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Gallagher’s 2022 Trends Report Emphasizes the Importance of Well-Being in the Workplace

Quick Look: Employees are struggling as they try to balance increased wellness needs with affordability, which means employers are searching for answers on how to make healthcare accessible to retain and recruit top-notch talent. One promising area brokers are shedding light on during open enrollment is voluntary benefit solutions. These offer SMBs a way to maintain wellness in the workplace as they manage expectations regarding healthcare benefits.

Prior to 2020, employee focus on mental health services and support was barely a blip on the radar, especially compared to the demand for these types of services today. While some organizations have begun to view mental well-being as important as physical wellness, nearly 50% of employers are still without a mental health benefits plan. Additionally, employee assistance programs remain largely underutilized with the national average falling below 6%.

However, these numbers don’t accurately reflect the fact an estimated 46% of U.S. workers reportedly struggle with mental health. They’re looking to companies to create accessible, affordable, and inclusive healthcare benefits. Meanwhile, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) struggle with balancing operational costs with providing employees what they need.

It’s a common challenge rippling throughout the industry, and Gallagher’s 2022 Workforce Trends Report reflects how businesses are handling these discrepancies and ways brokers can help position them as competitive (and empathetic) post-pandemic.

Making well-being more affordable

An overarching goal of SMBs is reducing employees’ out-of-pocket expenses while keeping benefit costs at bay. Where employers often go wrong is by applying a universal solution to personalized conditions. Without receiving buy-in from employees, benefits often go unused and return on investment begins to decline. To mitigate costs and maintain competitiveness, here are a few key reward strategies to consider.

Voluntary benefits

Not all benefits provide equal value for employees. They’re dependent on individualized needs and may change throughout different life stages. This evolution makes adding voluntary benefit solutions to a comprehensive healthcare plan a smart approach to satisfy a greater number of employees.

In 2022, 1 in 4 employers enhanced their voluntary benefits. These can include everything from mental health services to financial education. The goal is to support a wide range of interests within the workplace while avoiding exorbitant costs and additional administrative responsibilities. Brokers can research voluntary benefit solutions as part of an SMB’s healthcare plan options and negotiate group rates to make it more affordable for everyone.

Enhanced medical benefits

Retention continues to be a buzzworthy topic for SMBs as the workforce remains highly competitive and employees expect more from companies than ever before. In addition to voluntary benefit solutions, Gallagher reports 78% of companies are increasing base salaries to support recruitment and retention strategies, while enhanced medical benefits are also on the upswing.

Currently, 98% of employers offer medical benefits, though only 42% extend these to domestic partners. Expanding affordable healthcare plans to be family-inclusive can serve as a competitive edge for SMBs. Brokers may be able to present different scenarios to illustrate how expanding benefits in this way could actually save money in terms of employee retention.

HR technology integration

Part of making well-being affordable is ensuring money is being well spent. There’s been a widespread call for employer and employee benefits education and ways to monitor usage. HR technology integration has been a game-changer in elevating the experience for SMBs, and 71% expect to expand and/or replace their HR technologies by 2024 to showcase their full suite of benefits.

To implement HR technology and determine which benefits provide the most value, brokers can connect their SMB clients with a professional employer organization (PEO). A PEO can evaluate affordable programs which better address people’s changing needs and call attention to unused benefits which may no longer be applicable.

Absence management benefits

As a result of the pandemic, companies are changing their policies regarding sick pay, family leave, and disability. In addition to employees wanting personal time off, the prevalence of COVID-19, as well as seasonal flu, leaves employees without enough time to recover and/or take care of family members who have fallen ill. Nearly 63% of companies are developing a strategy for administering leaves and absences or expect to have one in place by 2024.

However, SMBs must administer plans flexible enough to withstand the changing workforce while also maintaining government regulations. Over half of employers are concerned about compliance with regard to absence management benefits, and 41% are concerned about the effect on productivity. Brokers who extend their network to a PEO like ExtensisHR offer their clients the expertise and experience to navigate these waters and ensure compliance is met.

Normalizing mental wellness

In addition to specific initiatives, it’s important for companies to formally address and normalize mental wellness. Burnout is becoming all too common and is taking a physical toll. The American Psychological Association reports 79% of U.S. employees are suffering from burnout which, in turn, affects their physical health through cognitive weariness (36%) and physical fatigue (44%). Additionally, at least 26% report a lack of interest or motivation in work, and 19% report a lack of effort at work, making the trend of “quiet quitting” pick up steam. All of which could possibly be prevented with adequate mental health support.

Issuing flexible work schedules, remote work opportunities, and company days dedicated to mental wellness are all ways companies can show up and support their workforce in ways affordable to a company. What may have been viewed previously as nice-to-haves has evolved into need-to-haves if SMBs want to stay competitive and continue to retain talent.

A PEO helps brokers prepare for what’s next

The workforce has wildly shifted over the past few years and employees have been vocal about their demands in terms of physical and mental health support. The open enrollment season is an ideal time to reevaluate and discuss healthcare benefits as it pertains to a bigger retention strategy. Leaving affordability and accessibility problems unresolved limits an SMB’s ability to stand out among competitors.

Everyone wants added value including SMBs. Brokers can give their clients access to a comprehensive list of HR services and solutions to drive growth by extending their network to include a PEO. Additionally, by staying up-to-date with industry trends and employee needs, they can better maintain affordable costs without compromising value. Contact the experts at ExtensisHR today.

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