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How COVID-19 Is Shaping Employee Benefits

By February 3, 2021 No Comments
Young woman at home video chats with her physician on her laptop

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many businesses to adapt to a new way of doing things. Not only have our workspaces moved to our homes, but companies have also had to change the way they operate to better meet the demands of the new remote work environment. The pandemic has also shifted priorities and forced companies to take a greater interest in the overall well-being of their employees. Not only is physical health a priority, but mental health and financial health have become just as important. As we continue evolving with COVID-19, here are some key shifts in employee benefit trends that we expect to see gain momentum in 2021 and beyond.

Telehealth

Over the past year, everything has seemed to shift into the virtual environment. The desire to stay safe at a distance has forced many gatherings to be held virtually, including doctor visits. Telehealth, which was once considered an add-on to benefits plans, is expected to become a standard option with most health plans. Many providers will assume that routine and primary care appointments, which don’t require testing or in-person treatment, will now be conducted through telehealth services.[1]

Mental Health Wellness

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we view and address mental health in regard to employee well-being. Employees are now looking for more support through their health plans as it pertains to mental wellness, while not being too intrusive. Experts predict that we will start to see the inclusion of more holistic health services—such as health and wellness coaching—through employer-sponsored health plans. Employee assistance programs (EAP) are another offering that is gaining traction. While they’ve been around for some time, EAPs are voluntary work-based services, including free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up for employees who have personal or work-related problems.[2] Previously available at work in-person, this program is starting to become more popular now that the remote working environment offers another layer of anonymity and employees feel they can use this resource in a less formal and less conspicuous environment.

Non-Traditional and Financial Benefits

Employee mental and physical health have not been the only areas to gain more recognition. The pandemic has also brought many financial struggles and other unforeseen costs. To accommodate the needs of their workforce, employers are also starting to look into more non-traditional benefits offerings and financial wellness assistance. Student loan repayment benefits, for example, are a popular financial benefit for employers to offer employees who are either currently in school or have recently graduated.  Spending more time at home means spending more time with our families, including our pets. Another trend in non-traditional benefits is pet insurance. Pets have almost always been perceived as members of the family, and the cost of owning a pet can become very burdensome—especially veterinary bills. Pet insurance can also tie into mental health and wellness, since pets can offer companionship during a time when we are more isolated from others, making pet insurance an attractive benefit for recruitment and retention.[1]

Employee benefits directly impact the health and well-being of your workforce. It’s important to invest in benefit offerings that will nurture your employees in more areas than just physical health. Knowing which benefits to offer can feel overwhelming with how many options are available. Harbor America offers employee benefits to our clients, including MDLive (telehealth) and EAPs. Whether you are looking to adopt one of these options, or both, to your current benefit offerings, Harbor America’s team of benefits experts will provide you with all the resources you need.

Sources:

[1] Benefits Pro – Trends to Expect for 2021 in a Changing Employee Benefits Industry

[2] United States Office of Personnel Management

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