We’re finally turning a corner on COVID-19 with multiple vaccine brands rolling out after FDA approval. With an estimated return to “normalcy” in June, everyone is already dreaming of a summer vacation. If all this weren’t enough, even all of the political unrest seems to be quieting down. With the many benefits trickling in so far for this year, we may as well take a peek at popular employee benefits for 2021.
Each year, there are certain employee benefits that start to trend and become more popular as events unfold. Last year, for example, we saw a huge uptake in the benefits regarding sick leave for individuals and their families because of COVID-19.
So, why should companies care about what’s trending in employee benefits? After all, isn’t simply having some benefits good enough? Before we jump into the best employee benefits for 2021, let’s first discuss why keeping up with trends in employee benefits is important.
How Keeping Up With Employee Benefits Trends Helps Businesses
Companies care about benefits not only because they appreciate their workforce, but also because it helps retain quality employees. It’s no secret that treating your employees well and valuing them makes them stick around longer. As we’ll discuss later, the benefits we’re covering also help employees improve their lives to the point of becoming better employees.
Work ethic is hard to maintain especially during stressful times – and a pandemic is certainly an extra-stressful time! All of this adds up to a more productive and effective employee, which means a better functioning business. As we always say, happy employees make for great and effective employees! Now that we understand the why – let’s jump into the how of this equation.
Trends in Employee Benefits for 2021
Now that we’ve covered how having a great benefits package can help your business, let’s discuss what exactly the trends are these year. Up for discussion are vaccinations, mental health benefits, and financial health and wellness programs. Let’s start with a hot topic – vaccinations.
Depending on the size of the company, some businesses are able to incentivize or even assist employees wanting to receive a vaccine. Of course, this also depends on whether or not the company has enough eligible employees for vaccination. And you obviously cannot force an employee to get vaccinated. For front-line workers, encouraging employees to receive a vaccine (because they’re eligible as front-line workers) through incentive is a huge benefit for everyone – including the general public.
For many lower-paid front-line workers, going to work every day is scary, but also very necessary. With the skyrocketing unemployment that came in the wake of COVID shutdowns, many are reluctant to leave jobs – even if they were deemed as “front-line” and “high-risk” for exposure. On the flip side, employers are continually worried about losing these employees too because they can’t afford to pay them more during this tough time.
In our blog article, How Aldi is Compensating Employees for Vaccinations, we discuss how the successful grocery store chain is able to encourage employee vaccinations via compensation. That’s right – they’re simply paying their employees for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Not only are they covering the cost of the vaccine, but the company is also paying employees the equivalent of two hours of their wages for each shot. This ensures that even employees worried about missing work for a vaccine can breathe easier (and get vaccinated).
While all of this sounds great, it’s not ideal for every business because of cost. However, there are effective ways to encourage employee vaccination, without costing an arm and a leg. Companies could also help employees with flexible work schedules. Consider a Vaccine PTO or something similar for those worried about losing hours. Make it easy for employees to swap shifts to accommodate vaccination appointments. Notify employees of nearby clinics or host one if you’re able to. Basically, do whatever you can to make it easier for those wanting to get vaccinated.
Mental Health Benefits
Employee benefits for 2021 include an emphasis on employee’s mental health. This is lucky for employees, because mental health and illnesses are on the rise during the pandemic.
For example, this study from KFF found that as of January 2021, 41% of Americans experienced anxiety or depressive disorders. This figure has remained stable since the Spring of 2020 – i.e., the start of the pandemic. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), the normal annual amount of Americans (between the ages of 18-40) that suffer from depression and anxiety is 18.1%. Clearly, the increase during the pandemic is dramatic and alarming.
So, in response to this, many employers are taking it upon themselves to help where they can. This includes providing mental health benefits and services to employees. This employee benefit isn’t just perfect for 2021 – it’s a great benefit to offer at any time. The amount businesses offer can vary depending on the demand and/or current atmosphere.
For example, now is an ideal time to vamp up the mental health benefits if possible. During summers, more relaxed times, or when stress seems low, you can decrease the among of benefits or reimbursements offered. If you have multiple employees experiencing losses, personal or family illness or diagnosis, etc., then pump those mental health benefits back up!
