Over the past year, workplace culture has undergone a historic shift. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced employees to re-evaluate the way they work in order to adapt to social distancing guidelines, and now that vaccines are available, employers are beginning to re-strategize in anticipation of a post-pandemic world.
As the population emerges from quarantine and returns to the workforce, one of the biggest questions on employers’ minds is how they can re-staff to pre-COVID levels. The problem, though, is that while 2020’s mass layoffs created a high demand for labor, job-seekers are not necessarily willing to return to the way things worked before. Their priorities have shifted, which means the old methods of attracting employees are no longer effective. To recoup and retain staff, employers are going to have to get innovative with the way they approach hiring.
While traditional selling points like competitive compensation are still valuable, younger workers are now looking for additional benefits. Businesses that offer poor benefits (or none at all) to their employees are struggling to fill positions, and the usual incentives like hiring bonuses aren’t working. Other solutions such as resorting to poaching workers from competitors or similar industries is expensive, and hiring from within the existing, already thinly-stretched labor pool will contribute nothing to re-building the workforce. CLICK HERE for additional information
How Did COVID Change Our Approach to Benefits?
To understand employees’ shifting views on employment benefits, we need to look at how COVID-19 transformed the way employees work and think. Obviously, the pandemic introduced a number of changes to the workplace, and these changes have greatly affected employees’ expectations of their employers.
The ability to work remotely was once considered a luxury, but home offices and video conferences have quickly become the new normal, and many employees are hesitant to return to in-person work after experiencing the perks of working from home. Eliminating the distractions of the office has generally improved productivity, despite initial concerns it would do the opposite, and some companies have further encouraged remote productivity by offering reimbursement for home office-related expenses. The flexibility of working from home allows for a schedule that’s built around childcare duties if necessary, saving working parents money on daycare or babysitters.
To maintain morale, some companies have even begun to offer at-home alternatives to the amenities of an in-person workplace by reimbursing expenses like gym memberships and food delivery. Additionally, the rise in public health awareness and the effect of quarantine life on employee wellness has prompted many employers to expand their healthcare coverage. The bottom line is that COVID-19 reshaped the way we work, and employment benefits are evolving to reflect that.
Which Benefits Are Most Important to Employees Post-COVID?
So what exactly are the benefits that your business should be offering to attract and retain employees in a post-pandemic job market? Overall, employees’ needs are trending toward security, and away from the amenities of a traditional workplace. The freedom to work flexible hours from home is now a top priority for many workers, and they’re willing to give up in-person perks like free food in the break room to get it. In fact, a recent survey reports that over half of employees consider the ability to work remotely to be a deciding factor in choosing an employer beyond the pandemic, and nearly a quarter of employees have already switched jobs for the opportunity to continue working from home. Want to learn more about employee benefit options? CLICK HERE
With so much of the workforce operating remotely, the usual conveniences of the workplace no longer hold as much value to job-seekers. Instead, the uncertainty of the last year has caused them to place greater importance on more practical concerns. COVID-19 forced many people to confront the possibility that they would get sick, as well as the reality of how that situation would impact them without access to healthcare. The sense of security that quality healthcare insurance provides is not an issue employees are willing to negotiate in the wake of a pandemic. Even as vaccines are administered and the risk of COVID infection begins to fade, the lesson remains, and employees expect employers to respond with improved and expanded healthcare benefits.
In particular, sick leave has become an important issue for many employees. During the pandemic, many essential workers without adequate sick leave were forced to choose between public health and their livelihoods, and the long recovery time from COVID caused others to worry that a positive COVID test would jeopardize their employment if they didn’t have enough sick days saved up to cover it. As people return to work, employers who offer updated sick leave policies that provide a greater sense of job security and encourage workers to stay home if they feel sick will be more likely to attract applicants.
Job security in general is more important than ever to employees. Multiple rounds of layoffs early in the pandemic left many workers feeling anxious about their future, or even their ability just to get by, and no one is eager to experience that anxiety again. Providing adequate training for new employees and facilitating opportunities for them to develop new skills fosters the sense of security they are seeking. Employees are looking to recover the stability they lost during the pandemic and want to know that their employers view them as an investment, and not as expendable.
Mental health awareness among employees is also on the rise thanks to COVID-19. Months of social isolation during the height of the pandemic took a toll on workers’ mental well-being, and caused many to re-evaluate the importance of mental healthcare. According to recent data, 59% of millennial workers struggled with their mental health during the quarantine period, and 71% of Gen Z workers noticed a decline as well.
In response, employers began investing more resources in the development of mental healthcare plans intended to support isolated employees through the pandemic with benefits like access to free counseling or mental health apps. In a survey taken in November, 2020, 42% of employees reported an increase in direct mental health support from their employer, and only 17% reported no improvement to well-being benefits of any kind. Employees have responded very positively to these changes, and want assurance that employers are going to continue investing in their wellness. This is another shift in workers’ priorities that isn’t going away post-pandemic, and job-seekers will be looking out for positions that offer mental healthcare benefits of some kind as they re-enter the workforce.
What Can Employers Do?
Most industries are suffering right now, and updating your employee benefit blueprint might not sound realistic or financially attainable, but there are opportunities even for small businesses that lack extensive resources. ABM Insurance and Benefit Services has programs that will enable you to establish quality healthcare benefits for your employees, including routine doctor visits, lab work, and imaging, for $109 per month with a $0 co-pay. Hospitalization plans can be added for under $250 per month.
The benefits your business offers should remain consistent with employee expectations in order to attract new employees and remain competitive, and the current period of transition is a good time to re-evaluate what those expectations are. By considering the changing needs of the workforce and adapting your benefits strategy to meet them, you can enter the post-pandemic job market in a good position to attract new employees.
If you are seeking to establish or revamp your current benefit offering, call Mike Alexander at 281-921-1300 or visit us at https://go.getagreatquote.com/grouphealth