Companies ignore them at their peril – job perks are increasingly a top priority for top young talent choosing where to work. 9 in 10 young graduates state that employee benefits play a key role in attracting them to a company.

Data from a recent study reveals that the UK’s company benefit schemes are ignoring younger employees, with just 16% of UK employees under 25 (Gen Z) feeling that their current benefits package is suitable for them. This figure increases to 24% of young professionals (ages 25-34). 

It was found that benefits packages are predominantly designed for employees aged between 45 and 54. Over one in three in this age bracket are happy that their employee benefit scheme fits their lifestyle.

The study, conducted by the UK’s leading wet wipe brand, Wet Ones as part of the ‘2021 Employee Benefits, Health and Wellbeing Survey’, asked employees at 133 workplaces across the UK how their health and wellbeing needs and habits have changed, and whether updated benefits packages from their employers would help to support their wellbeing.

The ‘wants’ of Gen Z employees, who feel least served by benefits packages, are found to be developing with shifting societal priorities faster than other age groups –

  • 30% of under-25s in the UK want to see travel vaccinations included in their benefits packages, helping them to embrace their pent-up wanderlust as overseas travel returns
  • 25% wanted additional ‘health days’ holiday packages to support mental health
  • 21% asked for greater flexibility on working hours, hoping that Covid-enforced changes would lead to a working hours revolution

Many employee benefits schemes remain unchanged after the global shift in working practices to home working and, currently, towards a more flexible hybrid system. This has led to many company perks being unused and failing to encourage employee health, wellbeing, and productivity – over four in every five UK employees state that their company’s employee benefits scheme no longer fits their lifestyle.

When UK employees were asked what they now prioritised from their companies’ benefits packages, the findings were:

  • 70% call for greater flexibility on working hours from their employer
  • 61% of employees ask for private healthcare, dental and allowance for health maintenance (like glasses, correct desk equipment, physio etc)
  • 53% would like their employer to support them with additional ‘health day’ allowance for personal wellbeing

SMEs adapt quicker than large companies

The study has uncovered significant variation between different sized companies in how active employees have been since shifting to home working.

Large companies (1,000+ employees) have been found to be slower in promoting life balance and physical activity since working from home. Employees from large companies were nearly five times less likely to be physically active when working from home compared to employees from SMEs.

This suggests that larger companies must step up to provide more support, such as by helping manage workloads or by adapting health incentives. 

How can companies better align to employee lifestyles?

In order to offer the most effective support for enhancing employee wellbeing, it is essential that companies are aware of how their employees’ lifestyles have permanently shifted. 

A shift in exercise habits

Rather than ‘binge exercising’ at weekends, the UK workforce has been able to practise regular exercise throughout the working week – 84% state that they are more physically active since working from home.

  • The UK has become a nation of walkers – nearly three in five (56% of) employees now walk more during the working week instead of exclusively on weekends.
  • Two in five (39%) feel they have had an improved diet since working from home, with more ditching takeaways and pre-packaged food to cook healthy home cooked meals.
  • 25% of UK employees are participating in more wellness activities such as gardening and engaging with nature.

Changing exercise routines mean that companies should look to provide more flexible funding of equipment, instead of just offering a standard gym membership. Also, an increased focus on healthy diets could signal the value in fruit and vegetable box deliveries rather than a monthly takeaway. To ensure both physical and mental health support is provided, benefits packages should be adapted to include mental wellness activities.

Gurinder Sagoo, HR Director for North Europe and Oceania, Wet Ones says:

“We’re aware of the importance of ensuring people have the support and resources they need to lead both active and healthy lifestyles. The findings from this study show that an urgency to adapt employee wellbeing packages has emerged during the last year. Significantly, they also demonstrate how essential it is for benefits packages to cater for everyone in the workplace, by taking into account each individual’s age, lifestyle and personal circumstances. An inclusive benefits package contributes to the whole team feeling supported in pursuing a healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally. Therefore, it is crucial that companies digest these findings and take action to improve how they nurture employee wellbeing.”

Kris Ambler, Workforce Lead at the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), says:

“Lockdown loneliness and digital fatigue are among the phrases that have entered our lexicon and many employees are contending with bereavement and grief, redundancy, restructuring and job insecurity. This means that employee benefit programmes will need to be more personalised; managers will have to be more intuitive when assessing the mental wellbeing of remote workers; and financial wellbeing support will need to play a larger role within the employee benefits and occupational health mix.

 Investing in employee benefit schemes makes good economic sense and demonstrates a genuine commitment to an employer’s duty of care to their staff. Support services, including counselling, can help to identify and address problems early, they can alleviate the psychological impact of negative work situations and keep employees working effectively and productively.”

Dawn Morris, HR Adviser at Cluer HR, says:

“The right workplace support can have a hugely positive impact on employee wellbeing and mental health and is fundamental to every employer’s reward and benefits programme, to show understanding and appreciation of current and future employees, to build an engaged, supported and productive workforce. Having the right benefits package can also attract new talent to the business.”

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.