Employee benefits written on a notepad. Business concept.

Emerging Employee Benefits Trends for 2017

The year that was 2016 is now a memory as we forge ahead into 2017. With the new year come regulatory changes and economic influences that determine the course business takes. This year, small companies will be focusing heavily on human resources and employee benefits in a race to hire and retain the best talent as the economy strengthens and expands. Basic medical insurance and 401(k) plans for small business will be just a starting point for hiring and retaining.

U.S. News & World Report contributor Susan Johnston Taylor highlighted five employee benefits trends she expects to be important in 2017 in a December 29 piece. At BenefitMall a Dallas-based payroll and benefits service provider, they are paying attention to the trends as well. There are three in particular that could completely change things for small business in 2017:

1. Help Understanding Healthcare Options

Despite all the uncertainty now surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the one thing we can say for sure is that its implementation has made the relatively benign concept of health insurance rather complex. Health Insurance is likely to become even more complex should the new Congress and administration make good on their promise to repeal and replace. Employees are going to need as much help as they can get in figuring out all their options.

Offering employees assistance in navigating the health insurance maze will be important for retaining the best workers. As Taylor explained in her piece, more companies are starting to partner with healthcare consultants capable of providing straight answers to employees about their options. Those consultants can also offer information about additional benefits and programs that employees can take advantage of to improve their health.

2. Growth of Wellness Programs

Taylor says that companies have been using cash incentives and other similar programs over the years to encourage their employees to be healthier. But it turns out those incentives don’t actually accomplish anything. So instead, the focus for 2017 looks to shift from cash incentives to employer-sponsored programs that promote individual wellness. Taylor cites the example of a company conducting a fitness challenge with a prize going to the winner.

The push for wellness goes beyond just physical and emotional health. Companies are also beginning to take an interest in their employee’s financial health. This will play out in HR and payroll for 2017 through the implementation of programs that help employees get a better handle on their financial futures. Even day-to-day finances will be addressed, based on the idea that employees with stable financial positions also tend to be more productive at work.

3. Growth of Work-at-Home Programs

The most significant emerging trend for 2017 will be the growth of work-at-home programs. Also known as telecommuting, working at home is part of a more broad-based strategy of helping employees establish a better work-life balance. From the payroll perspective, working at home doesn’t involve any significant changes to how payroll is processed. Employees are paid the same way.

Offering employees the opportunity to work at home can be a win-win situation if implemented properly. Telecommuting gives workers a greater sense of ownership over what they do on a day-to-day basis and, provided they are able to remain properly focused while at home, telecommuting can actually increase productivity. Employers can even save money with a properly managed work-at-home program as well.

BenefitMall will be keeping an eye on these three emerging trends in the coming year. Where these trends affect payroll processing and benefits, clients can rest assured that BenefitMall will be on top of things.

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