Workplace Benefits Changing: What Matters, and What Does This Trend Mean?

Workplace perks are great! Who doesn’t like employee-friendly perks? At least those of us that are employees, anyway.

Well, they’re wonderful, but slowly disappearing. Going the way of the dinosaurs, on the way to extinction in some cases:) A recent article in U.S. News highlighted 21 workplace benefits that are fading away. Some of them are essential, some seem more like wants rather than needs.

Here’s the list of benefits they say are fading away, with my comments following.

  1. Traditional Pension Plans
  2. Retiree Health Coverage
  3. Long-term Care Insurance
  4. HMOs
  5. Paid Family Leave
  6. Adoption Assistance
  7. Professional Development Opportunities
  8. Life Insurance for Dependents
  9. Incentive Bonus Plans
  10. Contraceptive Coverage
  11. Casual Dress Day
  12. Legal Assistance
  13. Sports Team Coverage
  14. Executive Club Memberships
  15. Relocation Benefits
  16. Help Purchasing a Home
  17. Travel Perks
  18. The Company Picnic
  19. Rewards
  20. Company-Sponsored Tickets
  21. Take Your Child To Work Day

Personally, the ones that jump out at me as being essential are 1, 2, 3, 5, and 9. These are the ones that I think are most directly related to one’s financial needs in my view. Number 5 in particular strikes me as being crazy – there are some things we should be able to get as employees.

The rest of these…well, maybe I take a contrarian view. They may be nice, but I don’t see them as truly being necessary for an employer to provide.  Casual dress day is simply not high priority in the grand scheme of things. Take your child to work day may be nice, but it’s not a necessary perk. I’ve taken my child to work, and don’t think a formal day was a priority compared to many other benefits. I’ll take more money in exchange for a take your child to work day! The company picnic is in no way important. I’ve seen people in prior jobs get really worked up over how some of these perks were eliminated or curtailed. Totally indignant  in a couple of cases, in fact! I guess I never cared; they don’t impact the bottom line, so why get worked up. Rather, just view changes are signals of the direction in which the company may be going.

Back to the five benefits that I mentioned, however. The reality that these are diminishing really speaks to the need of people to take individual responsibility for retirement and financial needs.  There won’t be the “system” or “they” or “them” to take care of any of us in retirement. It will be us as individuals who have to take care of ourselves.

The pensions being eliminated speaks to it strongest. The cash flow we’ll be getting in retirement will be generated directly from cash we have earned and actually saved.  I don’t want to count on social security, and don’t factor it in any calculations. As for health insurance and long-term care – can we really count on that in the long-term future? Who knows.  Maybe it’s best to just save and make extra money. Best to be self-sufficient if possible!

And don’t sweat the loss of sports team memberships or company-sponsored tickets:)

My Questions For You

What do you think of this list?

Which of these benefits strike you as being essential?

Have you noticed any changes in workplace benefits in recent years?

Comments

  1. says

    Well, number 11, casual dress day, jumps out at me as silly because it doesn’t cost anything for the employer to have this. I understand why you would eliminate it if you have a work environment where clients are coming to your office, but otherwise, why eliminate something that raises moral and is free?

    As for 1, 2, 3, and 5, I just started working, so I’ve never worked in an environment where these things were available. I’m pretty sure our “benefits” package has a sections about how much time you can take off to care an ill family member, but you don’t get paid for that time off.

    I think that benefits when you’re retired are important, mostly because I just don’t think that everyone knows enough about finance to plan for their own retirement. If I work the same job as someone else, and carefully save for retirement, but the other person doesn’t, I will just end up paying for their mistakes through taxes later. If employers could somehow lower wages but have better benefits, then they would force that person to “save” part of their compensation.

    I’m sure that’s not an ideal solution though, especially because those of us who ARE financially savvy may prefer to just get the higher paycheck and control our savings ourselves.

    • Squirrelers says

      Kellen – there are a lot of questions we could have about these types of benefits being removed. #11 makes sense in terms of what you’re saying. As I reflect on that further, I now think that casual days can actually help financially. When you can wear less expensive clothes to work instead of more expensive items, it can help the family finances a bit. Now, if it’s just one casual day then big deal. But if it’s casual in general vs. more formal, that can make small difference.

      • says

        Even casual day once a week helps feel like a need fewer expensive non-casual clothes since it takes longer to cycle through my non-casual wardrobe when I’m only wearing it 4 days a week.

        • Squirrelers says

          Kellen – every little bit helps, right? That one day might save workers a little bit of money, taking the differential between business casual vs. casual clothers for a 1 day’s worth of work.

  2. says

    I’ve never worked for a company that’s had any of these benefits aside from 4 & 11. So I can’t say I’ll really miss them. I think this means that it will become more important than ever to include benefits and think of total compensation when comparing job offers for those cases where you have old school vs new style benefits packages. Salary will have increasing importance overall in the workplace since you’ll have fewer benefits.

