During and after the COVID-19 pandemic, employers found many challenges in meeting the new and rapidly changing needs and wants of their workforces. The shift to remote work highlighted the need for employee benefits that placed less emphasis on traditional insurance and 401(k) plans. Since that time, human resources professionals have retooled benefit packages to include more focus on support, mental health, and well-being for the work-at-home populace.
Whereas benefit changes took some time in the past, organizations can’t afford to prolong the process. Employers have to think on their feet to respond effectively. Many employees face changing circumstances at home and work. They need benefits packages that will align with those changes. This article discusses how employers have reacted to their workforces and revamped benefits strategies, along with steps for measuring the effectiveness through innovative means.
The Pandemic’s Effect on Employee Benefits
The most profound impact the pandemic has had on the employee benefits space involves the number of people working remotely since 2020. According to Pew Research, 35% of employees who shifted to a home-based office have remained remote. Before 2020, only 7% of employees took advantage of working outside the traditional office setting every day.
For many of your employees, this phenomenon changes how home life intersects with work life. This is especially true when dependents enter the equation. Employees who double as caregivers for aging parents and young children need more flexible benefits options. Those with aging or infirmed family members seek more help in the form of flexible work schedules, affordable childcare and caregiving resources to balance these pursuits while still being professional, productive, and motivated.
HR personnel have listened and responded to employees’ concerns by designing benefits plans that closely align with their needs. For many employers, offering greater access to both physical and mental health providers and including dependent care assistance has occupied the forefront of these innovative pursuits. Virtual doctor visits and counseling sessions, for example, have opened up avenues to employees who may once have avoided care because of logistical or geographic difficulties.
Evolution of Employee Benefits Post-Pandemic
The public health emergency was first declared on January 31, 2020, and created a fair amount of anxiety among the workforce nationwide. Employees had concerns about their health and well-being, as well as that of their family and friends. Isolation and social distancing measures had everyone questioning whether life as they knew it would ever return to normal. So, what has changed with employee benefits insurance in the aftermath of COVID-19?
Some benefits programs no longer matter as much to the remote workforce. For example, benefits like on-site childcare and commuter expense allowances are irrelevant for remote workers. On the other hand, expanded mental health support options have increased in importance. Employees desire more freedom to work when they want, casting aside a 9-5 workday for more flexible hours. Organizations have provided supportive programs that help remote employees deal with post-COVID byproducts: stress, burnout, more sedentary lifestyles, and substance abuse.
Some of the innovative options implemented by employers include:
- Employer-funded wallets with dollars that can be used for well-being pursuits.
- Increased length of time offered for paid maternal, paternal, and family leave.
- Adoption assistance programs.
- Fertility treatments covered by medical plans.
- Personal and life coaching opportunities.
- Meditation and right-mindfulness classes.
- Eliminating copays for telemedicine consultations.
Key Strategies for Adapting Benefits Insurance Programs Post-Pandemic
As with any new benefits program, a key component of its success stems from the plan’s popularity with the company’s workforce. Thus, you need to gauge the effectiveness of a new employee assistance program (EAP), for instance, by evaluating your workforce’s feedback. Gather employee opinions on upstart benefits plans through surveys, one-on-one communications, and continual monitoring of the program’s utilization. Through electronic newsletters, intranet sites, and scheduled information sessions, you can trigger two-way communications that help your employees and give you insights.
Getting meaningful benefits programs off on the right foot is also critical to their success, and much of the plan’s approval will hinge on educating your employees. Decision-makers must ensure the plan’s availability dates and specifics are released before open enrollment. Non-traditional benefits can either be implemented during open enrollment or off-cycle in response to strong demand.
Response to Evolving Employee Benefits Insurance Needs
Within your organization, agility and a quick response time help lay a benefits foundation more suited to a dynamic workforce’s needs. The ease and speed with which you react can help revamped benefits programs gain traction. Here are some steps you can take to craft an effective benefits plan:
- Seek employee opinions.
- Consider flexible scheduling arrangements.
- Expand, add, or eliminate programs in response to feedback.
- Focus on more dependent care options and expanded access to mental health providers.
- Provide greater access to wellness and physical well-being through digital channels.
Ultimately, company leaders have discovered that a collaborative benefits approach— from the bottom up— can enhance employee engagement and productivity. When workers feel invested in decision-making processes, participation fosters a greater sense of belonging.
The Role of Technology in Post-Pandemic Employee Benefits
The role of technology has increased in the post-COVID world. Virtual mental and physical health visits now offer care and treatment options to employees who have limited access to in-person providers. Access to online information can assist employees in becoming advocates for themselves and their well-being. HR departments can partner with providers to deliver pilot programs. You can quickly gauge the effectiveness of these programs online by measuring how workers react and respond to them.
You can go straight to the source to spark new ideas for employee benefits options. Reaching out to employees for a massive digital brainstorming session can help bring creative programs to the surface. From there, HR leaders can pick from a wealth of organic suggestions that help steer and shape benefits packages. Cutting-edge benefits administration platforms can give your employees instant access to available programs. They can also examine enrollment options with comprehensive medical, dental, vision, and 401(k) plan information.
Measuring the Success of Your Post-Pandemic Benefits Insurance Package
Gauging the usefulness of new or existing benefits plans can help you determine what works for your employees and what doesn’t. The analysis often starts with participation rates. A virtual telemedicine program, for example, might be a hit if two-thirds of employees sign up and half of those enrolled schedule visits. You might also form employee committees that can relay sentiments from peers regarding the value of certain benefits programs. High employee turnover rates could, in part, indicate shortcomings in your benefits packages.
Baldwin Risk Partners helps customize employee benefits packages to bolster your organization’s ability for successful recruiting and retention. Whether you desire high-tech enrollment processes, comprehensive compliance services, or the design and implementation of cutting-edge benefits administration platforms, we draw on decades of industry experience to supply you with easily adaptable solutions to changing operational landscapes.
Adapting to a Changing Benefits Landscape
An adaptable and responsive approach is crucial in creating desirable employee benefits programs. The shift to remote work has highlighted new and pressing employee needs, requiring a swift reshaping of benefits offerings. Benefits programs that prioritize mental healthcare is one of the top emerging needs. Employees are expressing a strong desire for support in this area, especially in light of the challenges brought on by the pandemic. Offering resources such as counseling services, mental health awareness programs, and access to therapy can greatly contribute to the overall well-being of employees.
Enhance Your Benefits Strategy with Baldwin Risk Partners
As businesses navigate this evolving landscape, it is crucial to reassess and optimize your employee benefits insurance packages. At Baldwin Risk Partners, we offer comprehensive evaluations of your existing programs and their configurations, providing valuable counsel every step of the way. Our expertise extends beyond evaluation. In these challenging times, we understand the increased administrative burden faced by HR staff. Our team provides guidance on post-pandemic strategies to help alleviate this burden, allowing your HR department to focus on core responsibilities.
Our tailored approach ensures that you receive benefits packages that meet the unique needs of your employees, while aligning with your long-term goals. By partnering with us, you can expect more than just consultation services. Our dedication to forming a trusted partnership offers ongoing collaboration and support as your organization grows and adapts.
Take the first step towards enhancing your benefits strategy today. Contact us to learn more about how Baldwin Risk Partners can help your organization thrive in the post-pandemic era.