Employee Benefits

What the Pandemic Revealed About Employee Benefits

Small boy sitting in dentist's chair and learning how to brush teeth properly.

COVID-19 provided employers and employees with many valuable lessons. Employers identified the need for extensive plans to help them respond quickly to unexpected crises. Employees developed coping skills to adjust to working from remote locations, keeping connected virtually. And they both learned the importance of employee benefits.

Recently, Employee Benefit News magazine worked with Ameritas to survey more than 500 consumers to discover what the pandemic revealed about employee benefits. Then EBN talked with April Rimpley, senior vice president of human resources at Ameritas, about the impact of COVD-19 on benefits. Here are some insights.

A valuable investment

During the pandemic, most employers continued to offer the same level of benefits. Employees reported no significant changes to their medical, dental or vision benefits. This emphasizes the importance of employees’ health to their employers. Companies consider benefits as a valuable investment in their teams. They recognize that offering health benefits shows employees they care about their overall well-being.

Employees value their dental and vision coverage

The survey confirmed that employees consider medical insurance essential, but they especially value their dental and vision coverage. Dental and vision insurance helps employees take care of their teeth and eyes to look and feel their best. A positive outlook helps workers cope with difficult situations, such as the pandemic, when everyday life gets turned upside down. Feeling good about themselves instills confidence, impacting employees’ mental well-being.

Although many dental and vision offices closed during the early days of the pandemic, and employees were working from home, nearly 50% of those surveyed still visited their dentist and eye doctors in 2020.

Seeing the dentist and eye doctor annually helps people keep potential oral and vision problems under control. During these exams, doctors look for signs of severe medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration. Catching these health problems early can decrease the likelihood of more serious health issues and costly treatments.

Oral and vision care 2021

Dental and vision benefits continue as a priority for employees. Nearly 60% of survey respondents said they plan to schedule dental and vision appointments in 2021. As a result of the pandemic, employees realize the importance of self-care to maintain healthy eyes and teeth.

As some dental offices opened and Americans scheduled overdue dental appointments, dentists have noticed an interesting trend: many patients have oral health problems, including tooth decay and stress-related issues such as tooth grinding, and cracked and chipped teeth. Research shows that many employees working from home didn’t brush and floss their teeth frequently and ate more sugary foods. Since dental offices were closed or saw limited patients, many people could not schedule professional cleanings and checkups.

Employees who have dental and vision benefits tend to use them. These employees tend to be happier and healthier, more productive and take less time off. As a result, they’re more focused on their work and ready to help companies serve customers and support business growth.

Future trends

As companies emerge from the pandemic, many are facing uncertain financial situations. Their business models may have changed, they may have lost customers, and their talented team members may be looking for other job opportunities. As a result, employers may need to cut costs to improve their bottom line. Often companies consider making cuts in employee benefits because it’s a large budget item. But before cutting benefits, employers should do three things:

  1. Conduct pulse surveys with employees to find out which benefits and plan features they value most.
  2. Review benefit usage trends. Make a list of most vs. least-used benefits.
  3. Discuss the information gathered with your benefits broker and insurance carrier to develop a benefits strategy for next year. They can help evaluate benefits and perks to update plans and coverage levels. Remember, a quality benefits package is crucial in retaining and recruiting talented employees.

Listen to the podcast discussion with EBN and April Rimpley from Ameritas to learn more insights on how the pandemic impacted employee benefits.