Should You Offer Voluntary Benefits? Is the Sky Blue? 

by Lauren Schneider March 13th, 2024

Voluntary benefits? Yeah, we're diving into that buzzword. Back in the day, they were the cherry on top of your job sundae—the little extras you picked to jazz up your work-life vibe.

But, oh, how the tables have turned. With the world flipping upside down – pandemic chaos and wallet-draining costs of living – those "extras" are now frontline heroes in the work perks saga. We're talking major evolution here, from "nice-to-have" to "must-haves." Voluntary benefits are now the rock stars of the employee experience, keeping folks hooked and making the workplace a magnet for the crème de la crème of talent.

So, what's the scoop on voluntary benefits, you ask? Picture this: the extra goodies beyond your standard fare that let you live your best life – at a steal of a price. Think less cash for more flash, with choices tailored just for you.

Then and Now: The Benefits Evolution

Once upon a time, benefits were just a twinkle in corporate America's eye. 

Companies treated voluntary benefits like an extra chicken nugget in your box – a nice surprise but not the norm. They were also considered unnecessary and were instead about ticking boxes rather than truly understanding employee needs. (Unfortunately, this is still the case for lots of companies.) Slowly but surely, workplaces began to evolve, branching out from basic pay and health care to include additional, optional insurances like life and disability at collective rates. Fast forward, and the landscape's even richer. From holistic wellness programs to pet care coverages, benefits packages all over the world are seeing quite the glow-up.

In fact, Goldman Sachs' 2023 analysis highlighted a boom in voluntary benefits, a response to growing worker demands. The last few years, marked by pandemic strains, competitive job markets, and rising costs, saw substantial spikes in offerings like family care and illness insurance, underscoring the burgeoning variety and appeal of these options.

For those stuck in the past, a rude awakening is happening. Times have changed. The modern workplace demands more. We're in an era where voluntary benefits have shifted from optional to nearly indispensable, helping companies stand out by genuinely supporting their employees' diverse needs.

Types of Voluntary Benefits: The Expanding Universe

I mentioned this briefly above, but I want to formally welcome you to the new era of voluntary benefits – a spectrum so wide it covers everything from health to happiness. Insurance, wellness, financial planning, and, let's not forget, lifestyle benefits (yes, that's where a platform like Compt comes in, shining bright). This range isn't just about covering emergencies; it's about enhancing life inside and outside work.

Life, But Better: Beyond the Basics

The game has changed. It's no longer just about avoiding the flu or fixing a toothache. It's about living your best life – at work and beyond. With access to mental health days, digital gym sessions (because who has time for the commute?), and financial wizardry sessions, it's all about enhancing that work-life harmony.

Money Matters: Financial Wellness for the Win

In this roller-coaster economy, who wouldn't want a financial guru in their corner? We're talking retirement planning, investment tips, and – get this – help paying off those pesky student loans. It's like having your own financial fairy godparent, turning those money woes into wows.

Flex and Flow: Lifestyle Perks for the Modern Human

Here's where we really shake things up. Flexible schedules, work-from-anywhere options, and yes, even support for when you need to find someone to watch the kiddos. We're redefining what it means to have work-life balance, making sure you have the space to do you.

From Nice-to-Have to Must-Haves: The Essentials Revolution

This isn't just about adding fluff; it's about filling gaps and making life genuinely better. Companies are stepping up, transforming the very definition of 'benefits.' It's a brave new world where your job is more than just a paycheck – it's a passport to a well-rounded, well-supported life.

More specifically, here are the types of voluntary benefits we’re seeing on the market today:

Data Talks: The Unignorable Truth of Voluntary Benefits

The stats are in, and they're jaw-dropping. From child care boosts to pet coverage, we're seeing numbers soar. Why? Because everyone's craving that extra layer of security and personalization.

The rise of voluntary benefits isn't just a trend; it's a movement. With the increase of various life stresses – from financial strain to healthcare uncertainties – employees are yearning for more than just the basics. They're seeking a safety net that spans across all facets of life.

For example, the significant uptake in childcare and eldercare assistance reflects a growing need among workers to balance professional and personal responsibilities. According to industry reports, more than half of employees would switch jobs to access such benefits underlining the critical role of work-life balance in today's fast-paced world. Moreover, “30% of employee respondents ranked cash subsidies for care as the #1 family care benefit they do not currently have but would definitely use if available.”

