Surprising changes to benefits packages due to Covid pandemic

Employers are experimenting with the type of benefits on offer post-pandemic, moving away from focusing only on flexible working or mental health.

New research by Easy Offices found employers are mostly introducing some form of experiential benefit for the first time – with three of the top five benefits introduced since March 2020 being physical fitness programmes (the top-ranked increased benefit; showing a 22% rise in firms offering it).

Running company events and Christmas parties saw rises of 19% respectively.

Benefit packages have increased since the start of the pandemic, with a 15% rise in the number of companies offering the top five most commonly offered perks (bereavement leave; parties; career development; EAPs and free drinks).

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John Williams, CMO The Instant Group, said the results are symbolic of employers trying to use their benefits package to really focus on what employees want.

Speaking to HR magazine he said: “I believe many businesses saw that after Covid, more had to be done to support staff.

“Better employee benefits are a must for greater worker wellbeing and happiness. The data we gathered reflects a positive change in workplaces that will hopefully only increase from here.”

Williams added: “What’s also very encouraging to see from our study is that employers are now taking greater steps to support their workers, with better mental health employee benefits especially.”

Evidence of this is supported by wellbeing benefits also shown to be on the rise.

Easy Offices found 76% of firms now offer EAPs, while 48% offer financial support for those feeling isolated.

One of the other big findings was how employers intend to spend their benefits budgets in the months ahead.

To tackle the cost of living, 30% of respondents said they planned to increase their spend on financial benefits, while 27% plan to increase their spend on health and wellbeing benefits.

Interestingly though, the top benefit employers intend to spend more on is career development (44%) – suggesting retention is also a clear aim.

When it came to what employees themselves thought, the results showed that they too value provision of wellbeing benefits.

Virtual mental health counselling was ranked as the top wellbeing benefit by employees; followed by insurance to reduce the cost of mental health treatment; tools to help build mindfulness and resilience; virtual support groups and training on how to help others with mental health problems (32%).

Further evidence that companies are tackling the cost of living crisis was revealed by the fact 69% of companies polled now pay a living wage while 53% offer vouchers.

Meanwhile 62% have an employee pension scheme that pays at least 6%. Interestingly, 47% of firms now offer financial scam education too.

Unfortunately, the survey also revealed that it is large companies that tend to offer financial benefits more frequently than SMEs. Whereas just 44% of SMEs offer a pension scheme with a 6% contribution, 77% of larger organisations provide this benefit.