Women value mental health benefits more than men

New report highlights how there is no one-size-fits-all answer for employee benefits.
Workerburnout Panel

Women overwhelmingly value mental health benefits compared to men (70% compared to 49%), according to a recent report from PeopleKeep, a benefits software company for small to midsize organizations.

The report — based on a May 2022 survey of over 900 small and medium-sized business (SMB) employees — evaluated benefit preferences among genders, generations, and types of work environments.

Among the employees, 61% of the respondents were female and 36% were male. A small percentage of employees preferred not to share their gender.

Looking at the age breakdown, the highest percentage of employee respondents came from millennials (39%), followed closely by Gen Xers (33%). Eighteen percent of employees were baby boomers, while 6% were Gen Zers. The remaining 4% were from the Silent Generation.

For reference, the Pew Research Center generally defines the Silent Generation as those born between 1928 and 1945, baby boomers as those born between 1946 and 1964, Generation X as those born between 1965 and 1980, millennials as those born between 1981 and 1996, and Generation Z as those born between 1997 and 2012.

“As employers consider their benefits offerings, they should acknowledge that priorities are sometimes different based on demographics,” says Victoria Glickman Hodgkins, CEO of PeopleKeep. “To help employees stay happy in their workplaces, employers should broaden the options available to be inclusive — matching the needs of their employees regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, or location.”

Of benefit options, both women and men value paid time off and retirement benefits the most and student loan repayment assistance the least — however, women prefer the latter benefit more than men (23% to 17%).

When comparing males’ and females’ responses, the most notable differences the data revealed were the specific benefits females value more than their male counterparts, illustrating how gender is an essential consideration when designing a benefits package to be inclusive of all employees.

On average, females are generally more likely to value most of the benefits included in the survey more than males. One of the reasons for this may be because, on average, females earn less than males. Looking at the annual earnings of the employees surveyed, 61% of females earn less than $60,000 while only 37% of males earn less than $60,000. This may lead females to better utilize their benefits and place greater value on the money-saving resources they’re being offered compared to higher-earning male employees.

When asked about insurance benefits, across all types, females are slightly more likely to value insurance benefits than males do. The largest differences were with vision insurance (63% vs. 57%) and disability insurance (48% vs. 43%).

Females are also more likely than males to view additional benefits as very or extremely important. This is especially true when it comes to mental health benefits (70% of females value this vs. 49% of males) having a flexible work schedule (84% vs. 70%), and paid family leave (73% vs. 61%).

When you consider that working mothers comprised nearly a third of the female workforce in the United States in 2020 — when factors like the COVID-19 pandemic made juggling work and child care more challenging — benefits like flexibility and paid family leave align with what a working mother would want. Many working mothers effectively work “two shifts,” the report notes, one at work and one at home, making benefits that cater to both their work and family life so critical.

The benefits males value more than women include internet and phone bill reimbursements (40% of males value this vs. 32% of females) and commuter benefits (30% vs. 27%).

In comparing generations, Gen Z respondents feel strongest about employers offering a flexible work schedule compared to other generations, whereas millennials prefer paid family leave and mental health benefits more than other generations.

All generations value health and dental insurance, but employees from the Silent Generation value those benefits less than other generations, likely because they are eligible for Medicare.

The report also evaluated how employees’ work environments shape their most valued benefits. Not surprisingly, remote workers value internet and phone reimbursement more than their counterparts. On the other hand, field-based workers who are in more dangerous occupations value life insurance more than other workers.

When it comes to recruiting and retaining employees, offering personalized benefits is the key for SMBs to meet employees’ expectations and compete in today’s tight labor market, the report concludes. When SMBs tailor their benefits package to the unique needs of their employees, whether that’s through reimbursing remote employees for their internet costs or making sure all working mothers have access to paid family leave, they become that much more likely to become an employer of choice for all employees, no matter what they look like or where they work.

View the full report here.

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