The events of 2020 have had a lasting impact on the workplace in ways everyone’s still trying to sort out. Shifts that looked like temporary solutions – the move to remote work for one – are now looking more like permanent innovations for many, especially for specific job positions. But regardless of each workplace’s adaptations, one thing that links them all heading into 2021 is a renewed focus on the health & well-being of their employees.
This year, employee benefits are more vital than ever, and are targeted towards getting workers financially stable & confident about their own health (in both body & mind). Innovative new programs tested on smaller scales have become more popular, leading to employee benefit trends that may look a bit different than years past, but in the face of a post-pandemic world are grounded in common, rational sense.
Mental Health Resources
What used to be seen as a fringe benefit is now central for companies looking to boost their team’s spirits. Recently, a survey of American workers found 2020 to be the most stressful year on record for over 70% of responders. This should come as no surprise, but it’s important to highlight nonetheless – in short, workers are feeling more anxious and burnt out than ever before. And the return to work is only making things more anxious. If your employees are already at capacity, they have little to give, even as the market returns to something approaching “normal”.
As many positions continue to operate remotely, employee benefits like meals, outings and in-office perks have quickly become useless. Companies have responded by shifting into mental health resources – specifically those of the Telehealth & Telemedicine variety.
Offering therapists, meditation and psychiatric services over Zoom and other remote video resources is a benefit that helps everyone. For some employees, it could be the first time receiving these services at all – and after a brutal year, there couldn’t be a better time to have them. Taking care of your employees’ minds & encouraging serious introspection is a way to reverse burnout and get the best from everyone, despite the circumstances.
Aside from a focus on video visits, another big trend is allocating money toward wellness apps and meditation programs. No longer constrained to Silicon Valley tech gurus, these programs have had a massive surge in popularity over the past year, for all the same reasons listed above. Study after study has linked meditation to higher productivity in the workplace – aside from the obvious benefits of inner well-being. Giving workers cost-free access to these resources is a great option for daily inner-maintenance.
The trauma of the past year has changed the way our brains operate before we’ve even had a chance to study how, but by leaning into mental health, companies can do their best to ensure workers feel taken care of (even as they unpack what they’re still going through). It’s a vital benefit that in many ways feels more like an urgent need right now.
Gym memberships were already a perk for some offices, pre-Covid, but investing in physical health is now a very popular trend across all industries. Keeping employees fit means keeping them healthy, and keeping them at their very best selves.
Memberships have never been cheaper, as businesses everywhere are bending over backwards to get their clientele back. It’s a great time to work with a local gym and partner for an extremely attractive perk.
Of course, some are still wary of gyms for a good reason, so depending on where you’re doing business, it’s worth thinking outside the box: fitness apps like ClassPass have revolutionized the game, not just for individuals but for companies seeking health benefit solutions. By allotting employee credits towards services like these, you can open up access to outdoor fitness classes or yoga studios, giving workers flexible options for staying in shape.
Companies have also begun crediting employees toward at-home workout programs, depending on how remote their workforce may be. Any way you cut it, investing in physical exertion is a great way to encourage healthier lifestyles, firmer structure and of course – a simple release, all of which workers will appreciate.
Keeping workers’ finances healthy is important as keeping their minds and bodies happy. If nothing else, they’re obviously linked. Companies have already seen great success by implementing financial assistance programs.
Most popular of all are FSAs, also known as Flexible Spending Accounts. In workplace terms, this allows an employer to make a direct payment into an employee’s health reimbursement fund, allowing greater peace of mind for any unforeseen life events. Recently, there have been two updates to the traditional model:
An FWA (Financial Wellness Account) is a payroll deduction plan that covers health, wellness, counseling and any other service not covered by IRS exclusion. Spending is post-tax, and gives workers freedom to use funds wherever they’re most needed.
An ESA (Emergency Savings Account) lets workers slowly pay into a rainy-day fund through payroll deductions. The money can be accessed at any time, but unlike with other FWA variations, it is taxed.
There’s a wide variety of emergency savings programs available beyond this – covering both health and finances – and if the pandemic has taught us anything, having those savings can really come in handy, no matter who you are. Financial safety nets are an employee benefit no office should overlook heading into the post-Covid landscape.
Tying all these trends together is the way in which they’re being delivered – namely, through technology that’s rapidly changing employee benefits altogether. From virtual open enrollment to online-centric benefits (like webinars and live chats), along with all the apps we’ve already mentioned and more, people have already adapted to a more remote world – and it’s looking like it’s gonna stay that way.
Whichever employee benefit trends are adopted, make sure the entire office is up-to-date on how to access them. The dust hasn’t begun to settle on the new face of the American workplace, but whatever it winds up looking like – chances are you’ll need fast software and video knowledge to keep up.
Regardless of what you choose, UBC is here to help. Reach out today to talk with an expert about the options that work best for you, so you can stay ahead of the curb and on top of morale. We’re here to make work & life easier – not just for you, but for your entire office.