to their well-being.

4. Businesses are loosening their dress code — or scrapping it altogether

The freedom to dress casually at the office is another rising trend. Today, 50% of HR representatives say their companies follow a casual dress code, up from 32% in 2014.

An updated dress code has a number of upsides, according to Livestrong. For example, employees will find themselves more comfortable in casual clothing, especially in a setting where they feel like their attire won’t be scrutinized or measured against what others are wearing.

Such a policy can save workers money, increase efficiency, and allow employees to express themselves, which Livestrong says signals that a company “appreciates individuality.”

5. Bon appétit! More companies serve up free food and drink at the office

Work meals were once the province of the executive dining room. Today, more and more employers are feeding at the company trough, with businesses providing everything from fresh coffee and snacks at one end to onsite restaurants at the other.

Why? For sure, it’s a way to compete for talent. But it also keeps a workforce from fleeing the office en masse at lunchtime; they’re eating together, often talking work over, and building a stronger company culture. SHRM found that 32% offer free food and beverage benefits today compared to 20% in 2014.

Although free food doesn’t mean free calories, workers are still lapping up this trend. “Full-time employees are more than 10% more likely to dig their jobs when their workplaces provide access to free food,” according to Money.

Final thoughts

Each of these five trending benefits should be good for companies as well as their workforces. They can make it easier to attract and retain the right candidates and can also help companies strengthen their corporate culture by allowing employees to bond (onsite food and drinks) and to be their authentic selves (casual dress and paid time off for volunteering). Plus, wellness programs and allowing employees to work remotely can reduce attrition and increase productivity. Sounds pretty beneficial. 

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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