Employee benefits in a post-pandemic world

Working from home

The sweeping impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted how, when and where millions of people work. Firms that previously did not allow remote working under any circumstances changed their tune and offered flexible working options.

As part of this broader change, companies also altered the benefits they offered to newly hired and existing workers. As the pandemic fades and the economy recovers, firms will need to remain competitive by attracting and retaining top talent, who will have expansive employment options. Expanded benefits are needed to keep these workers happy and engaged. There are a number of different post-COVID benefits that HR managers and department heads may want to consider for their employees.

Remote working

Firms like Facebook, REI, Infosys, Slack, and many others are allowing some or all employees to work remotely on a permanent basis.  These companies shifted during the pandemic and saw the long-term benefits in terms of productivity, employee happiness, and reduced capital costs.

As this movement to the home office continues, employers are also offering home-centric benefits, which include expanded reimbursement policies for items such as office furniture and supplies, as well as video conferencing facilities that make remote working more productive.

Periodic employer-covered food delivery to mimic “free lunch Fridays” and other traditional in-office perks could also be incorporated by companies to enhance a sense of wellbeing among their employees.

Flexible working hours

Remote work changed the ‘where’ for workers but didn’t always adjust the ‘when’. Many employees still expected their staff to follow traditional working hours and expected online activity and correspondence during those time frames. As remote working becomes standard practice, more staff members will desire flexible hours, giving them time to pick up their kids from school or go to the dentist without taking a formal sick day.

More flexible arrangements are already in the works at some companies, giving employees the ability to set their own hours. They can choose to condense their week into fewer days, start earlier, and make arrangements that fit work into their personal lives. Salesforce went as far as to declare the traditional 9 to 5 workweek “dead” and instead proposed a flexible arrangement to fit the modern economy.

Mental and physical health offerings

The COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread isolation and depression, but it also opened people up to discussions about mental health. This sparked a mental health awareness and treatment movement.

Employers are now stepping in to provide free or discounted access to therapists and mental health apps that are part of a broader workplace health program. To boost the physical health of remote workers, some companies are offering stipends for the purchase of workout equipment such as exercise bikes or treadmills. They might also offer access to virtual platforms that provide online personal training or other services that offer video-based yoga or fitness routines.

Health insurance for pets

The term “COVID Puppy” or “quarantine dog” became part of the cultural language in 2020 and 2021. People who were under stress and stuck at home looked to adopt dogs at an accelerated rate, but many of these owners neglected pet insurance during their excitement.

Employers can offer pet insurance as a perk. This is especially attractive to millennial employees who comprise the biggest demographic of pet owners and are willing to spend significant sums on their furry friends. Some employers are integrating pet health insurance within the enrolment process for supplementary insurance, so it becomes a monthly deduction like traditional health and dental plans for humans.

Conclusion 

Companies that shift their benefits packages in response to COVID-19 show they are responsive to the new cultural and professional reality. This empathetic approach will pay dividends in improved employee retention numbers, as workers will feel respected and valued while enjoying the flexibility of working from home. Improving and expanding employee benefits offerings will also drive the creation of a strong and modern brand presence that can attract top-tier new hires who position the company for innovation and growth.

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