Building Better Benefits After COVID-19

Chris O'Dwyer Commentary


Building Better Benefits After COVID-19

In the wake of COVID-19 challenges, employers are rearranging benefits packages to improve retention and aid recruitment. Companies are shifting to offer benefits that take into account mental health, remote work and caregiving — three of the biggest workplace issues that came to light in 2020. Here’s how businesses are changing the benefits they offer.

Mental Health

Burnout has always been an issue for employers looking to keep staff, and 2020 only highlighted the problem. While remote work can allow more flexibility in dealing with family emergencies, it can also make it harder for some to mentally separate their workplace from their living space. Added stress and increased isolation have led to a spike in mental health issues, specifically around work.

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According to a November 2020 survey from the International Foundation of Employee Plans, 63% of companies reported an increase in employee mental health care claims. And 10% of businesses either added mental health days to their paid or unpaid leave or closed the office for one day a week.

Being aware that employees need a mental break from work has been key in helping businesses retain workers. If a company’s employees know that executives care about their mental well-being, they are more likely to want to continue working for that company.

Remote Work

COVID-19 forced many to work from home and that flexibility has proven appealing. The Pew Research Center reports that more than half of employed adults who say that their job responsibilities can mostly be done from home (54%) say that, if they had a choice, they’d want to work from home all or most of the time. A third say they’d want to work from home some of the time. Some 46% of those who rarely or never teleworked before the pandemic say they’d want to work from home all or most of the time when the pandemic is over. The nationally representative survey of 10,332 U.S. adults (including 5,858 employed adults who have only one job or have multiple jobs but consider one to be their primary) was conducted Oct. 13-19, 2020.

Today, many companies have incorporated remote work into their long-term plans, which means they’ve had to shift some of the in-person benefits they offer to be more work-from-home friendly.

According to a March article from Workplace Intelligence, 89% of companies are doing away with at least one benefit because of COVID, and most are choosing to get rid of things like subsidized meals or commuter benefits. These favor in-person work and are less necessary with the rise of a hybrid workplace.

Caregiving

Many people in the workforce are either parents or are taking care of their aging parents, and businesses are increasing benefits aimed at lightening the load. A 2021 Care.com survey found that 63% of companies plan to increase their child care benefits and 41% plan to increase their senior care offerings. The same survey reported that 61% of businesses understand the need for flexible child care options and plan to deprioritize on-site child care.

Choosing an insurance carrier that provides telemedicine, such as Teledoc, the provider for QualChoice customers, is a benefit with wide-ranging appeal, allowing those working from home to have a doctor’s visit with a child or aging parent without leaving the house.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports a 154% increase in telehealth visits during the last week of March 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. While driven largely by pandemic fears, most of those patients were seeking care for conditions other than COVID-19, the CDC reports.

In a job market in which many industries are struggling to find workers, businesses have leveraged every available option to not just hire new employees, but retain staff. C-suite leaders and human resources managers should be combing through policies and asking providers how to best optimize benefits to meet their retention and recruitment objectives.


Chris O’Dwyer is the director of sales at QualChoice of Little Rock. He has been in the insurance industry since 1992.