Employee benefits and perks have always had a dual mandate of sorts- a benefit for the employee, and as a part of a larger strategy of employee retention for the company. Many benefits come with tax breaks or incentives as well, an added win for the company should they offer the perk. Enter the Covid-19 pandemic, business shutdowns, lockdowns, school closures, Zoom, etc., and the past year and a half was a whirlwind not just for employers, but for employees. How did all this pandemic mess impact employee benefits and perks?
Besides the growing calls from employees at all levels for greater flexibility in how and when to return to indoor office environments, the shift has been towards employee wellness. Many companies are now asking themselves- How can we support our employees’ well-being during this crisis? A recent study by SHRM showed that 42% of employers had improved support for employee health and well-being over the past six months, with mental health options topping the list. A new report published by LexisNexis® Risk Solutions Health Care, the 2021 COVID-19 Mental Health Impact Report, verifies that mental health telehealth visits increased during the pandemic. What is surprising is the dramatic spike of 6,500% in one year. Companies have been adding telehealth services to their group health plans both as a cost-savings measure and to improve employee wellness.
With so many employers offering remote or hybrid work-from-home opportunities, many are splurging on home office upgrade reimbursements for their employees. Everything from new stand-up desks, laptops, and comfortable chairs to faster internet service. Anything that will help employees maintain their productivity from home and benefit the company as a result.
Companies forced to have their employees work remotely coupled with the closure of schools in response to the pandemic forced the government’s hands in passing legislation to accommodate this new environment. Federal leave policies were expanded to smaller companies and covered employees who had to care for a child or close family member battling the Coronavirus. Many firms are now carrying over this additional paid time off policies from the pandemic to the new normal- whatever that may be. They are finding that offering greater flexibility to their employees to deal with these personal matters is endearing the employee to the company and improving their retention rates.
In an unpredictable world, companies are leveraging their employee benefit dollars to contribute to employee wellness and mental health, make them productive wherever they may have to work, and give them the flexibility and time off required to deal with the myriad of challenges brought on by this pandemic.