Most Desirable Benefits for 2019, According to Employees

Dylan Blatt on 10 January 2019

Most Desireable Benefits for 2019, According to Employee Survey

The face of employee benefits and perks underwent significant change during 2018 and has left employers scratching their heads in terms of how to allocate their employee benefit budget. With more progressive offerings such as pet insurance, fertility care, and tobacco cessation plans beginning to cloud the space, benefit administrators are becoming increasingly paralyzed by optionality. Luckily, the analysis paralysis stops here.

Thanks to the most recent survey conducted by benefits provider Unum, which polled thousands of employees to find out which of these newly popularized benefit offerings are most highly ranked by employees, employers can get a better idea of whether the benefits they are offering are worth the spend. Respondents were asked to pick their five most desirable benefit options, which were then ranked by how often they appeared in respondents’ top five. Here are the results of the survey.


Paid family leave

Coming in at 58%, the most desirable employee benefit is time off for new parents and caregivers. It appears employers have realized this, as the number of companies offering paid parental leave has jumped significantly since 2016, according to SHRM’s annual benefits survey. The percentage of employers that offer paid maternity leave increased from 26% in 2016 to 35% in 2018. The trend does not stop with mothers, as paid paternity leave, adoption, foster child, and surrogacy leave also increased over the past two years.


Remote work options

With 55% of respondents ranking it in their top five, remote/flexible work options rank as the second most desirable benefit in 2018. WFH/remote work options have enjoyed significant growth in recent years. According to SHRM, 70% of organizations are currently offering some type of telecommuting. Large employers such as Amazon, UnitedHealth Group, and SAP are leading the charge, including and expanding remote and flexible work policies.


Professional Development

39% of employees ranked professional development in their top five list. Unum sees this as confirmation that employees hope to “learn and grow in their careers.” This benefit, however, is nothing new for 2019. It is established that companies offering valuable professional development opportunities enjoy increased retention, simplified succession planning, and higher employee efficiency.


Gym Memberships or Onsite Fitness Center

36% of employees included an employer-paid gym membership or access to an onsite fitness center in their top five. Offering easy, affordable access to exercise facilities results in upside for both employees and employers according to Mandy Stogner, one of Unum’s health and wellbeing consultants, as healthy employees are proven to be happier and more efficient, while also helping the company to save on medical insurance.            


Student loan repayment

More than a third of employees ranked student loan benefits among their top five most coveted benefits at 35%. As student debt increasingly becomes a hair-on-fire problem for so many employees entering, and currently in, the workforce, more employers are looking to help their employees tackle this issue. While 35% of all respondents ranked student loan benefits as a “must-have,” that figure jumps to 55% for millennials, according to Unum.


As the workforce becomes less populated by older generations and becomes increasingly comprised of millennials and Gen-Zs, employers are shifting the focus of their benefits package to allow younger generations to participate. Student loan benefits are an increasingly popular way to drive parity in a benefits package as employers look to provide the same value to their younger employees as the older generations, who often outsize their younger colleagues in their usage of healthcare, 401k matching, and FSA’s, just to name a few.


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