Buck Bond Group
A benefits wish list for employees? Yes!

A benefits wish list for employees? Yes!

by Tags:

Ever thought of granting your employees a “wish list” of what they need beyond typical perks and benefits?

They’ve been hit hard by the pandemic, and now face more assaults against their mental health and wellbeing from inflation and a looming recession. Under these stresses some have taken a harder look at what they expect from an employer—better pay, yes, but even more so the level of flexibility in the supports and benefits the company provides. And they know far better than their employer what they need to thrive in their work.

True, most companies have programs in place to boost physical, financial, and emotional wellbeing for their workforce. Yet many of these programs go unused; they just don’t match what the individual employee needs at the moment.

So, can you really give employees what they want? Surprisingly, yes. There is a creative answer that puts employees in the driver’s seat when it comes to a benefit they can use for their unique needs.

A different way of looking at workforce needs

Lifestyle spending accounts (LSAs) are a flexible solution that offers employees a “subsidy” to meet covered expenses—expenses that the employer can tie to specific problems within the workforce. The LSA usually includes services linked to the organization’s wellness program strategy.

Some examples include fitness, social memberships, emergency savings, and stress management services. Covered expenses can range through home internet service, food delivery service, tutoring costs for children, summer camp costs, new appliances, new tires and car repair services, and so on. (Medical expenses are typically excluded from the LSA, to avoid health plan laws.)

Day-to-day worry about these expenses clearly affects both the attitude and the productivity of people at work. A well-structured LSA that tackles these concerns goes a long way to restoring workplace wellness and retaining valued employees.

After-tax benefit, communication

An employer can choose the activities, products and services the company wants to cover by the LSA along with a subsidy amount. Participants choose when and for what to use the subsidy, normally by incurring the expense and submitting a request for reimbursement (although some plans use a “debit card” approach). LSA reimbursements are taxed as ordinary income and included on the participant’s W-2.

To get the most from the program, employers need to get the word out clearly and simply through its available channels—print, web portal, and so on—to give employees the details they need to take advantage of the LSA. And it’s not necessary to wait for open enrollment: by rolling it out separately from other benefits, companies can get better exposure for the LSA.

Personal relevance equals higher retention

The key is to address the HR and benefits problems and needs facing the specific workforce. This requires some research to get a deep understanding of what employees value and what the LSA should cover.

In the face of the “great resignation” employers who show a strong commitment to the wellbeing of their employees are seen in a more positive light. LSAs let employers get creative, offering a benefit that people value because it is personally relevant to them. And that encourages them to stay.