The below article originally appeared in “Planning 2021 Benefits Changes for the COVID-19 Era,” by Joanne Sammer, July 21, 2020 – SHRM

Even before the pandemic struck, a growing number of U.S. employees were willing to give up additional pay in exchange for more-generous benefits.

The 2019/2020 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey by HR consultancy Willis Towers Watson, based on responses from 8,000 U.S. workers polled at the end of last year, found that 37 percent of employees would rather receive more-substantial benefits than additional salary/wages or bonuses. In addition:

  • 57 percent said their benefits package is more important to them than ever before, driven largely by their desire for greater security.
  • 42 percent would sacrifice additional pay each month for a more expansive health benefit plan, a sharp increase from 27 percent in 2013.

“Employees of all ages want more security, and getting benefits through their employer is an important way to obtain it,” said Steve Nyce, senior economist at Willis Towers Watson.

“Employees want benefits packages that meet their specific needs but don’t overwhelm them with too many options,” said Jennifer DeMeo, senior director for retirement at Willis Towers Watson. “While this balance may be tricky, employers can help employees by offering education, communication and decision-support tools.”

Added Nyce: “They also want choice and personalization and are looking to their employers to provide tools to ensure they make good decisions on issues that are often quite complex.”

Among other survey results:

  • Benefits found lacking. Only 40 percent of employees feel the resources their employer provides to support their health and well-being meet their needs. Even fewer (32 percent) say the resources to help manage their finances meet their needs.
    While 70 percent of all employees surveyed say their health care benefits meet their needs, that figure drops to 56 percent among respondents who are in poor physical and mental health.
  • Meaningful choice wanted. Nearly two-thirds of employees (64 percent) prefer a moderate number of benefits choices, an indication that they are happy to choose their benefits but having too many options can be confusing.