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Companies that want to attract and retain employees are pumping up their benefits offerings, but as new generations of employees enter the workforce and as current employees’ needs change, the benefits that were once popular can become less so, as employees demand new perks.  

In their 2018 Employee Benefits report, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) found that more than 72% of organizations increased their benefits offerings to retain employees in the last 12 months and 58% increased benefits to attract new talent.

The annual survey has tracked benefits over the last five years to see which ones were most desired over time and found that of organizations that increased their benefits, 44% invested more into their wellness benefits. However, to make that investment pay off, companies must anticipate employees’ needs and offer benefits that address specific pain points. Companies must also recognize that those pain points can change over time, so a benefits program needs be flexible so it can change as well. Below are some of the wellness benefits that saw the most change in adoption from employers.


Wellness Benefit Winners

Onsite Stress Management Programs
In 2014, 3% of companies offered this, but in 2018, 12% of companies made this a priority. As more companies focus on mental health and as more employees look to their employers to help tackle stress, companies are increasingly offering this benefit.
Onsite Massage Therapy Services
With 6% of companies offering this service in 2014 but 10% in 2018, employees are seeing the advantage of having a physical way to relieve tension during the work day. This is also an attractive benefit for recruitment and retention.
CPR/First Aid Training
This has been a strong offering, with 45% of companies offering the training in 2014 and 54% providing it in 2018. Perhaps with an aging workforce, more employees value being prepared with emergency training for a medical crisis.
Onsite Fitness Centers
Exercise is easier to do when it is convenient and having a gym on the premises takes away at least one excuse. Twenty percent of companies offered an onsite fitness center in 2014, and in 2018, the percent increased to 25%.
Offsite Fitness Class Subsidy Reimbursement
Employees also want to exercise on their own time, maybe by taking a CrossFit class here or a Barre class there, but they don’t want to be committed to a long-term fitness membership (percentages for that benefit decreased). Offsite fitness class subsidies increased four percentage points in five years, from 12% in 2014 to 16% in 2018.
Standing Desks

With the knowledge that sitting is the new smoking, standing desks have become very popular. Back in 2014, 20% of companies used them. In 2018, 53% of companies used them, indicating a recognition by both employees and companies about the benefits of not sitting, even in an office setting.


Wellness Benefit Losers

Onsite Health Screening Programs
Programs for capturing clinical measures, such as high glucose or high cholesterol, dropped in popularity, from 47% of companies offering them in 2014 to 30% offering them in 2018. With evidence saying that biometric screenings are ineffective, employers are realizing that these expensive screenings are not worth the investment.
Health Fairs
Intended to provide information and motivation to office employees, health fairs decreased eight percentage points, from 38% to 30%, after reaching a peak of 40% in 2015. Health fairs can be expensive and can’t reach remote workers. Given that, companies may be realizing that their funds may have more impact elsewhere.
Preventive Programs Specifically Targeting Employees With Chronic Health Conditions
In 2013, 42% of companies offered this benefit, but in 2018, that percentage was down to 25%. With multiple generations of employees, this program may have been too narrowly defined to create a significant following.
Although some of the specific wellness programs have changed over time, the percentage of companies offering wellness programs in general remained mostly the same, at 62%. Onsite flu vaccines, smoking cessation programs, and wellness resources and information also remained strong.
Employees’ preference for specific benefits will change over time as their circumstances and needs change. This study indicates the importance of being flexible with the types of benefits that are offered and keeping a pulse on employees’ needs, ensuring that company benefits offerings remain relevant.

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