How the Pandemic Changes Benefits Strategies

pandemic changes benefits strategies

As Americans have navigated the pandemic, we’ve had to work through many complexities. The almost immediate quarantine and shift in work environments shook our sense of security; not just of job security, but of financial security and health security as well. As part of that, it has become evident that the pandemic has changed the way both employers and employees look at benefits strategies.

Last year, the Business Roundtable highlighted where we may find ourselves while formulating benefit strategies for employees both during and after the pandemic. They said, “It’s not only a moral imperative to offer good benefits and economic security to employees – it’s smart business. When companies have talented and diverse employees who feel secure at work and at home, both people and businesses perform at their best.”

Let’s take a look at just how the decreased feelings of security have affected workers and how the pandemic changes benefits strategies for both employees and employers.

How have people been changed by the pandemic?

Recent studies show that a majority of workers have struggled with a number of concerns. These range from financial stress, burnout and/or mental health, childcare and/or elder care, and physical health. All of these can be seen in some way across the different age groups currently in the workforce.

How has the pandemic changed the workforce?

An overwhelming majority of the American workforce is comprised of four generations: Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. These have all dealt with the pandemic differently. For example:

  • 50% more Boomers retired in 2020 than during any other year in the past decade, whether from health concerns or difficulty adapting to the required business changes.
  • Gen X is struggling with emergency savings and dependent care, all while trying to figure out how to juggle their many responsibilities.
  • Millennials find themselves deep in debt and turning to retirement savings to stay afloat.
  • Gen Z is most concerned with gaining new skills and having new opportunities. Having seen so many layoffs and/or furloughs, they want a “Plan B” to find other employment if necessary.

Employees are seeking more than traditional benefits

With so many people not working, due either to layoffs/furloughs or resignations, and the cost of benefits increasing, employers are trying to find a middle ground. To quote Jennifer DeMeo from Willis Towers Watson: “Amid the ongoing pandemic, employers are under increasing pressure to manage their benefit costs, while at the same time finding new ways to support their employees’ overall well-being.”

Let’s start with what the employees want as a whole:

  • Living within their means
  • Growing their retirement income
  • Eating healthy
  • Caring for their overall health
  • Work/life balance
  • Building emergency funds
  • Exercising and managing stress
  • Growing and maintaining relationships
  • Gaining new job skills
  • Advancing careers

Employers are considering more creative benefit strategies

Now let’s look at the benefits options that employers are considering to address these issues, and why:

  • Flexible workplaces and schedules may provide the employer with benefits by reducing facilities overhead and enabling employees to be more productive.
  • Well-being programs with non-medical benefits that employees can buy may help to provide stress management and preventative health benefits.
  • Employee Assistance Programs that focus on both physical and mental telehealth may make it easier for employees to take care of themselves.  
  • Student Loan Repayment Assistance may help relieve the concerns of employees drowning in debt so they can better focus on doing good work.
  • Emergency Savings Accounts can especially help younger workers, who have had less time to prepare for a rainy day, do so in an easy, automated way.
  • Finally, Lifestyle Spending Accounts can provide employees with help for wellness, financial planning, charitable involvement, pet care, dependent care, housing, travel, entertainment and more.

If the pandemic has taught us nothing else, it is how to get creative. We’re all doing things we never dreamed we’d have (or be able) to do. This disruption is causing employers and employees to work more closely to take care of each other. Employees want a better quality of life, and to attract and retain top talent, employers need to help provide it.

DataPath, Inc. is a leading provider of technology solutions for cloud-based benefits administration.

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