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Rethinking Workplace Benefits

In today’s job market, companies are facing stiff competition for skilled, reliable and qualified employees. In the current labor climate, one of the major deciding factors for workers evaluating open positions or job offers are the workplace benefits that come with a role.

Just as the job market is changing, workers have begun prioritizing benefits differently. Here are a few important considerations for employers trying to stay a step ahead of these changes:

Traditional Employee Benefits

For many years, the typical series of benefits companies offered to attract employees was fairly standard: health insurance, vacation/PTO, sick leave, and pension/401k with possible contribution matching.

In many cases, however, employees either didn’t have the need or felt unable to access at least some of these offerings. For instance, a married worker who was already covered under their spouse’s health insurance wouldn’t benefit from a second health plan. Additionally, many employees have avoided taking advantage of paid time off, concerned that their absence might place a burden on their coworkers, company or customers.

How Covid Changed Worker Priorities

The upheaval of the pandemic turned the labor market on its head – and with it, worker expectations. After employees began working from home, weaving child care into their work days and building more flexibility into their lives, many workers began reevaluating the traditional work-life balance.

Working from home also allowed employees to eliminate their commutes, resulting in more personal time and, in many cases, healthier habits. Remote work allowed for more sleep, home-cooked meals, workouts between meetings and spending more time with loved ones. These lifestyle changes, for many workers, have become non-negotiable even as companies begin angling toward a return to the office.

Adjusting to New Benefits Expectations

Given the shift in the labor market, with employees now holding as much leverage as they have had in decades, most companies are (wisely) rethinking their benefits packages and asking questions they possibly haven’t considered in years: What do employees really want? What are competitors offering in terms of benefits?

Because work-from-home is a benefit that has climbed the list of typical worker priorities, employers willing to offer the option will want to determine its boundaries. For example, if an employee is allowed to work outside the office, is the benefit restricted to their home or can they work anywhere – a coffee shop, the beach, out of the country? How might a worker who takes a break to run a quick errand be handled from a payroll standpoint? Are these moments considered PTO or should they be treated the same as a conversation at the water cooler or a restroom break in the office?

And what about hybrid work? How does an employer determine which days a worker is required to be in the office? Should the decision be left up to the employee? If so, how will workers sync up on projects if their days in office don’t align? A hybrid model may still work when collaboration between colleagues is necessary, but employers should give plenty of advance consideration to whether and how it fits into their business.

Ultimately, today’s workforce is looking for flexibility – flexibility in work location, hours and sometimes even tasks. Until the labor market shifts yet again and jobs become more scarce, employers should continue evaluating and adjusting traditional benefits, and find ways to offer workers the flexibility they seek in order to compete for the top talent in the job market.

Need more insights on how to manage your labor force? Check out the PeopleCaddie blog.

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