The impact of COVID-19 on the global workforce brought the value of voluntary benefits to center stage. Until fairly recently, voluntary benefits were considered sweeteners: optional add-ons that brokers brought to the table to help close a deal with an employer buying core benefits — basic employee medical. Today, voluntary benefits are critical to helping employers meet the challenges of four related and fast-moving trends:

  • Employees have new and shifting needs and priorities that came into sharp focus during the pandemic and aren’t likely to be reversed.
  • Employers are increasingly seeking to offer a more holistic approach to supporting and caring for their workforce.
  • Hiring is tougher than it’s been in years, with employees evaluating a company’s culture and wellness programs as much as their pay scale.
  • A “turnover tsunami” is expected to hit U.S. employers with the highest quitting rates in the last 20 years.

Voluntary benefits help meet the challenges of all four of those trends. Even before the pandemic, 41% of all workers said they were likely to look for a new job with better benefits, according to research by UNUM. That percentage increases among the younger generations in the workforce: 57% of millennials and 65% of Gen Z workers said they felt the same.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that a study earlier this year from Willis Towers Watson found that 94% of employers consider voluntary benefits part of their value proposition. That’s a huge increase from barely 33% of employers who felt the same way in 2018. And the options have mushroomed. A Care.com report in February found, for example, that 63% of surveyed employers were adding child care benefits to their offerings this year. 

A market that started not long ago with bland insurance offerings (think short-term disability, hospital supplemental, cancer, and critical care coverage) has exploded to become a vast landscape of ways to support employees’ health and lifestyles. Voluntary benefits now range from identity theft protection to student loan repayment benefits, elder care services to foster care assistance, and financial wellness programs to online platforms for mental health and physical fitness. 

In short, voluntary benefits are now an essential part of building company cultures and hiring and retaining top performers. 

But which benefits should you offer? The UNUM report we mentioned above identified these as the top 5 non-insurance benefits among U.S. workers:

  1. Generous paid time off (40%)
  2. Flexible/remote working options (30%)
  3. Paid family leave (22%)
  4. Gym memberships (21%)
  5. Fitness/healthy lifestyle incentives (17%)

Take a look at numbers 4 and 5 — gym memberships and fitness/healthy lifestyle incentives. These numbers may be even higher now. As we mentioned in our last post, Returning to the Workplace: So Much to Consider and Tips to Get it Right, and according to a Gympass survey of 1,000 U.S. employees over age 18, the habit of physical exercise has taken hold and will continue. In addition, we found that people are comfortable and eager to get back to the gym.

  • 89% say they will stay as active or be more active after they return to the office
  • 64.6% are excited to return to the gym

But a challenge also comes with the proliferation of wellness and lifestyle benefits: managing them for maximum impact. Offering programs and products is one thing. It’s another matter altogether to:

  • Make those offerings accessible to all employees anywhere in the organization
  • Make it easy for employees to understand the benefit of these offerings
  • Deliver communication that drives enrollment and boosts ongoing participation

The bottom line is that personalized benefits require personalized communication. It’s the only way to ensure that employees get the information they need in a way that drives them to put their benefits to best use. 

Of course, employers have dozens of options to cobble together products and tools to run a wellness program. But the more disparate the tools, the harder it is to efficiently manage and effectively communicate. This is where multi-option wellness solutions come in handy. They provide an “all-in-one” option for employers. HR teams can manage an effective wellness program without all the headaches.

Gympass is the only complete corporate well-being platform that provides holistic support for every employee, no matter where they are and when they want it — the ideal solution for hybrid work models.