Pandemic-Driven Changes to Employee Benefits
This has been a year of unprecedented changes to the workforce. With open enrollment quickly approaching, many employers are evaluating which benefits are most important to their employees. As you plan for 2021, here are four benefits trends that should be at the top of your list.
Telemedicine and Virtual Wellness
With so many companies and businesses going fully or partially remote, telemedicine has skyrocketed in popularity. Many commercial healthcare providers and carriers have enhanced their offerings and granted coverage for a variety of telehealth services. While some visits still require patients to be in-person, such as flu shots, others including nurse consultations, certain screenings and counseling can all be done virtually. Expanding telemedicine coverage for your employees can increase employee loyalty and morale, while also decreasing sick leave and presenteeism.
“Telemental health” is a relatively new term for a growing need of mental health services. With more than 76% of employees reporting higher levels of anxiety and depression throughout the pandemic, nearly 80% of companies are expanding mental health service coverage. Providing access to online mental health support resources in addition to lessening out of pocket costs for mental health services are worthwhile investments for organizations of all sizes.
Virtual wellness programming has also grown exponentially during 2020. With chronic conditions increasing the risk of severe illness from COVID-19, comprehensive well-being programs have become front and center for many organizations that historically offered a piecemeal approach to wellness. Developing a customized strategy and implementing outcomes measures have also become more of the norm due to the pandemic. Virtual programming has expanded as well and includes virtual exercise classes and online group meditation, remote cooking demos, and classes on resilience and self-care. Employers are also offering more virtual social gatherings such as coffee talks, show-and tell with family members or pets, trivia time and more time together without a focus on work.
Flexible Time Off and PTO Options
With the pandemic turning into a marathon rather than a sprint, many employees are unsure of what to do with their growing Paid Time Off (PTO) when there is nowhere to physically visit. Employees are finding it hard to ‘turn off’ or even take PTO. As a result, nearly half of employers surveyed are planning creative ways to encourage employees to find work-life balance. Some new ways to appreciate PTO include sharing programs that allow employees to donate their time to charities, specific coworkers, or even a general company fund. Other opportunities include allowing PTO to carry over into 2021 or using balances to pay down student loan debt. Ultimately, there are a multitude of avenues and policies to improve employee morale and reduce stress with flexible PTO options for 2021.
Subsidies for Childcare
One of the largest stressors for parents during the pandemic has been the lack of childcare coupled with irregular school schedules. Many employees with children are struggling to find care for their children throughout the workweek. A Care.com survey found that almost 80% of parents did not have any childcare benefits from their employers. Offering subsidized childcare or covered caregiving leave can help lessen the stress on employees, increase loyalty, and decrease presenteeism and work distraction while employees are remote.
Rewards for Remote Staff
As many employers know, it is much harder to gauge and improve employee morale when everyone is working from home. Going into 2021, many employers are finding novel ways to provide rewards and subsidies to say “thank you.” Some rewards can be as simple as gift cards to various retail stores or meal delivery services. Others can be more direct, including subsidies and certificates for home office furniture like standing desks, printers or ergonomic chairs. Big or small, employees appreciate the gesture that a “just because” reward can provide.
This year has been full of surprises but one thing remains clear -- developing an approach to open enrollment that is employee-centric remains unchanged. For additional resources, the Wellness Workdays website offers more information on worksite wellness programs as well as our Wellness Blog and a complete Covid-19 Resource Center.