Each year, HR leaders are tasked with curating a benefits package that keeps costs in check while also creating a work environment that both keeps employees happy and stands out from competitors. Benefits can be extremely costly, and there is always a concern from organizational leaders that the amount of money spent on adding additional perks will outweigh any return on their investment. One of the biggest worries is that a new benefit will be rolled out and only a small percentage of employees actually utilize it *cough* gym memberships *cough*. On the flip side, the rights benefits package can improve employees job satisfaction and productivity, reduce turnover, and give an employer a competitive edge when it comes to recruitment. It’s no surprise that leading companies like Google and Facebook have no problem filling open positions with top candidates, with modern workplaces looking increasingly like amusement parks.

While most employers don’t have the resources of Silicon Valley conglomerates, there are still many benefits that can be included in your 2020 perk package that keep employees happy without causing too much stress on your bottom line.

Here are the top 5 most in-demand employee benefits of 2020:

  1. Financial Wellness

Few benefits have seen their demand increase over the past ten years as those related to financial wellness. While there is no exact definition, most of these programs are aimed at helping employees, especially those under 40, better manage their money. This can include budgeting, debt counseling, retirement planning, investing, home buying or refinancing support, and help understanding how to maximize their existing employee benefits such as 401(k)’s. It can be difficult for employers to know exactly what to look for with these types of benefits, so make sure you do your research first by looking at reviews. Because a majority of Americans report being stressed about their money, nearly 8 in 10 to be exact, and nearly half of millennial workers are living paycheck to paycheck, financial wellness benefits are one of the most cost-effective ways to improve employee happiness while also making a real difference in their wellbeing. You can check out a list of the top financial wellness programs available here.

2. Flex Hours or Remote Work Options

One of the most requested perks from employees, especially millennials, is the ability to have a flexible work schedule. This can mean either the ability to have non-traditional work hours, allowing them to come in early or late to avoid rush hour and/or sleep in, or the ability to work from home. Providing employees with more autonomy in creating their work schedules not only has a dramatic impact on job satisfaction as workers feel more empowered, but also many studies, including this one from Stanford, have shown flex schedules to actually improve productivity. In fact, Microsoft has been experimenting with rolling out a new 4 day workweek schedule for employees in Japan, and found that productivity increased a whopping 40%! In addition, not only does rolling out flex schedules increase employee happiness and productivity, but it also doesn’t cost employers anything. In summary, every company that wants to be competitive moving forward needs to explore providing employees with more autonomy in setting their own schedule.

3. Paid Maternity/Paternity Leave

When it comes to standard practices for allowing new mothers and fathers to take paid leave, America is far behind the rest of the world. In fact, this study from Pew Research found that of 41 countries, America ranked last in government-mandated leave for new parents. When you consider the fact that the share of moms who are working either full or part time in the United States has increased over the past half-century from 51% to 72%, and almost half of two-parent families now include two full-time working parents, it’s not hard to understand why paid maternity and paternity leave is one of the most in-demand perks in 2020. While providing additional paid leave can be costly for employers, the benefits far outweigh the costs when you consider the boost in recruitment that implementing a plan to support new mothers and fathers, especially when you consider the fact that millennials already make up roughly half of the overall American workforce in 2020, and a many of the workers of this generation are entering the family planning phases of their lives.

4. Student Loan Assistance

Along with financial wellness, having companies assist employees with their student loans is an increasingly demanded benefit from young workers. When you consider the skyrocketing costs of higher education in America, coupled with the fact that the average American now leaves school with roughly $30,000 in student loans, it’s not hard to see why. There are multiple options for how employers choose to roll these programs out, some opt to cover a portion of student loan payments, some provide a lump upfront sum as a signing bonus, while many are partnering with third-party organizations to allow workers to refinance at lower rates. In addition, many companies offer “lifetime learner” credits, allowing employees to pursue graduate courses and be reimbursed for a portion or all of the costs. Particularly for recruiting and keeping younger employees happy, providing assistance with student loans has become a very popular tool. These programs are especially effective when combined with financial wellness benefits to provide a holistic solution to employee financial stress.

5. Unlimited Paid Time Off

If there’s one thing that workers under the age of 40 love, it’s travel. In 2019, the average millennial (ages 21 to 37) plans on taking roughly five trips throughout the year, three of which are expected to be international, according to AARP's 2019 Travel Trends report. That's more international trips than Gen X (ages 38 to 53) and more overall trips than Baby Boomers (ages 54 to 72). However, with the standard American practice for paid time off being between two to three weeks, Americans often feel tied down by their jobs, unable to fulfill their desire to travel the globe. Especially when you compare America to countries like Australia or Germany where workers enjoy five weeks of vacation time or more, it makes sense for the growing desire to increase available vacation time. Leading employers like Facebook have taken note: employees at most of Facebook’s U.S. locations get 21 vacation days, 11 company holidays and “sick days when you need them.” Another policy of increasing popularity is “unlimited PTO.” While for many employers this may seem unreasonable, studies have shown that the employees of companies with these policies actually often take less time off than those with predetermined policies. As long as workers feel comfortable taking three to five weeks, providing unlimited time-off can be an effective way to increase interest from potential new hires without dramatically hurting productivity.

Summary:

Employee benefits have become of increasing importance for workers who have multiple options on who to work for in an increasingly competitive hiring market. While HR leaders need to be conscious of the costs of various benefits compared to potential benefits, the 5 most in-demand employee benefits above are a sure way to improve job satisfaction and productivity, while limiting the impact on your company’s bottom line!

The following perks finished just outside the top 5:

  • Free Food & Beverages
  • Mental and Physical Wellness
  • Pet-Friendly Workplaces
  • Transportation Reimbursement
  • Shopping Discounts