Tailoring Soft Benefits

Soft employee benefits such as student loan repayment, paternity leave, telecommuting, standing desks and telemedicine are gaining positive attention with today’s multi-generational workforce. And companies are researching on their specific employee demographic to find the right combination to fit with a majority of their employees’ needs and stage of life, according to SHRM’s latest Employee Benefits Survey.

“Finding the right combination of benefits that appeals to a multigenerational workforce can be a challenge,” said Alex Alonso, SHRM-SCP, chief knowledge officer for SHRM. “But if you know a good portion of your workforce are Baby Boomers with aging parents, you might choose to beef up your caregiving benefits and flexible scheduling policies. On the other hand, if you have a young demographic, offering benefits like student loan repayment could be the way to go.

In the area of family and wellness, standing desks continue to rise in popularity. Currently, 60% of surveyed employers offer this benefit compared to one-quarter just five years ago. Company-provided dependent care flexible spending accounts have declined eight percentage points since last year. Onsite lactation/mother’s rooms are offered by 51% of employers, up 16 percentage points from 2015.

Company-provided student-loan repayment benefits have risen from 4% in 2018 to 8% in 2019.

Regarding family leave and flexible-time, the number of employers offering family leave above the time required by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act increased by six percentage points. Additionally, while paid leave for new fathers has gone up only slightly since 2018, it has seen a steady rise over the past five years (up 14 percentage points) and is now within four percentage points of paid leave for new mothers, the most common type of paid leave for new parents.

Telecommuting on a part-time basis is on the rise, now offered by 42% of employers. Flexible working benefits continue to rise in popularity, and, as a result, telecommuting of all types is increasing, as are most types of flexible scheduling.

Telemedicine and telehealth increased by 10 percentage points within the past year. Telemedicine benefits have increased from 23% in 2016 to 72% this year.

PPOs continue to be the most popular health insurance option, available in 85% of organizations, followed by high-deductible health plans linked to a savings or spending account, available in 59% of organizations.

Employer-provided charitable donations are down over the past five years, but more than one-quarter of organizations now provide paid time off for volunteering to meet the demands of workers who value corporate social responsibility.

The number of companies offering relocation lump-sum payments increased by six percentage points over the past year. However, housing and relocation benefits overall are now offered by less than one-third of organizations.

Reimbursement for personal phone calls while on business travel also decreased by nine percentage points this year.

SHRM surveyed 2,763 randomly selected HR professionals for its 2019 survey.