The past two years have brought a new form of thinking when it comes to work. A lot of us got used to working from home, while others decided it was time to pursue a change. Some wanted more of a work-life balance; others decided to explore a new career altogether. When going through a job change, there’s a lot to consider, and understanding workplace benefits should be high up on that list.
There are two sides to every story. For some employees, work from home situations gave them a taste of a better work-life balance, helping them be more productive, healthy and improve their well-being. Yet for others, a hybrid working environment has presented new challenges. Almost 30% of workers report being unhappy with their current job. Millennials and older Gen Z are more dissatisfied than other generations (specifically with regards to their income) — in fact, the number of 18- to 34-year-olds reporting they are happy at their job dropped 25% from the previous year.
Minority groups have also become increasingly unhappy in their jobs due to feeling less autonomous and unfulfilled. Forty-two percent of Black employees are somewhat or very unhappy, as are 34% of Brown employees.
This discontent has been one of the driving forces behind the more than 38 million employees quitting their jobs in 2021, resulting in 10.9 million job openings.
Pay is more than your paycheck.
When on the hunt for a new position, it’s completely natural to focus on the big three:
- Paid time off
- Retirement savings plan
Each of these has tangible value. It’s no coincidence that when a larger paycheck is direct deposited into your account every two weeks or you’re receiving an extra two weeks of vacation time each year, you begin to feel a little more positive about life.
Factors such as financial compensation and the amount of paid leave are, of course, incredibly influential in whether you accept a position. But there’s another important component you should take a close look at (especially in a booming job market): your employee benefits.
I’m not talking your traditional benefits either. Of course, receiving medical, dental, life and disability insurance, as well as a retirement savings account, such as a 401(k), are all important. But in today’s competitive job market, traditional benefits aren’t enough.
Employers are getting creative and adjusting their offerings to meet employees’ evolving needs. Eighty-one percent of large companies and more than half of small businesses now offer wellness programs of some sort. Offerings can include gym memberships, onsite exercise classes, massage therapy, healthy eating initiatives and more. In exchange for participation, some offer financial incentives, such as lower health insurance costs, gift cards or reimbursements.
The pandemic highlighted the importance of taking care of our mental health, especially during challenging times. In response, employers are prioritizing emotional wellness programs that monitor and reduce stress levels, offer meditation classes, provide sleep and relaxation techniques, or support telehealth mental health counseling.
You may not be able to put a specific dollar amount on a better work-life balance or lower stress levels, but these offerings are a valuable portion of any employer-sponsored benefits package.
Many companies are also upping their parental leave policies and support for care givers. Some companies go as far as offering fertility support. Given how intertwined work and life have become, and the disproportionate impact on caregivers, employers understand the need to expand childcare benefits as well as benefits for senior caregivers. These types of benefits have become more important given the pandemic.
College tuition reimbursement and continuing education are increasing in popularity, too. With the cost of college reaching lofty levels, and the expertise needs ever expanding, these are great ways to pay for the education your employer is benefiting from. Eighty percent of employers offered tuition reimbursement or added it as a benefit in 2021, and another 7% are considering adding it in the next two years.
Related: 7 Money Insights From the Pandemic
Financial wellbeing programs, which can include debt counseling, retirement planning and financial coaching, are also growing in popularity. These initiatives might include financial assistance (think: short-term loans, emergency fund, payroll advance loans) should you find yourself in a pinch.
Some companies offer matches to health savings accounts, in addition to their 401(k) match. This is another unique benefit that could be a valuable source for health care expenses now or in the future.
When you’re on the hunt for a new opportunity, it’s important to know the full scope of an employer’s offer. While researching a company, look for a full list of what they offer employees (for instance, Ally lists its benefits online). Great benefits can be overlooked or undervalued because their worth isn’t specific — or you didn’t even know they were available in the first place. As you reflect on what you really want, make substantive change by determining how to make the next phase in your career the best one. That starts with taking into consideration or negotiating for benefits that add true value to your life.
We’re your ally for all things in life.
Lindsey Bell, Ally’s chief markets & money strategist, is an award-winning investment professional with a passion for personal finance and more than 17 years of Wall Street experience. Bell’s unique ability to connect the dots between data and real life and craft bite-sized money ideas that people can use and apply stems from her deep background as an analyst, researcher and portfolio manager at organizations including J.P. Morgan and Deutsche Bank. She is known for demonstrating why and how an understanding of all things money improves a person’s finances and overall well-being. An ongoing CNBC contributor, Bell empowers consumers and investors across all walks of life and frequently shares her insights with the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Kiplinger’s, Forbes and Business Insider. She also serves on the board of Better Investing, a non-profit focused on investment education.