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10 Most Desired Employee Benefits According to Recent Unum Study

The most desired employee benefits are associated with flexible work options and time away from the workplace. In a national study administered by benefits provider Unum, the majority of workers want paid family leave, including nearly two-thirds of millennials. Unum surveyed 1,227 working adults using an online poll format. The company asked survey participants to choose their top 5 benefits from a list of 15 non-insurance perks.

Here are the top 10 benefits, ranked by popularity.

  1. Paid family leave

Having time off work as a new parent or caregiver is the most popular employee benefit, and it seems that employers are paying attention. The number of employers offering paid parental leave has increased significantly in the last few years, according to the annual benefits survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Paid maternity leave, adoption, foster child and surrogacy leave benefits have all increased since 2016.

  1. Flexible or remote work options

According to the Unum survey, the ability to work from home, at least part-time, is almost as coveted as paid parental leave. Again, employers are listening. According to SHRM, more than two-thirds of organizations offer some sort of telecommuting options.

  1. Professional development

Employees want to learn and grow in their career. Over a third of the Unum survey respondents ranked professional development in their top 5 most-desired employee benefit. Employers know that professional development benefits the company as well by increasing retention, improving productivity and making career planning easier.

  1. Sabbatical leave

Nearly four in ten employees ranked extended time away from work in their top 5 preferred benefits, according to the Unum survey. Millennial workers ranked sabbatical leave even higher, at 42 percent.

According to the SHRM annual benefits survey, only 5 percent of employers offer paid sabbatical leave. Facebook’s Recharge program is one of the most well-known. Facebook allows employees to take 30 days of paid time off every 5 years.

  1. Gym membership or onsite fitness center

Employees want easy, affordable and accessible gym benefits. More than one-third of employees ranked an employer-paid gym membership or access to an on-site fitness center as a highly-preferred benefit.

Exercise programs benefit both the employee and employer. Exercise helps prevent chronic health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and a variety of cancers. It can also help with mental health issues, especially depression, improving an employee’s mood and morale. Healthier employees take fewer sick leave days and are more productive on the job, helping to control health insurance costs.

  1. Student loan repayment program

The cost of student debt is rising, and more employees would like assistance from their employer to help tackle the burden. More than a third of the Unum respondents ranked student debt repayment as a highly-desired benefit. However, that percentage jumps to 55 percent for millennials, who are more likely to still be struggling with student loan debt. According to SHRM, only 4 percent of employers offer some form of assistance or incentive program to repay student loans. Employers that do offer this type of benefit, including Estee Lauder, Pure Insurance and clothing retailer Carhartt say it’s not terribly expensive to fund or administer this type of benefit.

  1. Onsite healthy snacks

Interestingly, more than a quarter of employee respondents cited healthy snacks as a desired perk. Healthy snack options, such as fruit or nuts, at low or no cost to employees can help them curb their hunger with healthy nutrients and maintain a higher energy level. This is so much better for employees than high-sugar, low-nutrient snacks, leading to lower levels of productivity among staff.

  1. Identity theft prevention

Although more than a quarter of employees chose identity theft protection as a preferred employee benefit, only 4 percent of employers currently offer this type of benefit, according to the SHRM study.

  1. Financial planning

According to the Unum survey, more than a quarter of employees would like help with their personal finances in the form of financial planning resources. Financial planning resources can include:

  • Training on debt reduction
  • Asset management
  • Saving for current and future needs
  • Financing a child’s education
  • Preparing for retirement.

About a quarter of employers offer financial or investment advice through a variety of sources, such as online, one-on-one or group counseling sessions, according to SHRM.

  1. Fitness goal incentives

Incentives for achieving fitness goals was listed as a desired benefit by almost one in five of the Unum respondents. These types of incentives typically include a reduction on health insurance premiums for completing certain tasks or programs or a drawing for completing a health assessment or biometric screenings.

Companies that take a strategic employee benefits approach are more likely to report more satisfied employees and better business performance, according to a 2017 Strategic Benefits Study completed by SHRM. Businesses need to think strategically about their employee benefits offerings to stay relevant in today’s competitive market.

Employees are the most valuable asset of a business. Lanier Upshaw understand the importance of employee benefits in recruiting and retaining top talent. Contact us here to learn more about how we can help your company control costs and leverage a competitive employee benefits program.