Employees in today’s job market are becoming more conscious of a shift in power thanks to the viral trends around The Great Resignation–also known as the The Great Reshuffle. They are leveraging the Big Shift to demand greater transparency around pay, benefits, and overall treatment in the workplace. Additionally, there is growing risk to organizations that don’t serve their employees’ mental health, their salary expectations, or their preferences around remote vs in office work. As employers scramble to retain and recruit talent while juggling the new norm for what workplace expectations look like, many are turning to soft benefits to respond to changing expectations and support employees in a more inclusive way.
Soft benefits are non-traditional, non-monetary benefits that help ease the burden around employees’ lifestyle wants or needs while also supplementing for the rise in salaries that many small and medium businesses simply cannot match. They help to instill feelings of empowerment and worth in employees while making less of an impact on the employer’s bottom line. As more focus is now placed on mental health awareness and work life balance, creating comfortable and rewarding work environments is gaining popularity.
Here are 6 soft benefits that can help your organization recruit and retain top talent:
1. Mental Health Days
Paid time off varies from workplace to workplace. There are PTO policies that can be used for any instance the employee is not present, policies that separate sick time from personal or holiday time, and even unlimited PTO options.
Less common but increasingly popular is a separate allocation of time designated to mental health days. Separate from sick days, mental health days allow employees time to step back and recalibrate without feeling as though they need to provide evidence with a doctor’s note or exaggerated illness. By creating an allotment of mental health days specifically, you silently address the stigma of taking time off to recover while leaving sick and vacation time for their intended purposes.
2. Fitness Coverage
Health is wealth and if the pandemic 15 (pounds) missed you it’s likely because you maintained an active lifestyle between long periods of remote work. Pandemic aside, many companies already offer benefits around healthy lifestyle choices and regular health screenings. Some may even offer free or discounted gym memberships to select fitness chains in a particular area.
Taking it to the next level by empowering your employees with flexibility and choice not only encourages an active lifestyle but provides them with a variety of choices that fit their interests such as martial arts, dance, yoga, weight training, and more. This simple freedom of choice can help build inclusiveness, belonging, and healthier habits.
3. Pet Insurance
Another result of increased time at home is the rise of “pandemic pets.” Remote work provided employees the time and presence to care for a pet, resulting in many non pet owners adopting new pets or already established owners getting to spend more time with their furry loved ones. Providing pet insurance is a highly attractive soft benefit for these animal loving employees.
For new pet parents, unrealized expenses for their recent addition(s) can add up–yearly visits to the vet or the mistakenly swallowed sock introduce stress (physical and financial) that can distract from being fully present at work. Providing pet insurance coverage can minimize that stress and stabilize or even increase employee engagement while showing employees you care about their new(or existing) furry family members.
4. Financial Empowerment
Offering a review of total compensation is convenient but really doesn’t mean much to the employee if they don’t have a sound understanding of when to use their benefits, why they matter, and how they impact them as an individual. Not to mention, most Americans struggle financially and therefore don’t feel as if they can take advantage of what is already offered.
Financial Empowerment is a new benefit that helps employees heal financial stress and and get on track to meet their financial goals through technology and coaching. As a majority of employment decisions are made based on monetary gains, benefits relating to financial coaching or even financial therapy are a unique approach to helping employees make the best benefit decisions for their situation while also getting them on track financially to better utilize those benefits. Additionally, a financial empowerment benefit that meets employees where they are can help them to optimize their paycheck, tie value to their spending, and spend less time stressing about money– resulting in positive feelings around salary and self worth.
5. Technology Stipend
Do you work better with a Mac or PC? Would wireless headphones or a portable tablet provide you with the flexibility to work from anywhere? Some companies are providing their employees with a technology stipend, allowing them to purchase their preferred digital tools & devices to use while working remotely. Having the newest tech or the ability to up your home office game is a soft benefit employees can (and will!) brag about.
6. Plant Budget
Yes, this is really a thing. As people spend more time at home due to increased remote work, the popularity around becoming a ‘plant parent’ has skyrocketed. It’s a low maintenance benefit to the environment and home decor that breaks up the monotony of computer screens and office equipment to provide comfort and zen, evening out the fluctuations in stress.