    • Squirrelers says

      No Debt MBA – I see your logic, and that makes sense. With all these benefits slashed, there are fewer differentiators. Of course, sports teams and things of the like were just not relevant anyway compared to salary in the first place, or at least in my view they weren’t :)

    • Squirrelers says

      MoneyCone – 401k matches are really helpful, no questions. That’s one benefit worth thousands of company picnics:)

  3. Lorraine Clayton says

    As a single parent who has gone without benefits for almost 3 years I can tell you its not easy. The only way my son could get immunized was a public health clinic which required me to lose a days pay from my temp job. Items 12 thru 21 never was an option and I could care less about. I would scrub floors to get benefits 1 thru 5 right now. Professional development has been gone a long time. Companies don’t want to spend money training you only to lay you off in the future. Its not cost effective and its no guarantee of being saved from the chopping block.

    • Squirrelers says

      Lorraine – I can empathize, that can’t be easy at all. The benefits that some just take for granted can be a big deal for most of the rest of us. As for professional development, that’s a great point you make about the value of that investment to some companies.

  4. says

    As a government employee, I have a few of the perks while most of the others such as sports team tickets, incentive perks, relocation assistance, etc are nonexistent. I’m OK with that, though, because the important ones–#1, 2,3,5,7 and 8 are all present for us.

    My department has a casual dress code which is nice because I only need one wardrobe. I can take my child to work as needed and no one really balks at that (it’s a good thing, too. I work for the Children’s Department!)

    • Squirrelers says

      Jana – yes, that’s a good thing for your place of work to accept kids coming to work with mom or dad:) Actually, right there you have your take your kid to work day, without the hoopla. Which is probably more beneficial anyway.

  5. says

    Retire medical and pension are really essential to me as a teacher. I have given up pay increases as well as a reasonable pay scale for years for the reward of a decent retirement. This is true of a lot of teachers.

    • Squirrelers says

      krantcents – I can totally understand this. Teachers are generally not paid what they are worth in many places (in my view, anyway), so the pensions are there for them. Frankly, some of those pensions are much better than non-teachers realize. Some get lucky – here in suburban Chicago, there are some teachers that make very good salaries AND get nice pensions.

  6. says

    We can wear jeans almost everyday where I work, and we also still have a pension. Woohoo to that! Unfortunately…pay is not that great. But they are more flexible than other employers, which helps a lot–especially with blogging.

    • Squirrelers says

      Amanda – as long as that pension holds up, that’s a great benefit that most people simply don’t get anymore.

  7. says

    Personally when my husband started working a few years ago, he had all the benefits except the sports tickets and executive membership thing. Now we don’t have 1,2,3,8,12,14,15,16,17,20,21. The one thing I will miss is the retiree medical insurance. The folks retired from that company used to pay only a bit more than current employee. That is an excellent perk to have considering health care is the major cost in retirement. The other thing not in this list but I will be very upset if they take that away is 401k match. They stopped it temporarily in 2009/10 but they have reinstated it this year. Hope it stays. But salary increases have stayed below 2% unfortunately.

    • Squirrelers says

      Suba – you bring up a good point with salary increases being low in many cases. I know someone who told me that he hasn’t gotten any kind of increase in the last few years.

  8. says

    Other than the company picnic and casual dress days, I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere that had any of those benefits. So I wouldn’t say any of them strike me as essential. Nice to have though!

    • Squirrelers says

      Jackie – they would be nice to have, wouldn’t they? Give me the essentials and some of the others are just icing on the cake.

  9. says

    The only benefit that my company offered, back when I worked there, was #4 — HMO’s. Oddly, not having the rest of those other benefits didn’t bother me; being in Generation Y, I never expected them (I don’t have any friends with a pension or long-term care insurance benefit!)

    The thing that DID bother me tremendously was the lack of Professional Development Opportunities. They wanted me to perform at my peak — and yet were unwilling to train me to become a better employee. That was the one thing that really bothered me.

    … oh, and they didn’t compensate me for using my personal cell phone for work, even though I was expected to answer it 24/7, and used it for work frequently. But I think that’s pretty unusual.

    • Squirrelers says

      Paula – I think that’s a healthy approach, to not expect some of these things…particularly pensions. We have to self-fund our retirments, and I think it’s good to get in the mindset that we are on our own in that regard.

  10. says

    Back in the ’90s, I had a great boss who was the company’s CFO. He told me that he liked to give benefits to employees that they enjoyed, but they also didn’t cost the company any money. So, we were one of the first companies I worked for to have flex-time, casual dress and a lot of vacation days. Everyone loved working there and we had most of the standard benefits as well. For the time, it was pretty forward thinking.

    The one benefit I see rapidly diappearing is 401K matching. This is a huge perk that encourages employees to save for retirement. And, I think it’s only fair for employers to contribute some, instead of shifting it all onto employees. The last time I got 401K matching was when I worked for that company back in the ’90s.

    • Squirrelers says

      Bret – I know what you mean about the 401 matching disappearing. Also, remember that fair is a relative term. The burden of retirement has been shifting to the individual as it is, so this continues the slide in that direction.

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