Remote Work, COVID Impacting Employee Benefits
The shift to remote work and the effects of COVID on the mental health of individuals have transformed the employee benefits landscape with employers looking to better address the needs of their workers both emotionally and economically. Here are some of the benefits changes taking place now and into 2021:
Expansion of Telemedicine Plans
With so many individuals Working From Home (WFH), telemedicine gained in popularity as increasingly more people sought medical advice and treatment virtually. As a result, employers are expanding their virtual or telehealth programs either through complete sponsorship or subsidies. Other digital care resources being offered include artificial-intelligence-based symptoms triage, ‘text a doctor’ apps, and virtual office visits with a patient’s own primary care doctor.
Enhancing Mental Health Services
The coronavirus pandemic has taken its emotional toll on many with a dramatic pivot in how we work, learn, and socialize. People are working remotely with many feeling isolated and missing the camaraderie that in-person interaction fosters, children are “homeschooling”, and activities are limited, including the ability in many cases to visit with family and friends—particularly upsetting in occasions of weddings and funerals. Add to this, the gnawing consistency of uncertainty amid the pandemic. In fact, in a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of adults across the country said that worry and stress related to the pandemic were hurting their mental health.
Employers are enhancing their mental health support through Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) or additional services. EAPs can provide free counseling for issues with stress, work, family and personal relationship concerns, and more.
Getting More from Volunteer Benefits
According to a recent survey by Mercer, volunteer benefits enhancements planned for 2021 include offering Critical Illness insurance or a Hospital Indemnity plan and adding or improving behavioral healthcare resources. The addition of Life and Disability insurance products are also seeing an uptick in plan options.
Offering More Flexible Schedules & Child Care
With schools and daycare schedules disrupted across the country, employers are allowing greater flexible schedules to enable parents to care for children during daytime working hours. Some organizations (typically larger companies) are providing a financial subsidy for in-home childcare or a back-up childcare benefit.
Beefing Up Financial Wellness Benefits
Employers are looking at how to help workers concerned about their financial wellbeing. According to Willis Towers Watson, some employers are looking to make loans available to their workers, along with resources to help them build emergency savings. Others are providing payroll advances and adding student loan guidance and refinancing and student loan repayment programs.
It’s important for employers to communicate their plans effectively so employees understand what is available to them. Whether you have an employee benefits division in your agency or are reviewing your own employer-sponsored plan, strong communication along with educating your clients and employees are key.