Employee Benefits

How the Pandemic Is Changing Benefits in 2021

During the past year, nearly every aspect of life for employees and employers has changed. Due to the pandemic, millions of employees are working from home. Employers have struggled to find solutions to keep workers engaged and help teams complete their projects. This includes offering enhanced benefits. And it looks like 2021 will be a challenge as well.

Initially, most businesses focused on supporting employees by providing resources and perks to help them cope with the new normal. But as the pandemic continues, many employers think remote work options will continue indefinitely. They are looking at different benefit options to serve employees better. Here’s how the pandemic is changing benefits in 2021.

Voluntary coverage

Employees appreciate the security of their health benefits, perks and rewards available through their employers. While medical coverage is the priority benefit, more and more employees want voluntary plans to meet other health and personal needs.

Voluntary plans are those that provide optional benefits to employees at group rates. Employers may pay a portion of the premium cost or pass the entire amount on to workers. Usually, the monthly payment for voluntary benefits is a small investment. Employees appreciate the option of being able to add these plans to enhance their benefits packages. The current pandemic has changed everything, and it’s changing the face of benefits in 2021 and beyond.

Dental and vision coverage are popular voluntary benefits. It’s the one thing in life that hasn’t changed. These plans help employees take advantage of preventive services to keep their teeth and eyes healthy. Other voluntary benefits growing in popularity are hospital indemnity, critical illness coverage, elder care, disability income, supplemental life insurance, and pet insurance. Employees appreciate voluntary plans because they can be customized to fit their needs.

Telemedicine

Increasingly, employers are offering telemedicine options for employees, so they can safely receive care during the pandemic and into 2021. Research shows that 43% of employers now offer telemedicine benefits, compared to 29% a year ago. Access to virtual health care has changed and evolved over the last year.

Employers believe telemedicine visits with health care providers, such as doctors and dentists, are a safe health care option for employees. Telemedicine appointments are an easy and affordable way for employees to discuss medical questions or concerns. They can discuss health issues privately with a health professional from the convenience of their own home.

Work-life balance

Research shows that for employers offering remote work options, over 60% of their employees are working from home due to the pandemic. More than 50% of employers expect they will continue to offer remote work options in 2021 and after the virus ends. That’s a big change from the way things used to be.

However, most workers are juggling family and work responsibilities more than ever now because of the pandemic. They try to work while also helping kids with online school needs and homework. Many employees are stressed and exhausted by the demanding schedule. Better work-life balance has become a resounding request of employees, and employers are listening.

Many businesses provide more options for employees to have flexible hours and give more paid time off. These changes also include about 20% of employers offering subsidies for back-up childcare. These options help ease the heavy load employees are carrying. In turn, employers enjoy the benefits of more focused, productive, engaged employees at work.

Employers can empower workers and provide reassurance to help them cope. Review these ideas for helping employees deal with change.

Mental and financial well-being

The stress of today’s remote work arrangements due to the pandemic is more than some employees can bear. It’s gone on for nearly a year now, and all of the year’s uncertainties are spilling into 2021. They miss the freedom to spend hours each day working in person with team members and meeting friends for lunch. They also miss doing a few errands while kids are at school or participating in other activities. While employees appreciate their jobs, many are bored with remote work, online meetings, and the same schedule day after day. All of these restrictions and changes at once are impacting their mental health.

Many employees also are struggling with finances and their changing needs. Some were furloughed or lost their jobs during the pandemic. Many people who found new positions receive less in salary and benefits compensation than their previous job. Although millions of people with student loans received payment relief during the pandemic through the CARES Act, they’ll have to start making payments again soon. Workers are stressed about finances and uncertain how they will pay their bills.

Employers can help employees adjust to life changes by providing mental and financial well-being programs. Here are three ideas for 2021 and into the future:

  1. Offer financial counseling services.
  2. Provide a student loan debt repayment benefit, such as BenefitEd.
  3. Set up an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that employees can access to talk with a professional counselor.

Learn more ways employers can help maintain employee well-being during a crisis.

Employees value their health benefits and other perks. And they’ll be even more important in 2021 as life keeps changing. A Willis Towers Watson study found that 37% of American employees would rather receive richer benefits than additional salary or bonuses. About 57% of employees surveyed indicated their benefits provide security. And 42% said they would sacrifice more monthly pay for a more substantial health plan. Employers can provide many perks and benefits that reward employees and keep them engaged with their work. Perks and benefits also show an employer’s appreciation for all their workers are doing to be productive during the pandemic.