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Over the last year, wellness programs have become more and more important to workers. Today, a company isn’t just an opportunity for a paycheck and some professional growth, but a central player in supporting a holistically-minded lifestyle.

Editors at Employee Benefits News looked at some of the top trending benefits employees coveted in 2019. Overwhelmingly, employees are most thankful for the benefits that help them lead happier and healthier lives.

Wellness programs, especially those focused on financial well-being, were the most-appreciated benefits. While health insurance and retirement planning are traditional benefits, workers are seeking more multi-dimensional support in health and finances. 

When it comes to wellness programs, workers value wide-ranging benefits that go beyond physical care—including mental, emotional, and social support. In fact, many employees rank mental health as a priority over physical health. For financial wellness, employers today deal with more workers that live paycheck-to-paycheck or struggle with debt. As a result, companies are offering programs with more comprehensive guidance, including legal support, savings tools, and personalized resources. It’s mutually beneficial, as 60% of employees report improved productivity when their employer supports their financial wellness.

Below is a sample of wellness offerings from this year’s list of most-valued benefits.        

Student Loan Repayment

A key component to financial wellness involves managing debt. For younger generations, student loans are an enormous burden that affect stress levels and overall quality of life. Currently, the Society for Human Resource Management reports that 8% of companies offer this benefit; but, importantly, that number has doubled in this past year. It's a rising star when it comes to attracting workers.


Paid Parental Leave

Supporting an employee, from a worker’s perspective, is often synonymous with supporting their family as a whole. Parental leave can have drastically positive effects on an employee’s emotional, mental, and financial health—not to mention real value for the health and development of a new baby. Lowered stress levels and family support have a profound impact on how well a worker performs. While just 27% of employers offer this, increasing demand for these programs seems to be inspiring companies to step in.  In certain states, such as Massachusetts, new laws are requiring minimum amounts of paid family and medical leave.  For companies to differentiate themselves in these areas, they will need to go above and beyond regulatory minimums.


Caregiving Benefits

Taking care of elderly parents or sick dependents can be an emotionally-draining task. When someone is focusing on the well-being of someone else, they frequently ignore their own health and can develop anxiety. Since millions of Americans are currently caregivers, this can have dramatic consequences on performance and productivity.


Mental Health Benefits

As the stigma around mental illness lowers, more people are willing to seek treatment and support for their mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, and mental health problems create disengagement in workers. That disengagement is estimated to cost the U.S. economy between $483 and $605 billion each year. Plus, offering these benefits creates a more welcoming, caring, and optimistic work environment. To stay competitive, employers won’t want to miss out on this highly valuable investment—83% of companies currently offer this support.


Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

While HSAs immediately impact workers’ personal finances, they also encourage them to maintain better overall health. Employees that don’t have extra cash set aside are at risk to ignore medical problems if they think they can’t afford them. Instead of putting off a problem that may worsen over time, workers can seek healthcare when they really need it, potentially saving time and money in the long-term. Like mental health support, this is another popular benefit and one that employees expect, with over half of companies offering tax-advantaged accounts.  As a reminder, HSAs are only available with high deductible health plans (HDHPs).  If a company does not offer an HDHP, they can look to support health savings via flexible spending accounts (FSAs).


Unlimited PTO

This extremely attractive benefit has risen in popularity by over 178% since 2015. That popularity doesn't appear to be slowing down; it’s the top-requested benefit for 72% of employees. Unlimited vacation also reflects a growing trend to offer personalized benefits that fit each worker, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. Vacations provide critical time for mental recharging, physical relaxation, and stress reduction. As a result, they promote better focus and engagement upon return to work.

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