It’s that time of the year, when we all reflect on the past twelve months and the events that have shaped it. The time when the internet is full of predictions on what trends and technology will emerge and grow in the following year.

But this year’s a little different, because 2021 was not your average 365 calendar days. Thanks to the Great Resignation, ever-rising healthcare costs, and continued concerns about COVID-19, the pressure is on to provide employees with more support and resources than ever. So as 2021 draws to a close, let’s take a look at what we’ve learned this year, and identify what the biggest employee benefits trends and predictions will be in the coming year. 

1. COVID-19 vaccination policies

First, let’s address the elephant in the room — COVID vaccinations. This issue has become hyper-charged and highly politicized in recent months as nationwide vaccine mandates continue to roll out. And HR teams are in the middle of the fray. 

“Your work now includes preparing a policy and approach to vaccinations as a condition of employment as the government vaccination mandate works its way through to become an OSHA requirement.”

Larry Brand
CHIEF HUMAN RESOURCES OFFICER, ELKAY

Some employers, particularly in retail and food service, are offering incentives, such as paid time off, gift cards, and raffle prizes, for those who decide to get vaccinated. Amazon offered its frontline workers $80 to get the vaccine and held a contest with prizes worth $2 million, including two $500,000 cash awards, new vehicles, and vacation packages.

Others are taking the opposite approach, by charging employees a fee if they don’t get vaccinated. No matter your company’s stance, now is the time to solidify how you’ll support employees who need to get vaccinated, and what incentives or penalties you’ll implement. 

Should your company charge unvaccinated workers a fee?

Find out

2. Mental health resources

In 2021, employers offered more mental health resources than in previous years. In fact, 32% of employers added new mental health offerings to their benefits packages. 

And that’s a great start: but it’s not enough. Because despite our increased investment, employees still aren’t getting the memo. 

24%

of employees don’t feel supported when it comes to their mental health

1 in 3

employees don’t believe their organization encourages them to seek mental health care

So what’s the disconnect? We’re not looking at a lack-of-resources problem. We’re looking at a benefits engagement problem. Simply put, employers are offering a wide range of mental health resources, but employees aren’t using them: because they’re not aware, or they don’t understand how they can benefit. So now’s the time to get smarter about your benefits communication strategy when it comes to mental health.

 “Employers may need to take a hard look at how much and what type of mental health care they’re covering via traditional health benefits. But they should also look at less formal or traditional benefits and policies, such as access to mental health and wellness apps or other services, flexible work policies, and company culture to support overall well-being.”

Deb Gordon
AUTHOR AND ASPEN INSTITUTE HEALTH INNOVATORS FELLOW

We asked 15 HR experts what their biggest predictions are for the year ahead. Here’s what they had to say. 

Read now

3. Addiction recovery assistance

Substance abuse has become an increasingly prevalent concern for many Americans as they cope with the stressors of the past two years.

13%

of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use this year

40%

of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse due to the pandemic

It’s now our job to support employees if they or a family member are struggling with substance abuse. Beth Pinkerton shares her ideas on how HR can step in: 

“Mental health and addiction recovery services will likely be of greater need in the coming year. The pandemic has been a prolonged, traumatic event that has caused isolation, fear and anxiety for some of the workforce. Providing recovery support services as well as a safe space for employees to use it will help avoid stress and other related health concerns that can have significant long-term impact to the employee and the workplace.”

Beth Pinkerton
DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES, SERVPRO

4. Next year’s trendiest benefit? Time 

As many companies throughout the U.S. have adapted to remote work, employers are increasingly realizing that the “clock-in, clock-out” mentality doesn’t work anymore, and it’s not the best way to measure productivity. 

“Workers no longer regard flexibility as a workplace ‘perk.’ Rather, workers see it as a necessity in achieving a healthy and balanced lifestyle.”

Tina Hawk
SVP HUMAN RESOURCES AT GOODHIRE

Research shows that increased employee productivity, reduced turnover and lower organizational costs can be realized when employers allow their team members to work how and when they want. 

Especially during the Great Resignation, giving employees the freedom and time to choose when and where they’re most productive can make a huge difference in attracting and retaining talent. The future of work will include enabling employees to take time off to recharge when it’s best for them, whether that’s a couple hours on a Wednesday afternoon or jetting off to the Bahamas for a week.

What else should HR pros be prepared for in the year ahead? 15 experts shared their ideas with us. 

Read now

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