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Gen Z's workplace expectations — rethinking your employee health benefits strategy

It’s happening. Gen Z, or Zoomers, the most digitized generation, is slowly but surely entering the labor market. And they have different expectations than the generations before. They look for mental health coverage. They expect healthcare to be as accessible as shopping online. And according to a study from NC State University, their motto is “work to live, not live to work.”

Along with millennials, Gen Z make up 50% of the US population, which makes them a huge workforce group to consider, especially now as the market shifts and it’s become common for employers to fight for employees, and not the other way around. Although many Gen Zs might still be covered by their parents’ healthcare plans, employers and employee benefits brokers need to start rethinking the way they approach benefits to match the expectations of the upcoming generation.

💡 Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2012, are the first generation raised on the internet, on smartphones, and with social media, and are often called “digital natives.”

Gen Z members want full autonomy over their health and to maximize their healthcare benefits.
Gen Z members want full autonomy over their health and to maximize their healthcare benefits. Illustration by Aga Więckowska.

The most common employee benefits vary among workplaces and locations and include health insurance, private healthcare, paid holidays, flexible schedules, co-financed sports and meals, and development and integration budgets. According to a Glassdoor survey, the highest-rated overall benefits in the US are in finance, IT, and manufacturing.

The main bodies offering employee benefits are benefits brokers and employers themselves. Benefits brokers provide organizations with benefit options. They have an understanding of available benefits programs, vendors, and prices. Ideally, they evaluate employees' needs and suggest appropriate benefits packages. As for employers in the US, they also play an important role in providing healthcare, as there's no universal health coverage.

A study conducted by Willis Towers Watson says 78% of employees would likely stay with their current employer for the benefits they offer. This number shows the importance of benefits in the workplace, making it something hard to ignore. Yet, there’s a shift happening in the benefits market and not all employers are keeping up with the changes. The number of benefits available is huge, making it difficult to stay on top of all the vendors and prices and then bundle them into useful packages. Importantly, the workforce has different expectations than before. Businesses without a great benefits package, or without one at all, will most likely struggle with employee churn, low team spirit, and changes in workflows.

This directly impacts companies’ finances.

If you're either an employer or benefits broker, you may want to ensure the benefits you offer are in line with what the new generation entering the market actually needs. Since enjoying good health is a universal need across all ages, in this article, we're going to focus on the health-related benefits available for Zoomers.

What is Gen Z looking for in healthcare?

The new generation pays attention to something that hasn’t often been taken into account before—being aware of their overall wellbeing. This means not only treating certain medical conditions but also focusing on everyday prevention, including nutrition, sports, sleep hygiene, and stress management. Personal trainers, therapists, nutritionists, self-monitoring wearables, and wellbeing apps are some things Gen Zs look for in their holistic approach to healthcare

Accenture reports that American Gen Z is increasingly dissatisfied with the current healthcare model, with 45% not having a primary care provider. They are more likely than their predecessors to take a holistic approach to health, focusing on preventive care rather than being loyal to one provider. The same research found that 37% of millennials and Gen Z are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the location or channel of their care, and 44% report dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of their treatment. With this in mind, the main factors Gen Z considers when choosing health services are a convenient experience, accuracy, affordability, and digital availability of the service.

In other words—they’re looking for autonomy over their health and to fully benefit from the available options. Let’s explore this idea a little further.

Availability

The global pandemic has impacted the way remote work is being adopted, and many workplaces have now become remote-first companies. Therefore, many Zoomers won’t even have a chance to taste office life. At the same time, semi-nomadic lifestyle preferences are increasing among this generation, making work-life balance appreciated more than ever before. Remote employees working for international companies are often unable to fully benefit from in-network health coverage, as they’re working from different geographic locations.

That’s why providing digital and automated health-related benefits could make healthcare more accessible for employees traveling or living in different locations. Virtual healthcare can come, for instance, in the form of an end-to-end online health platform that monitors users’ symptoms and directs them to teleconsultation or medical facilities in their region.

Convenience

Gen Z breathes technology. They use smartphones to pay bills, schedule hairdressing appointments, and shop for groceries, and they expect healthcare to be as convenient and digital as the other services they use. Self-service healthcare solutions could, for instance, analyze users’ symptoms and then help schedule and prepare for teleconsultations or in-person visits. And, in many cases, the employees’ health problems may be solved without even leaving their workplace or home.

It’s worth mentioning the new generation is not about desktop versions anymore, so introducing mobile-friendly apps for sports, mood tracking, or symptom assessment, along with email or text notifications about the visit, would additionally boost convenience rates.

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Accuracy

A sign of the younger generations’ times is that they’re used to checking everything online. And although some content can be truly valuable, many sources present unverified, pseudoscientific information. As mentioned before, Gen Z have a greater awareness of their overall wellbeing, so they expect their health-related services to be as accurate and reliable as possible.

The traditional doctor-patient relationship may not apply to younger generations. Unlike the generations before, Gen Z come armed with information and expect to actively participate in decisions and treatments related to their health. That’s why Gen Z want to be empowered with trusted data based on legitimate sources. Therefore, partnering with a provider of externally verified and certified digital health services gives them a professional source they can trust.

Affordability

In the US, young people face many financial pressures like student loan debt and high housing and living costs, healthcare included. 63% of them cannot afford preventive care. Gen Z is the generation hit the most by rising healthcare costs and struggle to achieve financial independence. Also, saving for retirement is difficult for almost 80% of Americans due to increasing healthcare costs, and 63% of Zoomers would avoid following doctors’ recommendations for the same costly reason.

Being mindful of the above, employers and employee benefits brokers can contribute to Gen Z’s financial independence (and therefore better health) by offering them digital healthcare support or participation in healthcare programs. This way, young employees can spend their salaries more productively, without worrying whether they can afford healthcare.

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Summary

Building a healthy work environment for different generations is challenging, as all of their various backgrounds, experiences, and needs must be considered when providing benefits. However, employers can help ease some of the financial and accessibility barriers employees face in accessing healthcare.

Providing Gen Z and other generations with convenient, accessible, accurate, and affordable digital healthcare is a good way for employers and benefits brokers to ensure current and future employee satisfaction. And the good news is that companies don’t need to build solutions from scratch. Partnering with innovative companies that also develop modern health technologies is a great way for employers to build a competitive advantage by ensuring a healthy and happy workforce.

Interested in growing your business with intelligent healthcare solutions? Check out our Partner Program to learn more.

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