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It’s Benefits Enrollment Season: What Do Your Employee Benefits Say About Your Workplace Culture?

For many organizations, annual benefits enrollment is just around the corner and it’s a perfect opportunity for employers to showcase how their employee benefits contribute to a healthy and inclusive workplace. Read on for insights on how workplace culture can be shaped by benefits offerings, and get tips for how to use the annual enrollment period to highlight your culture of well-being.

The link between benefits and culture.

Organizational culture is one of the most important factors in an employee’s decision to stay with a company or leave to seek employment elsewhere. And, in the wake of the pandemic, the Great Resignation/Reshuffle and “quiet quitting,” it’s become even more critical.

While there are many things that contribute to a healthy corporate culture, the impact of employee benefits on workplace culture shouldn’t be underestimated. In fact, a study conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management found that “all benefits are now individually viewed as more important for businesses to offer than they were prior to the pandemic.” The study also found that the pandemic forever changed the importance of specific types of benefits, including mental health benefits, flexible work and family care benefits.1

Making sure that your benefits align with your corporate culture is therefore essential for creating a workforce that is happy and engaged. For example, if your organization values work-life balance, then benefits might include things like flexible work, caregiving benefits, and parental leave. Similarly, if you value a worker well-being, benefits to support mind and body should be a part of your benefits package.

Use the annual enrollment period to highlight how your benefits improve company culture.

Recent Gallup research finds that just 1 in 4 employees strongly agree that their organization cares about their overall well-being. So along with the requisite messages about signing up for traditional benefits like medical, dental, and life insurance, use this opportunity to showcase how the benefits you offer support the kind of culture you are trying to create.

Here are some examples of benefits to highlight:

Mental health benefits.

The U.S. Surgeon General’s report Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being revealed that 76% of American workers reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition and 81% said they will be looking for workplaces that support mental health in the future.

Given these shocking statistics, use this year’s enrollment to remind employees of the mental health services that are available to them, including:

  • Employee Assistance Programs—emphasize that counseling sessions are free and confidential
  • Medical plan behavioral health benefits
  • Mental health apps that allow people to chat with a counselor via text
  • Mindfulness and meditation programs
  • Mental health days available through the PTO program

If you are sending a manager-specific communication during annual enrollment, it’s a good opportunity to reacquaint managers with any tools you may offer to help them promote good mental health on their teams. True, managers don’t need to be mental health counselors, but as the front line to employees and because managers have a large impact on employee mental health, it’s important to offer them support for how to:

  • Identify an employee who may be burned out.
  • Have a conversation with an employee about mental health.
  • Help employees set boundaries for better work-life integration.
  • Set realistic expectations for workloads.
  • Recognize and reward employees for a job well done.

Workplace flexibility.

A ManpowerGroup survey found that nearly 40 percent of global candidates say the ability to structure work in a way that best integrates with their lives is now among the top three factors they consider when making career decisions. To show how your culture values flexibility, make sure to remind employees of the policies that support it, like:

  • The option to work remotely at least part of the time
  • Compressed or four-day workweeks
  • Alternate work hours that align better with family responsibilities or personal productivity
  • Unlimited paid time off
  • Choice and control in work shifts for those who can’t work remotely, including self-scheduling, shift-swapping, part-time work, and job sharing
  • No-meeting Fridays

Caregiver support.

The pandemic highlighted how broken our childcare system is and the need for private employers to step up with additional support so employees—particularly women—can work. In response to growing demand, many employers now offer onsite daycare (if they didn’t already), childcare allowances, backup childcare options, and elder care benefits for those taking care of older family members. Caregiving support can also include paid parental leave for both parents who are welcoming a new child through birth, adoption, or surrogacy.

Storytelling works well to highlight these types of benefits that showcase a culture of caring. In your enrollment materials you might include a few testimonials of employees who are using these benefits to make their caregiving roles easier.

Financial wellness.

PwC’s 2023 Employee Financial Wellness Survey notes that the vast majority of employees want employers to provide financial wellness support that goes beyond simply helping with retirement. Include information on the financial wellness benefits you offer, including:

  • Student loan debt repayment programs
  • Budgeting assistance
  • Help saving for big purchases like buying a home or sending a child to college
  • Identity theft protection
  • Retirement planning
  • Paycheck flexibility, including choosing pay dates and allowing for “earned wage access” that lets employees access their earned pay prior to payday to help with unexpected expenses

Physical activity and nutrition.

Organizations with a culture of well-being know that bursts of physical activity throughout the day actually increase productivity and focus versus detracting from work time. Use the annual enrollment period to highlight why it’s important to take breaks and offer ways employees can incorporate more movement into their days through:

  • Onsite or remote fitness classes
  • Walk-and-talk meetings
  • Onsite health coaching sessions
  • Stepping away for a 20-minute daily walk or aiming for at least 250 steps per hour
  • Periodic wellness challenges

Similarly, make sure to highlight the healthy food options you offer to show alignment with physical well-being. This could include grab-and-go healthy dinners from the cafeteria, meal kit services, healthy cooking classes and webinars.

Family planning and inclusive health care benefits.

Help with family planning remains popular among employees and demonstrates caring not only for the employee, but their family as well. These benefits might include longer family leave times, additional time off for pregnancy loss, and support in areas like fertility treatments, adoption processes, and surrogacy planning. Remember to incorporate LGBTQ+ friendly family planning benefits so that your offerings are equitable across all employees, not just women. Many inclusive workplaces now also offer comprehensive health benefits for trans and transitioning employees.

Annual enrollment’s main goal is to help employees select the benefits that are right for them and their families for the coming year. But, given that you’ll have their attention, it’s also a great time to highlight the additional perks and benefits you offer to help support employees and their families across their whole lives. Making the connection between benefits and your company culture is not only critical to helping employees understand the investment you are making in them, but can also lead to greater engagement and retention in the long-term. For help ensuring that the benefits you offer send the right message around employee well-being, contact us at connect@webmd.net.

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