A spotlight on choice and flexibility: six key benefit offerings to meet modern workforce needs

Advice and top tips

A spotlight on choice and flexibility: six key benefit offerings to meet modern workforce needs

In the world of work, dramatic socio-economic changes have necessitated radical shake-ups of the way companies operate.

Employees’ needs, too, have quickly evolved. What was appropriate pre-2020 may no longer be adequate.

Organisations have a responsibility to ensure that changed – and changing – priorities are being addressed, and the employee experience, too, has become integral to the way that benefits are provided.

According to WTW’s 2022 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey (GBAS), the main reasons for employee dissatisfaction were benefits they did not need and benefits that had no importance for them.

Predictably, respondents cited flexibility and choice as their top priorities for benefit improvements.

The way forward

Benefit planners can ill afford to adopt a ‘one size fits all’ policy. But simply providing flexible benefits is insufficient if the range of choice lacks scope and relevance.

Employees need customised benefit plans that fit and reflect their lifestyle and preferences.

Moreover, going the extra mile to give employees flexibility and the ability to access the things that matter to them, when they matter most, is fundamental to the employee experience.

Organisations that fail to respond to the new and burgeoning employee demands risk not only compromising this, but also stoking disengagement and, ultimately, a talent exodus.

The benefit marketplace, too, has evolved and forward-thinking companies can now turn to solutions, such as WTW’s Embark platform, that put a premium on EX (the employee experience).

Such solutions have advanced the flex proposition, offering greater levels of support for the disparate demographic profiles of organisations and taking heed of differing workforce needs.

Here, we look at the type of benefits that should be included on every ‘menu’ in our new socio-economic environment and the modern world of work.

Ethical thinking

The provision of, and ease of access to, ethical benefits is a key motivator for prospective employees.

Among the top community and social responsibility benefit options employees want – according to GBAS 2022 – are allowances to spend on energy efficiency, company commitment to use suppliers with ethical labour practices and corporate programmes that benefit the environment.

Education and training to prevent discrimination or harassment, and to support the inclusion of underrepresented groups of employees, were the most wanted inclusion and diversity benefit options.

Almost a fifth of those surveyed ranked caregiving as one of the top three issues they wanted employers to focus on. The benefits options they claimed would be most helpful were more generous leave for carers and access to childcare support.


Employers should be mindful that the rise in home working can risk, in some cases, a detrimental impact on health. This is a consideration that should be factored in when establishing the benefits ‘shopping list’.

The short walk from car park or train station to office, the daily ascent and descent of company stairs, even a brief stroll around the grounds during lunchtime, all play a part in improving fitness.

Their absence for homeworkers, coupled with the more sedentary nature of working in a domestic setting, means exercise – and its associated fitness benefits – risk becoming rarer.

Subsidised gym memberships or ‘in-work’ exercise provisions may, consequently, become increasingly important in the benefits league table.


The current cost of living crisis has caused financial anxiety for many, so benefits that address financial wellbeing have become a greater priority.

Education sessions, workshops that provide a forum for discussing financial concerns and resources for budgeting advice may be among the type of benefits a sizeable number of employees will require.


Offering employees the opportunity to buy or sell annual leave as part of a flexible benefits package could become a popular option. Crucially, it acknowledges that not everyone requires, or even wants, the same amount of time off. Employees who want a longer holiday can do so, and those who do not wish to take their full holiday entitlement can be given the option to monetise it instead.

Such an arrangement allows both parties to benefit – employees who buy extra leave will make lower national insurance contributions, and employers will save money through reductions in staff wages.


The pandemic led to more people taking greater care and interest in their physical and mental health, and this remains the case.

However, NHS backlogs and lengthy waiting times for appointments mean delays in treatment. In such circumstances, employees will be looking for benefits that offer healthcare, counselling and telemedicine.

Travel and transport

Working from home, which began during the lockdown and has resulted in hybrid working becoming the new normal, means company cars, parking, fuel and travel subsidies have become less important benefits than they were previously.

Employees quickly adapted to the absence of the daily commute. And employers realised that virtual meetings were not only workable, they cut costs and boosted their ESG and CSR profiles.

The importance of listening

GBAS emphasises the need to listen to employees. This is most effectively achieved through technology-driven virtual focus groups and employee surveys. These offer effective opportunities for employee voices to be heard, and the insights they can provide are invaluable.

For instance, GBAS 2022 revealed that the top benefits priority for employees was increased flexibility and choice.

By responding to and acting upon such findings, employers can demonstrate how important the employee experience is to them. This in turn increases employee satisfaction, loyalty and trust.

Again, GBAS 2022 showed that 79 per cent of those who thought their benefits package met their needs intended to remain with their employer for the next two years. In addition, 68 per cent of employees with full flex benefits said they trusted products and providers suggested by employers more than ones they could find on their own.

No turning back

The way many organisations tailored their benefits to meet the demands created by the pandemic was admirable. However, the environment has changed permanently and raised employees’ expectations of what flexible benefit schemes should look like.

The pressure is now on organisations to remain responsive and continue to be flexible around flexible benefits. Failure to do so could result in employees leaving to work for companies with schemes that better address their short and long-term needs.

And, in time, the type of benefits offered as a result of the pandemic may lose their relevance and other world events could see a re-prioritising of what is offered.

Similarly, the life circumstances of individuals change throughout their working lives, and this should be reflected in the choices presented.

Shifting employee demographics should also be an influencing factor. For instance, there is little point offering child-care benefits if the workforce consists almost entirely of the those in the 50 and over age category.

Offering too many choice portals can be overwhelming and damage the employee experience. This is one of the reasons why fully integrated platforms that bring all benefit information and content together in one place are proving so successful.

Regular monitoring, reviewing and evaluating of schemes will help employers meet employees’ requirements.

Maintaining awareness will help inform employers of the new or customised benefits that are likely to gain prominence as circumstances change, but such ‘forecasting’ is no substitute for asking employees themselves what their preferences are.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes it is good to stray from traditional paths. Adapt, evolve, but let the employee be the navigator.