A Big Menu of Benefits and Services

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The question most employers ask is, what benefits and services can we

afford to give that will allow us to attract and keep the talent we need while

also helping to reduce their stress at work and lead fuller and healthier lives

Owners Work Hard to Help Employees Battle Burnout

Working for a company like D3 Inc., a small, Kansas City-based strategic

marketing communications firm, sometimes requires long

hours, including nights and weekends to finish projects for big clients

like Sprint and Hallmark. For owners David Svet and Mark Schraad,

employee burnout is a very real concern. Both owners had previously

worked for other marketing firms where creative staffers would get

burned out and leave. They were determined not to create the same

kind of environment in their business.

‘‘A steady diet of this schedule dulls your senses and the ability to

think outside the box,’’ said Svet. To prevent such burnout, the owners

established regular working hours of 8:30 .. to 5 .., and they

try hard to enforce that schedule, clearing the office in the evenings

if necessary. When client projects call for longer hours, employees are

compensated with time off to refresh themselves. Svet and Schaad

also take D3 workers on regular outings to parks and museums to

stimulate their creativity and break the routine of the workweek. The

owners also pay for training conferences around the country and give

spot bonuses and twice-yearly salary reviews.

Since implementing these new ideas, D3 reports very low turnover

and a noticeable improvement in morale. Employees appreciate

having the extra hours for their lives away from work. The owners

have actually turned away business because they knew it would impose

an unhealthy workload on staff.22

outside of work? With the cost of benefits hovering at around 45 percent

of total compensation, most companies look carefully at the cost/benefit

equation and carefully consider the needs of their current and desired labor

pool according to its demographic make-up.

Here is a breakdown of some of the most popular employee benefits as

reported by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in its

latest annual benefits survey, showing the percentage of surveyed companies

offering each benefit in 2003 compared with 1999:23

Family-Friendly Benefits: 2003 1999

Dependent-care flexible spending account 71 percent 65 percent

Flextime 55 percent 54 percent

Family-Friendly Benefits: 2003 1999

Compressed workweek 31 percent 26 percent

Job-sharing 22 percent 22 percent

Elder care referral service 20 percent 14 percent

Child care referral service 18 percent 15 percent

Adoption assistance 16 percent 14 percent

Health Benefits:

Prescription drug program coverage 98 percent 93 percent

Life insurance 98 percent 97 percent

Dental insurance 96 percent 93 percent

Preferred Provider Organization 87 percent 81 percent

Mental health insurance 76 percent 78 percent

Vision insurance 71 percent 64 percent

Flexible medical spending account 70 percent 65 percent

Employee assistance program 67 percent 64 percent

Wellness programs 57 percent 57 percent

Health Maintenance Organization 54 percent 65 percent

Health care premium flexible spending account 52 percent 50 percent

Long-term care insurance 47 percent 36 percent

Well-baby program 42 percent 47 percent

Health screening programs 40 percent 49 percent

Smoking cessation program 32 percent 32 percent

Fitness center subsidy or reimbursement 31 percent 23 percent

Accelerated death benefits (for terminal illnesses) 33 percent 23 percent

Retiree health care benefits 30 percent 42 percent

Prenatal program 27 percent 35 percent

Weight loss program 24 percent 23 percent

Onsite fitness center 22 percent 20 percent

Stress reduction program 21 percent 21 percent

Personal Service Benefits:

Seminars, courses, conferences 93 percent 94 percent

Professional memberships 85 percent 85 percent

Casual dress one day per week 58 percent 56 percent

Family-Friendly Benefits: 2003 1999

Casual dress every day 44 percent 44 percent

Food services/subsidized cafeteria 26 percent 38 percent

Legal assistance services 25 percent 17 percent

Dry-cleaning services 13 percent 12 percent

Massage therapy services 11 percent 8 percent

Self-defense training 6 percent 7 percent

Concierge services 2 percent 4 percent

Leave Benefits:

Paid holidays 98 percent NA

Paid bereavement leave 91 percent 93 percent

Paid jury duty 90 percent 95 percent

Long-term disability 88 percent 89 percent

Paid vacation 87 percent 95 percent

Short-term disability 81 percent 78 percent

Paid sick leave 76 percent 87 percent

Paid time-off plan (sick, vacation, personal) 68 percent 35 percent

Paid personal days 40 percent 57 percent

Unpaid sabbatical program 19 percent 19 percent

Paid maternity leave not covered by short-term

disability 14 percent 51 percent

Paid paternity leave 12 percent 12 percent

Paid sabbatical program 6 percent 6 percent

Financial Benefits:

