Think back for a second: when was the last time you had a conversation with a friend or coworker about how awesome your employee recognition and rewards are? Here’s the real kicker: How about your employee health benefits? Do you remember? 

Don’t get us wrong. Having health insurance through an employer is awesome; 127 million people are currently covered by their employers. But while health insurance gives people peace of mind if they get sick, it rarely covers the costs of a healthy lifestyle. 

So, what can employers do to make it easier for employees who want to get and stay fit? They can provide additional benefits, like employee recognition and rewards programs that supplement some health insurance coverage and give employees the flexibility and freedom to pursue a healthy lifestyle. 

When you break it down, it’s that simple.

Benefits: more than insurance

Let’s be clear: there’s no substitute for employee health insurance. Huge kudos to the employers who offer it to their teams. 👏 

Benefits like health, dental, and vision coverage are a huge plus for workers when job hunting. Fractl found that employer-offered health care and benefits were a bigger factor in decision-making for employees than a pay bump; 88% of respondents said that they “heavily considered” choosing or remaining with an employer based on benefits alone.

Besides better health, vision, and dental coverage, here are the other benefits respondents heavily consider when selecting a job: 

  • More flexible hours: 88%
  • More vacation time: 82%
  • Work from home options: 81%
  • Unlimited vacation: 78%

Not far past the four above, respondents also penned student loan & tuition assistance, free gym memberships/fitness classes, and parental services (like daycare) as things they heavily consider.

Reward your employees’ productivity in whatever environment they choose

The third-most considered bullet above (work from home options) should be no surprise to employers. Working from home is more popular than ever, and it’s a trend that will only increase.

Gallup found that 43% of Americans work from home at least occasionally—a number which has gone up since 2012. 

Need more proof your employees will only come to expect their benefits to include flexible work arrangements? Quartz reported that over 8 million Americans work from home. all. the. time. 

LinkedIn, too, found that among 2,000 professionals and 1,000 hiring managers a whopping 82% of workers want the flexibility to work from home at least one day a week. And 57% of workers would work from home three days a week if they had the option. 

If employers are serious about keeping skilled employees happy, healthy, and engaged, they need to listen to what workers are saying—which is, “let us work from home“.

If you need any more convincing that a work from home option should be part of your employee recognition and rewards program, let us introduce Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom. He designed a study with China’s largest travel agency to measure productivity at home. What he found was pretty telling:

  • Telecommuters averaged an extra day’s worth of productivity than HQ workers
  • They took shorter breaks than their in-office peers 
  • Each lowered their sick day count
  • All telecommuters took less time off

Besides the productivity bump, Bloom was able to stick a dollar figure to the project: The company saved nearly $2,000 per employee on its rent by moving into a smaller office.

When did flexibility and employee rewards become so intertwined? 

Just when computers started finding their way into Americans’ homes, the concept of working from home came with them. However, most businesses didn’t have the capacity or infrastructure to accommodate a remote workforce.

And while the parents who paid for these computers by working office jobs were, well, at the office, their kids played games on them. Or did their homework. Or spent hours on AIM and MySpace. (Speaking from personal experience. 🤓)

Eventually, they filled out college applications on them. Then, they bought or were gifted laptops to tote around campus or take to their first jobs. 

You get where we’re going with this. 

Millennials had a huge hand in making computers a central part of remote work, whether for school or “real world” work. So, then, it’s no surprise that this generation wants, expects, and has a majority of peers who work remotely.

74% of millennials and Gen Z employees have team members who spend the majority of their working hours outside of the office. And when their rewards match their lifestyle, everyone gets to succeed.

…but rewards are not all about working from home.

Work from home policies are a huge draw for millennials and Gen Z; it’s kind of expected at this point #tbh. But millennials (and other generations, albeit to lesser degrees) want more benefits and rewards beyond remote work, unlimited vacation, and flexible schedules.

More than any other generation, millennials and Gen Z want employee health benefits, including wellness programs, that align with their lifestyles. Past generations’ wellness programs usually involved things like weight-loss challenges and smoking cessation programs. The latter is still a much-valued benefit, but becoming rarer—and millennials have bigger health care concerns than kicking a habit many never developed in the first place.

Modern health and wellness programs look quite different from their predecessors. For starters, gym culture wasn’t nearly as popular a couple of decades ago as it is now (besides the whole jazzercise thing, but I digress).

Going to the gym nowadays is a sort of social event. Gyms now have lounges, cafes, bars, and working spaces, and employees are spending more time there. However, between memberships, add-on classes, and personal training sessions, millennials and Gen Z spend more their income on fitness over their lifetime than they may on college tuition.

Yeah. Let that sink in for a minute. 

So, what should employers glean from millennials’ fitness frenzy?

Besides the gym’s community-building status, this should signal to employers that their employees care about their health above just about everything else. 

This commitment to fitness adds up financially—but employers can do more to help their employees lead a healthy lifestyle. Employee recognition and rewards programs are an easy way to give employees the push to take that advanced yoga course; sign up for a new bouldering class; schedule a couple of sessions with a personal trainer; or finally pull the trigger and join a gym.

The results are in:

Employees spend their rewards on improving their physical health. Download Zestful’s Workplace Wellness 2020 report to see how employees take advantage of rewards programs.

Fitness, food, or fun?

No matter how easy employers make it for employees to hit the gym, not all employees want to go. That’s why flexible rewards programs give employers (and their employees) the freedom to choose how and where they spend their rewards. 

For some employees, the struggle of a healthy lifestyle starts with food. And we get it; it’s hard to drop $13 on a decked-out salad when there’s a fried chicken spot summoning you (me) from across the street. 

Help your employees fight off the temptation and include only certain restaurants in your rewards program. If they know you’re footing the bill for that kale-pineapple-spirulina smoothie with a protein shot, they’re more likely to roll the dice on it than to return to the chicken place on the reg. 

When you learn that your employees are making healthy decisions through their rewards programs, promote their efforts. Give them the recognition they deserve.

Benefits & employee recognition and rewards go hand-in-hand

The bottom line is this: No two of your employees are the same.

Each has their own idea of a healthy lifestyle—and some want to spend their rewards on the occasional caloric splurge. And that’s cool, too. What’s even cooler is that you recognize your employees’ hard work and dedication with rewards that make showing up every day more than worth it. 

Want to learn more about how you can create a killer employee recognition and rewards program with Zestful? Check out our use cases, request a demo, or get in touch with us. Let’s get moving. 

Zestful: recognize and reward your employees—minus the admin work.
Author

Brad Jamison (he/him) is a copywriter, content creator, and editor. He authors a variety of employee and HR-focused content pieces, and is especially interested in Millennials’ contributions to the ever-evolving workplace. He lives in Denver, CO.

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