How Employers Are Expanding Benefits in 2021
As the workforce alters with the long-term effects of the pandemic, companies are expanding their benefits for employees.
- By Chad Henriksen
- Feb 18, 2021
The concept of work-life balance became obsolete for the millions of American workers who shifted to the “home office” last spring. Initially, desks were cobbled together at card tables, kitchen counters or even from the couch. A year later, Americans have invested in a better set up, potentially including a higher-quality chair, a sit-to-stand option and larger monitors. Still, the burden of working from home is leaving many Americans groaning for all kinds of reasons – the aches and pains from experiencing less movement throughout the day, the isolation from working from home, Zoom fatigue and burnout from early mornings and late nights at the computer.
An upside to much shorter commutes – think bedroom to kitchen – is that you can step into “home life” almost immediately. However, many are taking the time they would have spent in the car, on the train, or on a bus right at their desk. Additional work hours add up and they are wearing America’s workforce thin.
In response, employers are enhancing workplace health and safety beyond worksite walls and expanding on traditional medical, dental and vision benefit plans. Across the country, employers are offering proactive healthcare benefits such as employee assistance programs, telehealth services, and prevention measures to support and maintain not just the physical wellbeing, but also the mental health, of employees.
Given the new workforce and lifestyle change, executives and business managers are making great investments in employees’ mental health and long-term wellbeing. These programs are rising in popularity as they lend themselves to accessing care in more proactive and flexible ways, ideally resulting comfort when seeking mental health support and subsequently, rewarding lifestyles.
Employee Assisted Programs
Between an economic downturn, a global pandemic and civil unrest, Americans are struggling. To deal with the pressure, anxiety and stress of 2020, some turned to alcohol. According to JAMA, there was a 54 percent increase of alcohol sales and online sales skyrocketed the week of March 15, 2020 compared to the same week the prior year. Employers are implementing employee-assisted programs (EAP) to support substance use disorder, financial difficulties and housing issues.
Many employers have an EAP to provide treatment for workers struggling with a substance use disorder which allows them to maintain employment upon completion. Due to the support and services, EAPs create trust between employees and employers and increase company loyalty. For these reasons, and many more, companies are reassessing and enhancing EAPs.
Americans are wearing more hats than ever. Simultaneously and (now for the first time) under one roof, adults are providers, teachers, and bosses and are working tirelessly to navigate new stressors associated with each responsibility. According to a Statista survey, 36 percent of adults reported anxiety disorder symptoms from January 6 - 18, 2021. For the mental health and safety of employees, human resource managers are pursuing benefit packages with telehealth services.
Telehealth visits limit exposure and offer more flexibility with busy schedules, providing an extra peace of mind and benefiting overall wellbeing. According to a recent survey, 84 percent of employees said their mental health was a higher priority for them in September 2020 than it was in September 2019. Employers understand this dire need for mental health services and are implementing additional benefits to empower employees to take charge of their own health while working at peak performance.
Preventative Health Measures
In every industry, employees are burned out, tired and in pain. Some hospitals such as Spectra Community Health Center in North Dakota are partnering with complementary and integrative healthcare professionals to offer on-site chiropractors and massage therapists to hospital staff, nurses and providers. With hospital’s running on overdrive, on-site clinics are proven to alleviate physical and mental ailments associated with exhaustion, being overworked and prolonged time on foot. Similarly, Solar Plastics, a subsidiary of Atek Companies and manufacturer of plastic molding, partnered with WorkSiteRight to develop and implement an on-site program to provide chiropractic care and health consultations specifically to help decrease injuries as a result of repetitive motions and heavy lifting often associated with the industrial and manufacturing industries.
This shift is occurring across fields. Massage therapy and acupuncture is covered under many health insurance plans as either a preventative or medical treatment option. These complementary and integrative healthcare services positively impact employees resulting in enhanced overall wellbeing and work-life balance.
Luckily, many employers are quickly adopting these useful and appreciated healthcare offerings for their employees. Whatever the perk, they all have one significant benefit in common, a measurable increase in company morale. Workers are tired and need proactive healthcare benefits to stay sharp and engaged. As the workforce alters with the long-term effects of the pandemic, more and more companies will adopt these methods to retain employees and attract top candidates.