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Top “lifestyle” employee benefits revealed

Find out the top employee benefits coveted by workers across Ireland, ranging from mental health support to lifestyle perks.

One in two workers would put employee assistance programmes top of the list of mental health employee benefits. Over half of Irish employees (52pc) rank age-related wellbeing services as their top “physical health” employee benefit. One in two (50pc) consider Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) the ultimate mental health employee benefits an employer could offer and 50pc say retail discounts as the most coveted “lifestyle” employee benefit.

These insights stem from a survey* where 1,000 individuals across Ireland were surveyed to determine their top three preferences in physical, mental, and lifestyle employee benefits.

Respondents were tasked with ranking the workplace benefits they deem most important, regardless of whether they are included in their employer’s offerings.

Speaking of the findings, Tom Curran, Head of Employee Wellbeing with Lockton People Solutions,

“The world of work has changed – with dramatic changes in how and where work is done. With near full employment, and ever evolving employee needs, preferences, and lifestyle choices, salary is no longer a key differentiator in attracting talent. Typically, companies spend anywhere from 8pc to 16pc of their payroll costs on benefits, but is this creating true value-add? Is it resonating with the workforce by creating a compelling value proposition, communicated effectively, that reflects their needs and preferences, across all demographics at differing work and life stages?

This research gives some really good insight into what matters to workers, and how age and gender impact people’s priorities when it comes to workplace benefits.

For example, when it comes to lifestyle benefits, the top three chosen by those in the 18-24 age group differ significantly from those aged 55+, while just 8pc of the younger group would put ‘access to an independent financial advisor’ in their top three, 43pc of the over 55s said they would.

This could also indicate an education gap in that the younger cohort may not be aware of the benefits a financial advisor can deliver; they might switch off at the mention of the word ‘pension’ but if told the advice could help with how to purchase their first car, you might get a different reaction.

The differences are not just at both ends of the age spectrum – for example, just 21pc in the 25-34 age category would prioritise access to counselling services when it comes to mental health benefits, but this rises significantly to 37pc of those aged 34-45.

Gender also has a role to play as evidenced by the fact that while 31pc of men said they would put bereavement and trauma counselling in their top three workplace benefits – almost half of all the female respondents (48pc) said they would do the same”.

 Physical Health

The top five physical health benefits ranked by employees include:

Top Physical Health Benefits Results:
1. Age-related physical wellbeing services 52%
2. Cancer support 44%
3. Chronic disease management 40%
4. Nutrition 32%
5. Wellbeing supports for physically disabled employees 21%

“It’s striking that the majority of respondents value age-related wellbeing services as their preferred workplace physical health benefit. These initiatives, designed to address the health needs associated with ageing, may include health screenings, fitness programs, nutritional counselling, and stress management programs—all aimed at supporting the wellbeing of employees as they age. Given the growing life expectancy of the population, these support services play a vital role in the continued health and wellness of employees.

Cancer support follows closely as the second most valued physical health benefit, with over two-fifths of respondents expressing its importance. Chronic disease management also secures a noteworthy position, with four in ten respondents ranking it among their top physical health benefits. This underscores the growing importance of support and resources for individuals in the workplace affected by serious health concerns, reinforcing the need for robust workplace support structures”.

 

Mental Health

Employees rank the top five mental health benefits as follows:

Top Mental Health Benefits Results:
1. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) 50%
2. Mental wellbeing and resilience workshops 42%
3. Mental wellbeing and finance supports 40%
4. Bereavement and trauma support 39%
5. Mental health benefits for family 32%

Mr Curran commented,

“Employee Assistance Programs were implemented by many businesses throughout Covid and stand out as the top-ranked mental health perk among employees. EAPs support employees in dealing with personal and professional challenges that may impact their well-being and performance. While specific offerings vary between employers, they can encompass counselling services, referrals to mental health professionals, assistance with stress management, financial counselling, and work-life support. Some EAPs extend these benefits to partners and family members, making them a highly sought-after workplace benefit. When you consider the costs of paying for each of these supports out of your own pocket, the monetary value is enormous. However, EAP is only a short-term counselling solution, and in some cases may need to be aligned with longer-term or more specialist services.

Utilisation of EAP services are traditionally very low at around 3pc, so any investment in such a programme should be weighed against alternate ways of delivering mental health supports, in ways that meet the requirements of an organisation’s workforce. This should ideally include both preventative care and reactive care pathways.

The growing popularity of mental wellbeing and resilience workshops highlights that employees want to take a proactive approach to building mental resilience and developing coping strategies. Likewise, the preference for mental wellbeing and finance supports, favoured by four in ten, reflects an awareness of the close link between mental and financial wellbeing. Therefore, employers who want to attract and retain top-tier talent must look at their employee offerings through a holistic lens to address the multiple-faceted aspects of employees’ lives”.

 

Lifestyle

Employees have identified the following as the top five lifestyle health benefits:

Top Lifestyle Benefits Results:
1. Retail discounts 50%
2. Financial education supports 40%
3. Access to financial advisor 36%
4. Gym/ club memberships 34%
5. Spending cards 32%

Mr Curran added,

“Retail discounts provide employees with the opportunity to purchase goods and services at a discounted price from the company they work for or from partnerships with external retailers. It allows employees to benefit from cost savings on their purchases, boosting their overall compensation package and demonstrating an employer’s value and appreciation of their staff.

Financial wellbeing supports such as access to financial education programs are on the rise, as evidenced by these survey results. Research also shows that concerns over personal finances are a primary driver of mental health issues. Employees are increasingly seeking meaningful benefits that enhance their understanding of personal finance matters and provide tailored advice and guidance to employees’ individual financial goals and challenges”.

Mr Curran concluded: “A well-designed, clearly communicated, and effectively implemented benefits and wellbeing programme will lead to tangible ROI and value-add. The business case is compelling, with positive impacts on staff retention, productivity, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, lower sickness rates, faster return to work rates from illness, improved health and safety metrics (lowered risk register ratings, fewer claims), and alignment with DEI & ESG objectives.

Employers should periodically survey their employee population to stay abreast of needs, preferences, and attitudes towards benefit options. Establishing solid lines of communication, liaising with employee resource groups, and securing executive sponsorship will ensure that employees feel heard and respected. Ultimately, an employee who feels valued and supported is an employee who performs better at work and is happier in life”.

*Lockton People Solutions Employee Benefits Survey[1],

Footnotes: [1] Conducted by iReach

 

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