Disruption in the Workplace Creating New Challenges for Employee Benefits

For Employers
Jan 13, 2022
disruption in the workplace

The world continues to pivot and adjust to the endless challenges the pandemic brings. With more than 7.7 million people unemployed, and uneager to fill the 10.4 million available jobs openings, there’s been an undeniable shift - employees have had enough and are leaving. Enough of what though is to be determined, as the reasons for leaving range from micromanagement, workplace toxicity, unrealistic expectations, and elevated stress from being in the midst of a pandemic. 

One thing is for certain - disruption to the workplace has left employers in a lurch - pivoting to figure out next steps to progress forward. This disruption gives rise to a new set of employee benefit challenges for employers to address. Among them: 

  • Changes in benefits usage – While COVID-19 didn’t cause a mental health crisis, it exacerbated it, forcing many employers to confront the problem. And, while mental health issues like depression and anxiety increased during the pandemic, they existed long before it began. Findings from a Headspace for Work survey noted that employees’ use of mental health solutions rose from 2020 levels with an increase of 14 percent. 

The same can be said of substance use disorders, which have a strong correlation with depression and anxiety. A 2021 study by the New York University School of Global Public Health of people who drank found that 29 percent increased their drinking during the pandemic. Those experiencing depression were 64 percent more likely to do so, and people with anxiety were 41 percent more likely.

  • Increased expectations from employeesForrester reported that employees are expecting their employers to improve their benefits programs to meet employees’ changing needs, yet navigating the increased pressure for expanding employee benefits is a challenge for 93 percent of all employers. The research also revealed that, in addition to new usage plans, 91 percent of companies face the challenge of navigating employee burnout.
  • Gaps in benefits technologyForrester also found that, even though 95 percent of companies say they are satisfied with their benefits technology, only 22 percent agree that they get what they need from their reports. This indicates that either technology fails to provide needed reporting, or users don’t know how to access the reports. This is an issue because Human Resources (HR) teams need tools and reports that can help inform benefits decisions instead of being an obstacle to them. Employers and employees both feel their satisfaction would improve if benefits technology was upgraded.

On the positive side, the pandemic presents employers with unique opportunities to reevaluate their benefit offerings and overall culture and to make necessary changes they may not have made otherwise, according to the International Foundation

of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP). It has accelerated trends already in process, brings new ideas and priorities to the forefront, and gives organizations an opportunity to assess what works best for their workplace.

For example, during the pandemic, 23 percent of employers added virtual mental health therapy sessions to their employee benefits roster and nine percent are considering doing so. Of those that added virtual counseling, almost all have either made it permanent

(71 percent) or are considering doing so (26 percent). To ensure their resiliency, businesses must protect and support the evolving needs of their employees, their most important asset. Employers also must focus on attracting and retaining top talent to remain competitive and thrive in the marketplace. 

As employee benefits continue to serve as a critical tool for recruitment and retention, it is imperative for companies to reassess their benefit offerings and take action on decisions that best support their workforce. As one sociologist put it, “Employers can’t expect employees to just pretend like we didn’t just live through a social catastrophe, especially as it continues to unfold around the world.”

In addition to being the right thing to do; reassessing employee benefit offerings can come with measurable ROI, and is the only way to progress forward in a world still reeling from the worst parts of COVID-19. 

Need help how to adjust your benefit offerings to include a resource that helps employees struggling with substance use disorder? Get in touch with Quit Genius.

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