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Beyond the Basics, Part 2: Workforce Benefits


Patrick T. Leary, M.B.A., LLIF
Corporate Vice President and Director, Workplace Benefits Research

Craig Simms
Co-Founder & Head of Partnerships

May 2024

In the ever-evolving landscape of the workplace, the definition of employee benefits is undergoing a transformative shift. As organizations strive to create environments that prioritize employee well-being, a new wave of benefits is emerging. Part 1 of this article, published last month, discussed key findings from Harnessing Growth in Workforce Benefits and highlighted benefit offerings focused on financial literacy and caregiving support. In this month’s article conclusion, we explore mental and behavioral health services and strategies that benefit providers and that employers can use to increase employee awareness and use of these important benefits.

Mental Health Services

Mental health treatment benefits placed right behind financial wellness in the LIMRA-EY study, desired by almost one-third of workers surveyed. Notably, the desire for such benefits is highest among Gen Z and Millennial workers, among whom mental health has become a significant concern. According to research conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and CNN, 90 percent of the public think there is a mental health crisis in the United States today. The study further found that the youngest adults, ages 18-29, are both the group reporting the most concerns with their mental health and are more likely to report they are seeking mental health services, but not always able to access them. Recognition of mental health as a cornerstone of overall well-being has led companies to introduce mental health tools and services as integral components of their benefits packages.

Employee well-being directly impacts productivity, culture, retention and healthcare costs. LIMRA research reveals that more than 1 in 4 workers say they often feel distracted at work because of personal emotional worries. Over the past few years, online mental health support platforms like Lyra, Talkspace, Calm and Headspace have entered the employee benefits arena. These services work with employers to provide employees access to the support they need to address mental health issues in real time. And when mental health issues are acknowledged, diagnosed and treated, employees are more productive and tend to stay with a company longer. These services often include self-guided classes, one-to-one live therapy and even the ability to book sessions with licensed psychiatrists.

Importantly, part of the successful delivery of mental health services is addressing the stigma that has been associated with such conditions in the past. While that is rapidly changing, providers and employers must create a culture in which employees are comfortable with taking advantage of the services provided by their employer.

The Bottom Line: Offer Benefits that Employees Value

Introducing new, real-world benefits like caregiving support, mental health resources, and estate planning tools as part of a comprehensive employee benefits suite requires a thoughtful and strategic approach to ensure maximum employee utilization. Employers should deploy a series of strategies to increase employee awareness and use of these important benefits, including:

  • Offer ongoing communication and education
  • Conduct personalized outreach 
  • Highlight real-life scenarios
  • Provide interactive workshops and webinars
  • Incorporate benefits into onboarding

Employers spend considerable time and resources curating benefits programs to meet the perceived needs of their employees. Navigating plans and understanding eligibility have become daunting, and the younger generations in the workforce are more likely to look for a digital self-service solution than ask their HR manager for guidance. This presents a unique opportunity for employers to present benefits based on life stage and need, and evolving from a provider of benefits to a conveyor of trusted support that differentiates their workplace.

In today’s competitive labor market, it is essential that employers provide a comprehensive benefits package that not only addresses well-established needs but also emerging needs, particularly those around wellness and related benefits that have surfaced and become more acute in recent years. Employers who can align their benefits package to address the evolving needs of their employees will reap the benefits of a productive and engaged workforce.

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