Accounting professionals can advise clients and take our own advice when it comes to leveraging the tax code to improve employee well-being.
It has been quite stressful, to say the least, working from home for my counseling and education work. I have to finance my own confinement costs. I have not received any stipend or assistance for additional equipment, furniture, increased utility payments, food, and personal effects needed to prepare for distance learning, conduct business in an environment fully virtual and staying healthy and mentally sound during lockdown. The university system I work for didn’t provide me with any equipment and I ended up wearing out my cell phone as I was using it as a second screen for virtual classes. The loss of the school allowed a change of scenery to grade and prepare for lessons, it was a bit devastating. Fortunately, schools are offering training for mindset and mental health, and to convert classes to be taught virtually.
I can only imagine how people working in corporate settings who had never worked freelance or from home before were able to adapt to working from home. As the year draws to a close, companies need to remember that employees are stakeholders too.
A recent Robert Half survey revealed that a large number of accounting professionals feel burnt out. Accounting is a demanding profession, filled with interdepartmental and client meetings and requests, constant deadlines and often heavy workloads. The nature of work has changed. Well-being matters. The pandemic has shown us another side of what the support and structure for lasting success looks like. The costs of health care and healthy habits can be expensive, as can personal development and social activities.
Fortunately, employers can take advantage of the tax code to alleviate some of the physical and financial stress felt by employees and also benefit from tax advantages. Sections 125, 127, and 139 are a few parts of the Internal Revenue Code that can help employers provide employees with holistic wellness benefits for modern life and the demands of the pandemic.
Here are some tips for accounting firms to advise their clients and internal teams to invest in employee well-being:
Organizations must strive to create safe spaces and structures where people can work in peace, not in pieces. Employers should take advantage of the tax code and work with benefits companies and human resources to provide employees with all the tools they need to do their jobs and perform well. Those responsible for governance, leadership and management must be committed to making the job work for everyone. Companies and departments need to outsource, automate, delegate, and eliminate tasks, processes, etc., so employees can focus on their jobs and have a life outside of work.
Sole traders and boutique businesses can work with companies like Gusto and see what companies like Summit Group are doing to set up employee wellness and support programs.
Cost savings and benefits include less turnover, burnout, absenteeism, lost productivity and long-term illness. Sitting is the new tobacco and working more than a certain number of hours per week decreases productivity. Businesses can benefit from improved job satisfaction scores and improved reputation, improved effectiveness and efficiency, and reduced costs associated with attracting and retaining new employees. The Great Resignation showed us how much employees value their well-being over status change and status change.
Imagine a workplace where employees have an active lifestyle, mental health treatment, support, personal development, financial well-being, time with loved ones, social life and community involvement.
What are the benefits that can help employers provide such a quality of life while taking advantage of the tax code? Below are some items:
- Contributions to Flexible Savings Account and Health Savings Account;
- Personal development allowances;
- Homework allowances;
- Funds to set up ergonomic home offices;
- Fund for physical activities of choice;
- gift cards for birthdays and life events; and
- Virtual meeting meal gift cards.
Employees can use these perks and benefits during working hours with their preferred vendors and vendors to engage in activities of their choice, including therapy, acupuncture, functional medicine consultations, business coaches and business development communities and retreats. They can also use the benefits for faster repayment of student loans, tuition and certification fees, books and courses, and healthy, hearty, nutrient-dense meals.
How will all of this benefit the employer? Healthier and happier employees add more value to all stakeholders. The reputation of the organization can increase and make it a more attractive employer. Communication and interaction between team members and stakeholders can improve.
Do we really need a business case for why we should do everything we can, and as the tax code and our resources allow, to make the job work for everyone and to support the people who make the success and results of our organization possible?
The benefits you and your customers offer to employees may need to be reviewed and adjusted to best meet current employee needs and to ensure the benefits align with wellness goals. Flexibility and choice of personal lifestyle goals are important. The benefits really outweigh the costs.
We can be as good as we are, and there is a tax code for that.