Employee benefits after the pandemic - what to look out for in 2021? (2/5)
Focus on health and wellbeing, in particular mental health: Having reached the first-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic we have noted a shift in priorities for employee benefits and identified this topic as one of the 5 top priorities for 2021.
by Charlotte Biddle | 3 min read
Health and wellbeing programs that encourage employees to lead healthier lives have been hot topics for many years. Unsurprisingly, this has accelerated during the pandemic, with employees becoming more interested in these programs. Where previously younger employees may have opted out of private medical insurance, or kept it but not actively engaged with wellbeing programs, they are now seeing the importance of this benefit.
The effects of the pandemic on mental health is a growing concern among employers and how this is managed as we come out of the pandemic will be crucial. Some have raised concerns that following the COVID pandemic there will be a ‘mental health pandemic’. Previously, employee assistance programs (EAP) telephone counselling services have been offered around the world, but with claims ratios in single figures. We are now predicting that more people will become aware of the counselling offered and start to use these services. Employer communication can help make employees aware that these services are available. Whilst running an EAP service may lead to increases in costs, tackling mental health could lower disability claims and hospitalizations. Thus, many life and medical insurers include counselling services within their policies in the hope it will prevent larger claims.
With working from home set to continue, and the pandemic lasting for more than a year, there is an increased risk of burnout. Some companies have noticed that working from home has actually led to people working more than they did in the office. This, and the stresses of home schooling and the pandemic in general may result in burnout.
Health and wellbeing apps provided by insures are likely to increase in popularity as they provide a more personalized side to a benefits program, tailoring wellbeing programs and information to the employee. Information on weight loss, diabetes management or smoking cessation for example, can be targeted to those who it is relevant for, rather than everyone.
Other wellbeing programs offered by employers such as gym discounts have seen drops as gyms have been closed during lockdowns. However, once the pandemic has ended, these could become more popular than ever, as the pandemic has made people take their health more seriously. Prioritizing health and having more time working from home may increase the demand in fringe benefits such as discount gym memberships.
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