Employees worldwide have described 2020-2021 as one of the most stressful periods in their careers. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified financial stress from job losses, layoffs, pay cuts, physical and mental strain from COVID-19 symptoms, and the death of loved ones from the virus.
However, as cases dropped, countries slowly began to ease restrictions and get people back into the job market. Smart employers are placing a higher value on the workplace benefits that help employees to address pandemic professional challenges. Workplace benefits have always been an essential part of an employee’s compensation plan. But in a post-pandemic world, more and more employees now consider workplace benefits crucial in their employment contracts.
The pandemic has changed the value of workers. Employees are now more conscious about their health. They actively explore strategies to lower the risk of contracting COVID-19.
Employers have remodeled their workplace benefit plans to enhance workplace productivity in the post-pandemic period and to further satisfy employee needs. There are several new and popular employee benefits for employees in the post-pandemic world. Below are a few of them:
Flexibility is one of the most popular benefits in the post-pandemic period. Even as the pandemic recedes, challenges could still come from localized outbreaks that close schools or create new restrictions in the communities. Employers who offer flexibility in “where, when, and how the work is done” will likely attract potential and current employees.
Choose the workplace
Research by staffing firm Robert Half shows that among 2,800 senior managers polled in June, 41% were giving employees the ability to choose when they work. For some employers, whose work is tied to a physical location/plant, the “where” is less flexible than the when. Most jobs require eight hours a day to complete, and some jobs must occur during the traditional “open business” hours of 9am-5pm, but offering flexibility on when a blue-collar shift starts and ends (especially 2nd and 3rd shift workers), even if just on specific days of the week to accommodate family obligations, is hugely popular and appreciated among employees.
Employees want higher wages
In a tight job market, many employees now have the benefit of demanding higher wages. This often comes with better benefits and more flexible working conditions from current or new employers. However, money is indeed the top priority for job seekers.
Great Reckoning, not Great Resignation
The COVID-19 pandemic caused lower-level, minority, low-wage, and front-line employees to consider leaving jobs at rates significantly higher than historical norms. While the term “the Great Resignation” implies a mass exodus of workers across the demographics, ‘Great Reckoning’ shows that only a particular group of workers – those who feel their employers are not meeting their needs, are considering leaving their jobs.
Mental health support
Access to behavioral and mental health support is ongoing as employers consider post-pandemic employee benefits. In addition, the associated stigmas with seeking mental health support have been torn apart by the enormity of the pandemic with its isolation and attendant stress, and people have become more willing to ask for and get help.
Post-pandemic time off
The stress employees are under is apparent to employer organizations. As a result, employers are now tweaking their policies and allocations on paid time off (PTO) while preparing for the post-pandemic world. Although some companies have noted these changes to be temporary, benefits executives mention that some of the new approaches are likely to continue beyond this year.
The virtual care revolution
The pandemic has created a fertile ground to implement the virtual tools that support employees’ mental and physical health. As a result, digital and telemedicine have gained levels of acceptance and utilization in just a few months that would have taken years to achieve pre-pandemic.
The rapid growth in the virtual tools designed to support the wellness and health of the employees is a bit inconsistent across the workforce of some employers. Employees with high education and income levels tend to be active users of telemedicine, while the other employees are slow to adopt it.
While telemedicine and digital tools have helped fill some health care gaps, many people skipped non-emergency health care altogether. This includes the annual preventive screening for conditions like cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
To counteract the increase in severe diseases, many employers are stepping up chronic disease screening and management programs.
What to look ahead post-pandemic?
We can’t go back to the pre-pandemic ‘normal,’ but this doesn’t mean that the future looks bleak. On the contrary, the post-pandemic future of employee benefits is a work in progress with many variables that drive its trajectory. For example, employers can continue to support the hybrid or remote work arrangements among the employees whose work can be managed remotely. In that case, a location-agnostic talent strategy can drive a very different employee benefits approach. Employers will continue to explore shift flexibility for those employees who need it, particularly if it means keeping a skilled employee who may otherwise leave a position and seek new work elsewhere.
CWE’s approach in post-pandemic employee benefits
We strongly believe that employees are our most vital asset. Therefore, CWE has reassessed our employment benefits to maintain the mental and physical wellbeing of every employee. We believe in a physically and mentally fit team. We acknowledge how much this adds to company efficiency and productivity. In addition, this nimbler approach to employee benefits will also allow us to better handle future hiring and employee satisfaction challenges that the company may encounter.
The most popular change we’ve made to our benefits is allowing for flexible schedules (flexible shifts) for responsible employees in our Maintenance unit, in our Yard/Water Technician group, and sometimes even for our Drivers. This allows them to meet family obligations while also performing and completing their shift duties at Clean Water Environmental (CWE).