Then, there's pet insurance—a benefit once considered niche saw a 22% increase from 2017 to 2022. In 2022, 36% of large employers (500+ employees) provided pet insurance options, according to data from Mercer. This upswing mirrors the cultural shift towards recognizing pets as bona fide family members, showcasing how voluntary benefits are evolving to meet diverse employee needs. 

Financial wellness programs have similarly seen an uptick, with 77% of workers interested in the benefit but only 28% of companies offering it. With the global increase in living costs, employees are increasingly valuing benefits that offer peace of mind in turbulent times. This includes everything from student loan assistance to retirement planning services, reflecting a broadened perspective on what it means to support an employee's overall well-being.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has starkly highlighted the importance of health-related benefits, including supplemental health insurance and telehealth access. These benefits address not just physical health needs but also the growing concern for mental health, aligning with a holistic approach to employee wellness.

But why does all this matter? Because the data speaks volumes about the changing landscape of employee expectations and employer responsibilities. Companies that align their benefits packages with these evolving needs are not only more attractive to potential talent but also more likely to retain their current workforce. In fact, a comprehensive benefits strategy has proven to be a key differentiator in employer branding and employee satisfaction.

The surge in voluntary benefits adoption, in particular, reflects a profound shift in workplace dynamics and employee priorities. In a world where personal and professional lives are increasingly intertwined, these benefits are no longer just 'nice to have' – they're essential.

How to Offer Voluntary Benefits

Buckle up, because we're about to turn you into the Picasso of the benefits world. Imagine yourself in a giant emporium of well-being, every shelf brimming with goodies aimed at boosting health, morale, and overall zest for life. This isn't just about throwing random perks into a basket (nobody shops like that!); it's about curating a collection that resonates with your team's unique wants and needs.

First off, let's talk strategy. This isn't a one-size-fits-all deal. Think about what your team really wants. Are they fitness freaks? Meditation mavens? Pet lovers? Or maybe they're all about financial health? Gather intel, survey your crew, and start piecing together a package that's as unique as your workplace culture.

Now, dive into the selection process. With voluntary benefits, variety is the spice of life. From health supplements and mental wellness sessions to emergency pet hospital visits and legal counsel – your mission is to offer a spectrum so wide, every employee finds their 'aha' moment.

It’s important to remember these benefits aren't just about making life sweeter; they're about painting your company in shades of awesome. They're the threads that weave your corporate fabric tighter, showcasing that you're not just another corporation but a modern, empathetic workplace haven. And THAT’s what talent is looking for when on the job hunt these days.

Let's talk practical magic now – implementation. This is where the rubber meets the road. Roll out your new benefits suite with a bang. Use clear, consistent communication (three emails won’t do it), interactive sessions, and perhaps a user-friendly platform (yeah, like Compt) to get everyone on board and buzzed about what's in store.

Crafting the perfect voluntary benefits buffet isn't without its pitfalls. There's a bit of a learning curve, and, sure, some roadblocks that might have you facepalming now and then.

First off, there's the maze called eligibility. Not every perk fits every person like a glove. From part-timers to freelancers, making sure everyone gets a slice of the benefits pie can get tricky. And then there's the fine print that can turn choosing benefits into a bit of a brain teaser.

We're also in an age where options abound, but with great choice comes great confusion. Mental health support, legal aid, pet insurance – they're all the rage, but if your team doesn't get the 'how' and 'why' behind them, they're just fancy words in an email they might skim over.

Why Voluntary Benefits Seal the Deal for a Winning Workplace

Bottom line? It's a brave new world for benefits. As work life continues to morph, staying savvy on voluntary benefits is not just smart – it's essential. It's about crafting a workplace that not only gets the job done but also cares deeply about the crew getting it done.

Remember, the goal here isn't just to add value; it's to make sure everyone knows and feels the value being added. Educate your team not just on what's available but also on how these benefits can transform their daily lives. From cost savings to improved mental and physical health, make sure they see the full picture.

To wrap it up, remember this: a well-crafted voluntary benefits package isn't just about perks. It's a statement. It's your way of saying, "We see you, we value you, and we're here to support every aspect of your journey." Get this right, and you're not just filling positions; you're fulfilling people. And in the end, that's what a truly great workplace is all about.

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