During the COVID-19 crisis, employers all over the country are looking for new ways to support their teams. One of the most popular ways to do this is by offering the ability to work remotely.
This increased flexibility is one of the many employee benefits that have seen revisions in the era of COVID-19. Over a few months, employers all over the world have had to analyze the benefits their companies offer and see if it will stand up to their employees’ new health and wellness needs in light of the circumstances.
Now, many employers are considering future changes to their employee benefits programs. Let’s take a look at why that is, the way we’ve already seen employee benefits change and what we expect to see in the future.
Why Are Employers Revisiting Benefits?
To put it simply – because the only way to survive this crisis is to adapt.
Employers are taking a hard look at their employee benefits packages because they’re realizing that the most important assets that their company has are the health and happiness of their employees.
Employee wellbeing needs to be more than just a buzzword that’s thrown around during yearly meetings. As the New York Times has pointed out, 38 million people have already lost their jobs because of COVID-19, and while the trend in weekly new unemployment numbers should begin to slow down, they’re unlikely to see a quick rebound.
During a time like this, employees will be assessing if their company is putting them at risk – whether that means putting them in customer-facing positions without adequate PPE or not offering substantial healthcare. It will now be harder for employees to accept things like insufficient benefits, a lack of supportive leave policies or inflexibility on maintaining a work/life balance.
If employers are passionate about continuing to retain and attract talented, highly qualified employees, they must consider how to expand their employee benefits programs to support not only their employees’ physical health but mental health and emotional wellbeing.
What Changes Have We Already Seen?
COVID-19 began moving through the United States in early March, causing the majority of the country to shelter-in-place by the end of the month. Even though it’s only been a few months before these measures were put in place, many companies have already adapted and expanded their employee benefits to fit the needs of the time.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits that have already seen changes across the country:
Remote Work and Flexibility
According to an April 10th survey by Willis Towers Watson, there has already been a dramatic increase in the number of companies who have found new ways to allow their employees to work remotely.
Before the pandemic, only 14% of surveyed companies responded that three-quarters of their employees or more were able to work from home. Since the pandemic began, that number jumped to 39%.
Paid Time Off
On April 1st, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) went into effect. Under these guidelines, many employers were required to offer their employees up to two weeks of fully paid sick leave if they are quarantined and have COVID-19 symptoms, along with additional paid leave if they are caring for someone in quarantine.
This act also took into consideration families who have been left without child care and schools to send their children to during the day. It requires that employees get 10 weeks of paid leave at two-thirds pay.
Research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has shown that about one-third of companies are offering additional paid leave during this time, and 18% are planning to offer additional paid leave in the future. Because of how important this issue is to many employees, there’s a chance we’ll continue to see an increase in companies outsourcing and formalizing their paid leave management.
As medical professionals quickly prioritized who should be leaving their homes to visit doctors and hospitals and who should not be, the availability of telemedicine, or doctor visits via computer or phone, jumped exponentially.
This has been a feature of many employee benefits programs for a few years now, with telehealth offerings increasing year-over-year by 10% and 72% of companies making this benefit available in 2019. But since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, SHRM studies have shown that 86% of companies are actively encouraging their employees to take advantage of this helpful feature.
With people being more cautious about how they spend their time outside of their home, giving employees the resources to talk to a doctor about physical or mental health issues remotely has been one big way many employers are helping support their teams.
After looking at the way employers have already adapted their benefits, the question remains: has this pandemic changed the way employers consider employee benefits packages?
We believe the answer is yes.
How Will Employee Benefits Change in the Future?
At IPMG, we believe that employers should be prioritizing the happiness, health and wellbeing of their employees to ensure a successful and productive business.
And so far, research is showing that many employers are increasingly seeing the importance of offering benefits that support their employees physically, mentally and emotionally.
We believe we’re going to see continued changes in several areas of employee benefits, including:
- Telemedicine: Now with more resources available in the realm of telehealth, it’s likely that employees will continue looking for this benefit after the pandemic ends. In fact, surveys have shown that COVID-19 has made two-thirds of respondents more willing to try telehealth in the future.
- Employee Wellness: As more companies consider keeping their companies remote for good, employers will be reconsidering the ways they can promote employee wellness outside of an office environment. Employee wellness programs may need to be outsourced to experienced providers to help companies create successful plans and stay proactive about potential health issues.
- Mental Health Support: Due to the overwhelming stress, anxiety and depression sparked by COVID-19 and prolonged social isolation, companies will likely continue to increase their mental health support by offering more resources and programming to help. For example, the company Starbucks began offering 20 free therapy sessions a year.
- Work Hours and Location Flexibility: Working flexibility was already a growing employee benefit in 2019, with over 40% of companies offering part-time remote working according to research from the SHRM. Post-COVID, we may see a rise in the number of companies who decide to stay remote, citing their employees’ safety and the success of telecommuting during the pandemic. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 56% of American employees have jobs where they could work remotely (at least part-time.)
- Child Care: With many schools and child care facilities closed by state mandates, employers are seeing the importance of child care as a mainstay of employee benefits in the future. Whether this means helping out with the costs of child care, creating on-site options for parents or forging partnerships with local care centers in the area for discounts, employers will be looking for opportunities to provide for the employees with families.
What Should Employers Do Next?
As of right now, it’s important for employers to check in on their employees to see what they need during this difficult time and if there’s any additional way the company can support them through this transitional period. As employers discuss these topics with their teams, they should be keeping in mind the ways they can adapt their programs (either now or in the future) to further take care of their employees in their time of need.
If you would like to take the next step in considering employee benefits that support your employees’ physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, it may be time to learn more about IPMG’s In-Sight 360. In-Sight 360 is the first fully integrated platform that manages all employee injury, health, wellness and absence events, and it could be the perfect solution to help your company adapt to meet the changing needs highlighted by this crisis.