Mental Health Benefits
- Provide services at a local counseling center.
- Reimburse employees for a portion or the entirety of their visits.
- Bring in a certified counselor once a month for employees to meet with.
- Provide access to online mental health services.
- There are plenty of mental health apps available for a cheaper alternative – take a look at this top 25 list from Psycom.
Now let’s jump into our next employee benefit for 2021, which is another hot topic during the pandemic – financial health and wellness programs.
Financial Health and Wellness Programs
We’ve recently talked a lot about financial health and wellness programs, and that’s because it’s a popular benefit for 2021. During the pandemic, the unemployment rate spiked, many businesses had to close, and everyone overall had to worry more about money. The dangers of living paycheck to paycheck become shockingly clear during a nationwide increase in unemployment.
Even if you feel like financial health and wellness are not an employer’s responsibility, it can have some great payoffs for small businesses. So hear us out before you decide. Many Americans worry about money and finances to the point of losing sleep. This, in turn, affects focus at work – which of course equates to lost productivity for employers.
All of this to say, if businesses help employees with financial wellness programs, they’re actually helping them become better employees. So, if you’d like to increase your employee’s productivity, engagement, and loyalty, consider utilizing the following benefits.
- Employee Loans: In our blog, Employee Loans as a Component of Financial Health and Wellness, we explain how employee loans can help employees during these tough times. We also cover what you should include within financial health and wellness training or educational programs.
- Financial Health & Wellness Programs and Education: As a small business, you may be struggling just as much as your employees are right now. If this is the case, education can be a much more cost-effective solution to helping your employees become more financially well.
- Retirement Education and/or Assistance: While retirement programs and matches is a great benefit to offer employees, they can also get costly. So, if offering a plan isn’t an option for you, consider retirement education instead as an alternative.
Before we wrap up with how employers can decide between benefits, let’s take a look at some additional employee perks.
Additional Perk Options for 2021
With social distancing requirements still in place (or at least a good idea) for most businesses in the U.S., there are some perks that have also been impacted. If a company offered gym memberships as an employee perk, this has likely fell to the wayside with many not wanting to risk germy public gyms. So, employers are getting creative to adapt.
Reimagine perks for 2021:
- Snack reimbursement or stipend for those working at home.
- Reimbursements or stipends for online workout-from-home programs.
- Stipends for home office supplies or equipment.
- Reimbursements for internet services for those working from home.
No matter the type of perks you offer, think about ways to adjust them for the current state of your business. Make whatever combination works best for your business and employees. Now that we’ve covered the most popular employee benefits for 2021, let’s discuss how to decide between them.
How to Decide Between Benefits
While it’s great to understand which employee benefits will be the most popular this year, that doesn’t help the affordability. Sure, every business would love to provide all of the best benefits to its employees. However, this usually isn’t possible for smaller businesses. Especially after the economic hardships that also accompanied COVID-19.
Most small businesses have to make the hard decision of which benefits to offer and which will get the cut. So, let’s end our employee benefits for 2021 list with tips on how to choose between a plethora of appealing benefits.
Tips for deciding between Employee Benefits:
- Take a vote! Really, one of the easiest ways to predict what will make employees the happiest is simply to ask them! Make it private and anonymous to ensure all employees feel comfortable.
- Team up with a Benefits Advisor. If you want a professional’s opinion, this is the best route to take. A benefits advisor will be able to balance what’s best for employees and what works for your company’s budget.
- Trim Unused Benefits: With employee turnover and surrounding circumstances, the benefits that employees like and use will also change. If you’ve had a benefit fizzle out, trim it for one of those listed above, or another benefit employees have shown excitement about.
Now Update Your Employee Benefits for 2021
Now that you understand the perks of having great employee benefits and how they’ve been updated, it’s time to act! Get a plan started and see which of the employee benefits for 2021 listed above can most benefit your workforce. Remember, if you need assistance don’t hesitate to reach out to a benefits advisor. No matter which one (or all) you decide to implement, it’ll be the start your company needs to begin the road to recovery this year!