Full flexible benefits plan (formerly cafeteria plan) 23 percent 24 percent

Parking subsidy 12 percent 13 percent

Onsite check cashing 12 percent 14 percent

Transit subsidy 12 percent 10 percent

Carpooling subsidy 4 percent 5 percent

Business Travel:

Employee keeps frequent flyer miles 74 percent 90 percent

Paid long distance calls to home while on travel 71 percent 77 percent

Compensatory time given for travel time 25 percent 23 percent

Family-Friendly Benefits: 2003 1999

Paid dry cleaning while on travel 24 percent 30 percent

Paid health club fees while on travel 5 percent 9 percent

Housing and Relocation Benefits

Temporary relocation benefits 44 percent 45 percent

Spouse relocation assistance 21 percent 21 percent

Cost-of-living differential 21 percent 20 percent

Rental assistance 15 percent 9 percent

Mortgage assistance 12 percent 9 percent

Much of the decrease in the percentages was due to belt-tightening as

a result of the slumping economy during the intervening years, and the fact

that 1999 was the peak of the talent-war years. If the war for talent returns

again, as many predict, the percentages are likely to go up in most benefit

categories.

It is worth noting that many new benefits were reported in 2003 that

were not even surveyed by SHRM in 1999, such as: infertility treatment

coverage (41 percent), telecommuting on part-time basis (34 percent), unpaid

release time for volunteering (24 percent), domestic partner benefits

(23 percent), spot bonuses (22 percent), travel planning services (20 percent),

scholarships for members of employees’ families (19 percent), paid

release time for volunteering (17 percent), telecommuting on a full-time

basis (17 percent), grief recovery program (14 percent), time bank of vacation

leave that can be donated to other employees (13 percent), free or

discounted Internet service (12 percent), nutritional therapy (11 percent),

onsite medical care (11 percent), loan to employee for purchase of personal

computer (8 percent), free computer for personal use (5 percent), already

prepared take-home meals (2 percent), and ‘‘boomerang’’ bonus to rehired

employees (2 percent).

For a copy of SHRM’s latest yearly benefit survey, which also includes

comparison data based on company size, industry, and geographic

areas, visit their Web site: www.shrm.org.

Over the past several years, dozens of companies have conducted internal

cost-benefit studies, which tend to link work-life programs to improved

employee satisfaction, productivity, and attendance. Washington-based

Fannie Mae, with 4,000 employees, conducted a study of its elder care

services to evaluate the cost-benefit of having hired a full-time clinical

social worker. In the first two years on the job, the elder-care director saw

10 percent of employees, which equates to about $3.5 million per year in

avoided lost productivity due to elder-care responsibilities.24

First Tennessee National Corporation of Memphis, which has been

honored for its pioneering work-life programs, found that since introducing

flexible hours, it reduced its response time to customer requests at its

operations centers to four days from ten days. The cost savings were neutral,

but customer satisfaction was increased, and employee retention rates

were twice that of offices where managers were less supportive of flextime.

The biggest finding was that customer retention rates were 7 percent

higher in the offices with flex-time.25

New York-based financial services company, Deloitte & Touche, estimates

that the flexible work arrangements it provides to its 30,000 U.S.

employees helped the firm avoid $41.5 million in turnover-related costs in

2003 alone.26

Even during a long-term economic slump, most companies were willing

to risk eliminating the very programs they have positioned as marquee

items in their campaigns to brand themselves as good places to work. Many

companies—such as Xerox, Charles Schwab, PriceWaterhouseCoopers,

Lucent Technologies, and Sara Lee—kept their work-life programs intact

during major layoffs.27 Many other companies certainly have realized that

maintaining benefits and services is even more important when they are

asking their employees to work harder because of cutbacks.

Reducing stress and overwork is not all about providing formal benefits

and services; it’s also about creating an informal culture where executives

and managers are thinking about what they can do for their employees, at

least as much as they are about what those employees can do for the company’s

customers.