November 9, 2021
Now that employers know whether their employees will be working remotely or heading back to the office full-time or part-time, they’re adjusting benefit plans with an eye toward attracting and retaining skilled technologists in the year ahead.
As expected, Big Tech will continue to woo top talent with impressive benefits and perks. Companies in other industries plan to upgrade their plans to keep employees happy, as well. Whether you intend to stay put or hit the market after the first of the year, here’s a look at the benefit changes you should anticipate for 2022.
Flexible Work Schedules
If you’re among the nearly 40 percent of job candidates who prize schedule flexibility when making career decisions, take heart. Employers are slowly coming around to the idea that it doesn’t matter when you work, but how productive you are, noted HR consultant Pamela Ellsworth.
“Employers have learned that flexible work schedules can work,” Ellsworth added.
Whether you want to work from home three days a week, or start later and end later each day so you can take your kids to school, or work a compressed week, your employer is more likely to accommodate your request. A flexible work schedule is a growing trend for 2022 (66 percent of companies will offer them, according to one survey), especially given the employee demand for greater work-life balance and less commute time.
While telehealth was borne out of necessity during the pandemic, it now appears that virtual care will be a permanent part of most healthcare plans going forward, explained Julie Stich, VP of Content at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.
“It’s a carryover from the pandemic that seemed to work well for employers and employees for routine care,” Stich added. In most plans, office visits provided via telehealth will be paid at the same rate as in-person visits.
Speaking of telehealth, employers are not only expanding coverage for physical health but metal health, as well. The expanded coverage extends to a broad range of mental and behavioral health and substance use disorders, as well as a variety of treatment options including online providers such as Talkspace, BetterHelp and Care.com.
Feeling stressed or burned out? Next year, an increasing number of employers will offer sick leave or paid time off to accommodate mental health days.
To compete with the generous packages offered by Big Tech, more employers are offering unlimited PTO, which in theory lets employees take as many days off as they want.
However, surveys have shown that “unlimited” is a bit of an exaggeration. In fact, workers with unlimited vacation days often take less time off. “It’s essentially a good-faith model,” Ellsworth conceded. “Meaning time off is not tracked.”
Now you just need to figure out how to take time off without overburdening your teammates or feeling guilty.
Full Employer-Paid Healthcare
Although employers expect health coverage costs to rise about 5 percent in 2022, employers won’t necessarily pass along the premium increases to employees.
In fact, among the largest employers (those with 20,000 or more on the payroll), about a third said they would reduce the share of health premiums shouldered by workers, according to benefits consulting firm Mercer. Companies that really want to get an edge over the competition (and have healthy balance sheets) are picking up the entire tab.
“Having a fully employer-paid health plan is a huge selling point for top talent, which is why it’s on the rise for 2022,” Ellsworth said.
By the way, there are numerous mandatory and optional regulatory changes affecting group healthcare plans/coverages and retirement plans for 2022. You may wish to review them to see if they impact you.
Volunteer Time Off (VTO)
After taking a two-year hiatus, employer-sponsored paid time to perform volunteer work in the community is back on the “front burner,” Stich said. Since typically VTO doesn’t count against sick or vacation time, it’s a chance to get additional time off and support causes you care about.
Pet Health Insurance
Some 69 percent of employers plan to offer pet health insurance in 2022, up 22 percent, according to Willis Towers Watson. It is typically positioned as a voluntary benefit, which are plans and services offered at a discounted group rate paid for by an employee, but some employers are considering subsidizing pet insurance to set themselves apart.
In addition to traditional voluntary benefits such as dental and vision coverage, many employers are offering more non-traditional options such as critical illness, group legal, identity theft protection, student loan benefits, elder care services, foster care assistance and financial wellness benefits.
Educational assistance is another benefit that is rebounding in 2022. Many employers are presenting undergrad or graduate tuition assistance or reimbursement for job-related training courses.
Support for Remote Workers
One in five employers suggested they will “add or enhance well-being initiatives that are targeted specifically to remote workers” in 2022, Mercer said. What can you expect? Most common perks include home delivery of meals or snacks, subsidized ergonomic office furniture or utility bills, or a stipend to help pay for well-being services, activities and childcare.