Employers are redefining benefit plans to meet the needs of employees, especially in the face of a hybrid/remote workforce.
President, Integrated Benefits Institute
The past two years have been challenging for many reasons, but for the benefits professionals of the world, it has been a whirlwind of new products, defining new culture, deciding new work/home/hybrid constructs, new safety protocols, and, most importantly, redefining their social contract and responsibilities to the workforce.
Where to go from here? IBI’s research and review of outside research has shown that some of these challenges continue in 2022 and beyond, and employers who are addressing them as a priority might have a leg up.
Understanding the challenges of the workforce
Employers must find ways to identify the issues their employees and their families face before designing a solution. Surveys, in-person interviews, coffee time with leadership, town halls, etc. will help to define pain points and preferences.
Designing with flexibility
There is no longer a ”one size fits all” benefits offering. A menu of programs that help address real-life issues is key. Benefits such as caregiving, childcare, mental wellness, financial health, paid time-off, resiliency training, and a choice of working from home or office or a hybrid model show that employers understand the needs of their workers. According to the SHRM 2022 Employee Benefits Survey, 63% of employers allow their employees to opt-in to a hybrid work model.
Embracing virtual care
Now is the time to study your data and strategize on your virtual health program offerings. IBI’s research shows that much of the virtual care utilization throughout the pandemic occurred at the employees’ own traditional providers. Did your virtual care vendor perform to the company’s and your employees’ expectations? According to SHRM, the percentage of employers who offer virtual care in 2022 (93%) increased 20 points from 2019 (73%). Are you planning to expand your virtual mental health options to address ongoing access issues?
The price of delayed care
We know that delayed and avoided care was, and in some cases still is, an issue for employers and employees. Employers should review their current strategy around the basics: communication campaigns around preventive care, chronic disease management program engagement, incentive programs, wellness programs, and driving patients back to the appropriate care schedule.
Redefining culture and engagement
The way we defined our business culture and what we considered ”engagement” in the past cannot be how we define it for our future. To attract and retain a productive, thriving, and happy employee, we must address a new set of social circumstances. Executive leadership must ”walk the talk” to show that they understand and empathize with the issues of the day. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion must be practiced and supported by a flexible benefit offering.
And lastly, the folks who handle all these challenges on a day-to-day basis need support too. HR professionals have been asked to be epidemiologists, counselors, safety experts, and magicians over these past two years, with little or no training. Employers must support, train, and reward them as well as the rest of the workforce to avoid burnout and turnover.
We’ve a long road ahead, but addressing these priorities today will surely set the stage for a better future.