The Benefits Landscape in the Age of COVID-19

The benefits landscape is always evolving. What in-office perks were once getting employees through the door is no longer going to cut it. COVID-19 quickly exposed how employers could improve their benefit offerings, especially as employees work/life integration working from home.

As employers decide whether or not to remain remote, those who do plan to adopt more permanent virtual  work model open up the door to a much larger talent pool with even more diverse needs. That brings about the question: what benefits are companies spending their dollars on in a COVID-19 era to maintain a competitive and progressive edge? 

Better Benefits

Prior to COVID-19, companies had already begun implementing flexible and remote work opportunities as a way to stand out from the crowd and compete for talent.  Other in-office perks like beer on tap, free lunches and snacks, and onsite gyms were helping to pull in candidates. While the benefits landscape has evolved over time, COVID-19 has put a spotlight on  areas where benefit offerings could use improvement. Now, the most popular benefits that employers are looking to invest in are those that make ALL employees feel seen, heard and supported.

So what type of benefits are trending?  Below we provide three top benefits employers are implementing since COVID-19.

The first are benefits that focus on supporting the mental health of employees. This is no surprise as individuals “normal” lives were upended due to coronavirus and anxiety, depression, grief and substance abuse increased as devastation swept the country.  The usual self-support outlets (such as spending time with friends, family, the gym and other activities/social supports) became restricted. Early benefits inquiries since COVID-19 were related to resources that employers could share with employees to address mental and emotional wellbeing, specifically stress and anxiety.

This increased demand for mental health resources is in line with a recent survey of 256 companies by the nonprofit employer group the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, which found that 53% of employers are providing special emotional and mental health programs for their workforce in the wake of the pandemic. These include changes in employee assistance programs, discounts on mental health apps, and more virtual service options like remote yoga classes. 

Next, and this comes with even less surprise, employees are seeking out family-friendly benefits, such as employer-sponsored childcare. Even those employees who don’t have children are in favor of a benefit that supports their working colleagues. Why? Because a supported colleague is more present and more collaborative. Even during the best of times, working parents struggle to find a balance between working and caring for their children and elderly family members, resulting in lost productivity due to care-related absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover.

According to a back to school survey conducted by Care.com, 73% of working parents say that they may have to make major changes at work if schools and day care do not fully open, and stay open, such as: amending their schedules (44%), looking for a different job (21%), or leaving the workforce entirely (15%). Even so, employers still don’t have a grasp on the full impact of family-care issues in the workplace with only 15% of respondents currently receiving employer-sponsored child care benefits. Yet, among those who do receive them, 85% value them even more as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, with 59% valuing them much more now.

The third most prevalent category of benefits companies are adopting since COVID-19 are fertility, adoption and surrogacy benefits This breadth of family planning benefits address the diverse needs of employees  when it comes to family-friendly benefits. 

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