How COVID-19 Is Changing Employee Benefits

As more employers and employees embrace remote work out of necessity and convenience, employee benefits technology will only become more important.

In the new normal, with so many teams working under distributed models for the foreseeable future, organizations will need ways to both strengthen employer-employee relationships and support employees through this difficult period from afar. That’s where benefits technology comes in.

Even When the Pandemic Ends, Remote Work Will Not

According to Global Workplace Analytics, 75 million US workers hold jobs that could be done from home. That accounts for 56 percent of the non-self-employed US workforce. While many of these employees are working remotely now thanks to COVID, there’s little reason to believe they’ll all be heading back to the office in the future.

In a Gartner survey this past April, 74 percent of CFOs said they were planning to move at least 5 percent of their workforces remote permanently. Tech giants like Twitter, Facebook, and Shopify have already told employees they can work from home forever. A separate Gartner survey found that 41 percent of employees are likely to work remotely at least some of the time once the pandemic has subsided, and Global Workforce Analytics forecasts 25-30 percent of the US workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.

While remote work may not be feasible for all businesses, it’s hard to imagine a future where organizations revert to the rigid, office-centric vision of work that prevailed prior to the pandemic.

Reinforce Employee Loyalty With Personalized, Portable Benefits

Many employees have been understandably stressed by COVID-19. According to Strada Education Network’s weekly survey, more than half of Americans have been consistently worried about losing their jobs since the pandemic started. According to a report by KPMG, 44 percent of workers are worried their jobs could be replaced by technology amid the pandemic. In April, the International Labour Organization anticipated that the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19 could reduce global working hours by 10.5 percent, the equivalent of 305 million full-time jobs being lost.

With so many questions about the state of the economy and the job market still unanswered, employees need reassurance. They need to know they’re valued and cared for. They want to know their employers are supporting them and that their needs are being met. This will allow them to focus more on giving their all at work.

At the same time, more individuals are working from home now than at any point in history. Effectively supporting and recognizing employees can be difficult even when they’re in the office, let alone when your team members are all distributed in various locations. To help bridge the gap and keep employees feeling secure, organizations need to embrace portable, personalized approaches to employee benefits.

In a remote-first world, employees want benefits that can travel with them wherever they go. They need to be able to access their benefits on their own time and no matter where they are. That’s why employers should consider investing in benefits technology that gives employees easy, instant access to their benefits.

The new normal has caused many individuals to feel lonely, isolated, and depressed, and 45 percent of adults are worried that the stress of COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health, according to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Employers can help alleviate these stresses by offering employees personalized benefits that are relevant to their individual circumstances. For example, a company could offer wellness pots that provide employees with a flexible fund to spend on activities that support their well-being. Some firms are also helping employees pay for in-home office equipment.

When employers offer personalized, portable benefits, their employees can more easily find the well-being support they need for their particular situations. This, in turn, makes it easier for employees to overcome the stresses of the current climate. According to research we conducted at Thomsons Online Benefits, 82 percent of employees who believe their organizations take their needs into account strongly agree that their employer-provided benefits make them feel valued; 68 percent of them see themselves staying at their organizations for the long term.

Benefits can create connections between employers and employees, and those connections are more important than ever as we navigate these uncertain times. By making benefits easier to access and more customizable, organizations can further strengthen their relationships with employees and mitigate the risks of disconnection and disengagement that come with a pandemic-driven shift to remote work.

Chris Bruce is managing director and cofounder of Thomsons Online Benefits.

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