Workers have experienced a fundamental shift in where, how and when work gets done over the past decade. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated many companies’ moves toward a remote and digital working environment. Organizations have been forced to contend with previously unimaginable challenges and continually rethink what a “return to normal” could look like. In 2021, after a year like no other, business leaders have made a point to take care of their biggest asset: their people. By offering lifestyle benefits, employers can support their employees as their needs change, all year long.
Since February 2020, 33% of middle-income adults and 47% of lower-income adults have had to dip into savings or retirement accounts to pay their bills. According to a 2021 PwC survey, 63% of employees said that their financial stress has increased since the start of the pandemic. And a 2019 Mind survey found that 53% of employees have struggled with poor mental health in their current job. Such financial and emotional wellbeing is top of mind for employers because suffering employees are more likely to be disengaged and less productive at work.
Lifestyle benefits, therefore, are critical because they supplement discretionary income and can have a meaningful impact on employees’ day-to-day lives by alleviating financial and emotional stress. (see “Push Mental Health to the Top of the Agenda” below). And most lifestyle benefits can be made available to employees year-round, as employee needs change.
Graphic edit: The 2020 Aon Health survey reports mental health and financial stress were ranked in the top 5 biggest employee wellbeing issues
Four Lifestyle Benefits Your Company Can Offer
Four lifestyle benefits that can provide immediate, meaningful impact for employees and help address common, or new, areas of stress:
Auto and homeowners insurance. Almost all employees need or already have auto and homeowner’s insurance. But insurers are seeing huge increases in search traffic volume, as people are more likely to shop for the best rate when money is tight. With work-from-home policies allowing buyers to have more flexibility to choose where they’ll live, employers can offer home and auto insurance together as part of their benefits package and make it part of their typical enrollment process, so that employees can avoid extra paperwork and the headache of researching and comparing plans on their own
Pet insurance. Increasingly, companies are recognizing that promoting good health for their employees’ families includes providing for their pets. Employees who own pets may be more focused and less stressed knowing that their pets can receive top-notch, affordable care in case of an emergency. In fact, pet owners spent almost $19 billion on veterinary care last year. Research has shown that owning a pet can reduce stress, and offering pet insurance can make the decision to purchase or adopt a pet easier knowing that their needs can be easily manage.
Purchasing power program. U.S households carrying credit card debt will pay an average of $1,155 in interest charges alone this year. Employers can help reduce the use of high-interest credit cards by offering a purchasing power program that allows employees to pay for big-ticket items, such as refrigerators or TVs, over time. Having more fiscally responsible buying options can mean less employee financial stress and increased productivity over the long term..
Student loan assistance program. One in four employees has student loan debt, and one of the most common employee requests of their employers is to help pay it off. Employers can make direct contributions to employees’ student loan debts and educate them on the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, potentially reducing debt significantly. These programs promote employee retention and can be a selling point for new talent..
Changing Employee Needs
How to Select and Manage Lifestyle Benefits
Picking and choosing lifestyle benefits can be time-consuming because many of these products are offered individually. That makes it difficult to compare prices to find the best deal while meeting employee needs. To streamline the process, companies such as Aon are bundling lifestyle benefits with their traditional insurance offerings, making it more cost-effective for employers. These packages can help organizations get a preferred rate on products, offer discounts to employees and reduce the number of carrier contacts. Thus, companies can move quickly to offer employees these critical lifestyle benefits amid a time of increased stress.
As employers increase the number of lifestyle benefits they offer, managing them effectively can become difficult. In addition to bundling benefits, brokers can offer administrative solutions to help manage enrollment and provide a seamless year-round billing solution. Such a platform can also make it more convenient for employees to access their personal lifestyle protection benefits — potentially improving participation rates.
Employers don’t need to wait until the next open enrollment period to implement lifestyle benefits — these offerings can be rolled out quickly and efficiently any time of year. Companies ready to begin can work with partners such as Aon to find the right providers and the right plans to help employees stay healthy, happy and engaged.
 “2021 Employee Financial Wellness Survey,” PwC
 “The Most Desirable Employee Benefits,” Harvard Business Review
 “2020 Health Survey,” Aon
 “US insurance market trends during the pandemic,” McKinsey & Company
 “U.S. Veterinary Care Is A Nearly $19 Billion Market,” Today’s Veterinary Business
 “Can Your Pet Help You Be Healthier,” Heart
 “2020 American Credit Card Debt Study,” NerdWallet
 “2019 Health and Financial Wellbeing Mindset Study,” Alight