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August 18, 2020

Employee Benefits In A COVID-19 World

Employee Benefits In A COVID-19 World.

Everything about COVID-19 has changed the way we live, work, and play. As we adapt and adjust to our “new norm,” we now have an opportunity. Since March, many state laws and federal laws have changed; as things continue to be confusing, there are few topics and ways that many employers, HR leaders, brokers, and administrators can agree on. 

Our Workforce and Work Style Is Changing.

Today and even in the near future, employees’ needs and benefits are moving farther from the traditional plan designs. Employers now have to re-examine or inform how current plans meet the “normal” workplace style. Many employers implemented on working remotely, and several companies have made the change permanent. 

Employees at Twitter have been given the option to work remotely and are told they do not have to return to the office if they aren’t comfortable or don’t want to. Companies such as Google and Facebook are implementing similar strategies. 

Working remotely will continue to be the reality for many companies, employers, and health and welfare consultants as well. This will result in the need for better-personalized benefit plans. 

Programs That Add True Value to Employees

As the on-site workplace begins to diminish, so does gym memberships availability and on-site wellness screenings.

Employees are expecting wellness programs that genuinely add value to them. For many, it is time to help offer HSA or FSA contributions. Virtual Care or Telehealth has grown into a massive market as we replace face-to-face meetings. Virtual care is becoming a vital component in new benefits packages as well. Under the IRS guidance, certain telehealth spending flexibilities under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) allow high-deductible health plans with health savings accounts (HSA’s) to cover telehealth services before a patient reaches their deductible amount. These provisions also apply to services provided on or after Jan. 1, 202, with respect to planning years beginning on or before Dec. 31, 2021. The CARES Act also expanded “qualified medical expenses” for HSAs and various other tax-advantaged accounts. Employers have now been encouraged to deliver benefits such as telehealth, EAP, and behavioral therapy that offer these services to increase better employee morale, productivity, and reduced healthcare spending. With such a change in the modern mindset due to our current events, we must design such a customized plan that employees utilize. Companies’ goals are to appeal to employees in such a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive work environment.   

Beyond A Medical Approach 

Today, employees desire a more holistic approach to their benefits, surpassing the typical high-deductible health plans. Employers need to be able to support the mental health of their employees. Since COVID-19 many programs rarely utilized such services for their employees, now is the time to reassess methods and delivery options in your benefit plans. A recent study by the Census Bureau data shows that one-third of Americans are suffering from clinical anxiety, depression, or both. 

Isolation and stress are a considerable effect of working remotely for some individuals. Many employers are acting quickly to address these problems and use this opportunity to help employees know that they care. By merely implementing changes to their plans, it will provide the tools to help employees balance work and life in confinement more than ever. 

Communication Is Key

As a result of COVID-19, the way we work now has changed completely! With such a change, the way we administrator benefits is changing as well. For example, the days of on-site visits and enrollment education are completely non-exist, which has led HR to adapt and adjust. 

Without in-person visits, many HR leaders are finding themselves bombarded by benefit questions. When delivering these changes and benefit plans, it’s essential to ask yourself, “How can I properly communicate these tools to my employees virtually anywhere?” Creating a method and communication materials that are easy-to-use with as much support as possible is what employers need to consider. The long-term effects of COVID-19 are entirely unpredictable; being able to predict what employees will need next year is unforeseeable. The solution is a digital experience. As employers, administrators, or a CEO, we owe it to employees to show we are there for them!

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