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Three Years Later: Why Employee Benefits Will Never Be the Same After COVID-19 

Three Years Later: Why Employee Benefits Will Never Be the Same After COVID-19 
Posted on Wednesday, March 15, 2023 by Marcy Klipfel

The pandemic spurred HR teams to transform the employee experience, and some changes shouldn’t go back to normal.  

More than 1,000 days ago, the COVID-19 outbreak prompted people to stay home on a global level. Without knowledge of how the virus worked and more than a year away from a vaccine, most of us were scared, totally unsure what the future would hold for ourselves and our families. 

Those who could, worked from home, and those who couldn’t, braved the frontline in essential positions or were forced to exit the workforce entirely.  

Overnight, organizations in every industry made tough decisions to keep operations afloat, prioritize the health and safety of employees, and survive the pandemic. 

Despite the hardships, stories abound of innovative employees and teams coming together to succeed no matter their circumstances. And it turned out, all those quick pivots, like moving to remote work or increasing PTO, revealed areas to take care of workers to a deeper degree. 

In a couple short months, the pandemic will be officially over. The National State of Emergency ends on May 11, but will the workplace ever go back to normal?  

No. And that’s a good thing.  

Thanks to COVID-19, here are four things about employee benefits that are here to stay.

Widespread adoption of telehealth services  

A convenient and cost-effective way to get answers to health questions, it’s surprising telehealth wasn’t as popular before. A measly 1% of all physician visits were held through telehealth services in 2019, compared to over 21% last year. 

Certainly, many concerns need to be addressed in-person. However, video calls not only provide a face-to-face conversation with a medical professional from your home, they also offers a partial physical exam. Video calls gives providers a unique glimpse into a patient’s home environment where health and family are intertwined. 

Think about a new parent with lots of questions or someone managing a chronic illness. Those regular visits can add up quick and take a toll on financial stability.  For some employees, the cost difference is lifesaving, allowing them to stop putting off critical care. 

Increased demand for voluntary benefits supported by technology 

Living proof that life can change at any moment, employees were reminded of those supplemental insurance options like hospital indemnity and critical illness coverage. Voluntary benefits provide peace of mind, creating an individualized financial buffer for unexpected illness or injury. 

Since 2020, voluntary benefit offerings rose 41% and not just for a quick minute—throughout multiple open enrollment periods. Even those smaller protections like pet insurance and identity theft saw increases in adoption. 

Investing in technology like care navigation and personalized communication, helps employees understand and take advantage of their perks throughout the year. Each autumn they may be excited about their HSAs and EAPs. But come June, those voluntary benefits and resources are “out of sight, out of mind.” 

Renewed focus on overall employee wellbeing  

Together, the world experienced isolation and anxiety in 2020. The pandemic revealed a couple commonalities amongst us all: Family is more important than anything and mental health cannot be left on the back burner. 

Answering the call, employers showed a greater focus on mental health and provided flexible remote options—even once offices opened up again. From dinner dates to hockey games, the family time has proved invaluable. Contrary to popular belief, divorce rates dropped by 12% in 2020. And 80% of multigenerational households reported having better relationships with family and kids. 

In 2023, stress remains sky-high and employee burnout is making headlines. Managers must lead by example to ease the stigma. Many employees are hesitant to fully log out when not at work or ask for help when they need a mental health day. Though resources may be available, organizational culture could be a barrier.  

Revival in how we attract and retain talent 

The Great Resignation and subsequent talent shortage has changed the world of recruiting. HR is discovering a greater need to impress candidates and deliver on promises to keep top talent on the team. 

Job candidates have spoken, and flexibility is here to stay. With a renewed appreciation for work-life balance, employees (especially women) are still on the search for that organizational fit. From DEI to PTO, talent is asking for more in exchange for their employment. 

Stay-home orders hit women hard, hurting hard-earned progress in pay equity and on the leadership ladder. Still today, employers are struggling to keep their female talent, showing a need to commit to the personal, professional, and financial success of their underrepresented people. 

Three years ago, only 6% of workers were fully remote. Today that number has quadrupled and is rising, with a confident quarter of employees working from home or in a hybrid arrangement. Giving workers more autonomy over their schedule and greater work-life balance, remote options are expected to increase substantially. 

Undeniably, the pandemic has had a lasting impact on the benefits landscape. While employees have more awareness of their benefits since the start of COVID-19, confusion is on the up-and-up. Upgrade your benefits offerings and deliver timely communications to create an exceptional employee experience. 

Personalized communications come alongside your benefits offerings to get employees excited about their health and wellness.