Three Ways the Pandemic is Reshaping Employee Benefits

For Employers
Mar 8, 2022
employee benefits

Almost two years ago the employee benefits landscape looked entirely different. Prior to the pandemic, benefit offerings focused on traditional healthcare and retirement benefits. This approach was altered somewhat as employers sought to appeal to certain demographics, such as attracting more women with fertility benefits. But benefit offerings did not always reflect employee needs.

For example, even though burnout, anxiety and depression were becoming significant workplace concerns, mental health benefits continued to lag behind physical health offerings. And, rather than invest in more comprehensive benefit strategies that could better address these issues, employers primarily relied on more standard health insurance benefits to cover employee mental health claims. Unfortunately, this approach proved unproductive, resulting in a shortage of providers, high costs, and a lack of alternatives that left employees feeling stigmatized and unsupported. In turn, this led to significant negative impacts on employee engagement and medical spend.

Underscoring the need for change to employer benefits strategies is a study from Prudential Group Insurance, which found that: 

  • Most workers today (77 percent) now consider benefits programs a crucial part of their compensation, up from 67 percent last year.
  • A higher percentage of workers consider benefits programs a key reason to remain with their employer. And many respondents revealed that it would be worth taking a chance on a new job if it offered better benefits.

Workplace Culture is Shifting

The pandemic has reshaped benefits in ways that will most likely extend far beyond its end, most notably in the following areas:

Evolving employee needs and expectations. Overall, employees have been more likely to turn to their employers for assistance. In addition, the problem of drug and alcohol misuse — which has continued to escalate from already soaring pre-pandemic levels — has been brought to the forefront. During the early months of the pandemic, drug and alcohol use increased sharply. Then, in late April/early May 2021, a survey by Lifeworks and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation of people employed or recently employed revealed that:

  • About 31 percent of respondents who use alcohol reported drinking more since the pandemic started.
  • Of those who use drugs, around 29 percent said they had been using more Although some workers who used drugs and alcohol over the past year and a half stopped using when they returned to work, many others have developed persistent increases in their substance use, leading to impaired functioning in various areas of their personal and professional lives.

Increased mental health support – The returning workforce bears the scars of illness, isolation and uncertainty. As a result, many more employees are now suffering from mental health issues like anxiety and depression and even PTSD. Increasing mental health support will be vital to ensuring employees are holistically healthy.  

More care from employers with a new perspective on work-life balance – The pandemic has elucidated the interconnectedness of work and life. For years, workers – primarily working mothers – were faced with the untenable choice between their children or their paycheck. But, as one CEO commented, work- life balance has never been a realistic concept or something that is truly attainable because work and life are interconnected and one effects the other. “They are not independent entities struggling for 50/50 equilibrium.”

Employees are paying more attention to their benefits and relying on them more. This is pressuring employers to offer more robust benefits packages that better meet the needs of employees and prevent them from leaving their jobs to seek improvements elsewhere. While expanding benefits alone cannot eradicate burnout, it may serve as a bridge to work-culture changes that are badly needed by employees.

Quit Genius is an employer-offered benefit that treats tobacco, alcohol, and opioid misuse. We’re here to help your organization evolve to help your employees become the best versions of themselves. Get in touch with us today!

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