Give employees time back in an always-on working world

When it comes to employee benefits, what do people really want?

As HR and benefits professionals, we shouldn’t make broad assumptions or generalizations about what benefits our employees need or want. Each employee in any given organization is an individual with different circumstances to be met at every stage in their lives — from those entering the workforce to those preparing to retire, and everyone in between. This is why employers must differentiate their benefits packages to meet the needs of a diverse and multigenerational workforce. And as consumers demand more choice in how they spend their benefits dollars, employers are getting more creative and curating a more expansive set of options for everyone.

No matter how efficient an employee is, work inevitably extends beyond the traditional workday from time to time. Similarly, as the lines between home and work blur with flexible work arrangements and email available 24/7 on smartphones, employees still need to take care of personal tasks, like scheduling family dentist appointments, setting up child care, disputing medical bills or calling the veterinarian … all during the workday.

Regardless of generation, industry, position or title, people are yearning to find the right balance between work and life demand. Time is the most precious benefit of them all. As a result, there are a growing number of employers offering benefits designed to save employees time.

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Dry cleaning things hanging in a row on a hanger

Previously offered predominantly by large, tech companies in Silicon Valley, we’re seeing time-saving benefits spread to employers and industries of all kinds and encompass a variety of conveniences, from on-site dry cleaning pickup, to employer-funded shuttles to get employees to and from work, gym memberships, grocery delivery and services like dog walking and personal errands. This benefits category can also include more significant, personalized benefits like concierge health services, assistance in evaluating elderly care options, telehealth for humans and pets, and emergency child care services.

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Once seen as just perks, these services run deeper. Employers care about their people, and these time-saving benefits — anything people leave work early for, or deal with during the work day — has created a new benefits category that increases employees’ productivity and capacity for work by eliminating distractions and freeing up mental space. While these types of benefits may seem like “nice to haves” instead of essentials, they can add up and make a substantial difference in employees’ lives.

Life is complicated. Things go wrong that impact productivity, contribute to presenteeism and the well-being of our workforce; these employee benefits offered through employers are returning valuable time back into someone’s day, helping them focus on work and better balance work and life expectations.

Employees need HR’s help. By not offering a wide variety of benefits personalized to the workforce, employers are missing out on an opportunity to provide great value to employees and make a tremendously positive change in their lives. But many HR professionals falsely assume employees will ask for voluntary benefits directly and proactively make suggestions about what would help them. You may say, “My employees aren’t coming to me asking for things like elder care services, so they don’t need them.” My response is, of course they’re not asking: they may not want you to know about challenges they’re facing in their personal lives.

Employee’s personal situations are just that - deeply personal. They may be suffering in silence. Americans are now facing the highest housing, education and medical costs in our history, meaning nearly everyone is stressed out about family, work and finances; it’s causing problems in the workplace. If their minds are somewhere else and not focused on work, their productivity could be suffering.

Open Enrollment is rapidly approaching. Don’t wait for your employees to ask you for benefits. Take advantage of OE to ask your employees what they’re looking for, as this is the time they’ll already be assessing what types of benefits they need in the coming year anyway. Use this time to survey the workforce to see what people do or don’t like about their benefits. Be sure to specifically ask “What can we offer you?”

It’s a question, and a gesture, that may matter more to employees than you know.

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