COVID-19 has come with more challenges than we could’ve imagined. But it’s also forced us to put everything we do under a microscope, consider what’s working and what’s not, and use this moment as an opportunity—not to get back to normal, but to emerge from the global pandemic even stronger than before. 

For employers, that means preparing for the future of work in real and meaningful ways: creating more flexible work environments, adjusting our idea of what a “good employee” looks like, and most importantly, making sure employees have the resources they need to succeed.

But a recent Jellyvision survey shows that employers still have a long way to go when it comes to supporting their employees through this challenging time: 

36%

of employees say their employer isn’t doing a good job supporting their physical health

35%

of employees say their employer isn’t doing a good job supporting their financial health

39%

of employees say their employer isn’t doing a good job supporting their mental health

2021 will be a turning point. You have a responsibility to step up to the plate and ensure your workforce fully recovers from the current moment—not only because keeping your employees healthy is the right thing to do, but because it’ll help you maintain your bottom line. 

Absenteeism costs US employers a collective $84 billion in lost productivity annually, or $2,660 per salaried employee. So a healthy employee is a less expensive one.

Here’s how leading companies are adjusting their benefits packages to address employees’ current needs and set themselves up for success this year:

The Best Employee Benefits to Focus On in 2021

Telemedicine

60%

decline in doctor’s office visits in March and early April 2020

Why is telemedicine a leading employee benefit right now? Unsurprisingly, employees aren’t going to the doctor as frequently as they did pre-COVID. No one wants to sit in a waiting room and risk infection, and in some cases, appointment availability is limited for non-COVID patients. 

That means your employees are ignoring a lot of their health issues right now, and they’re not getting the preventative care

they need. And it’s going to cost you — when employees finally address the health issues they ignored during COVID, employers’ claims costs are going to skyrocket (one report projects they’ll increase 8% next year). 

When employees finally address the health issues they ignored during COVID, employers’ claims costs are going to skyrocket.

So telemedicine is a great way to make sure employees safely get the care they need now, and catch health issues before they become more costly. The good news is that employees are already catching on, and are using their telehealth benefits if they have access—there was a 318% increase in telemedicine visits this year.

And employers are increasing their focus on telehealth as well. Telemedicine has been the biggest area of focus for Jellyvision customers during COVID-19, with many offering the benefit for free or expanding who’s eligible to use it for a limited period of time. The key next year will be to continue communicating the value of telemedicine by ensuring employees know it’s available to them, and is a less expensive option in many cases. 

60%

of Jellyvision customers say telemedicine is a priority right now

Mental health services

Mental health support has also been a big priority for Jellyvision customers during COVID-19, and with good cause. 45% of adults report the pandemic has affected them mentally, and concerns about personal finances and other stressors have taken a toll.

45%

of Jellyvision customers say mental health services are a priority right now

We know that in any given year, depression affects more than 264 million people worldwide. But the collective trauma of a pandemic is expected to increase mental health issues globally for years to come. While we don’t have an exact estimate yet, experts say the lasting impact will be significant:

“Historically, the adverse mental health effects of disasters impact more people and last much longer than the health effects. If history is any predictor, we should expect a significant ‘tail’ of mental health needs that continue long after the infectious outbreak resolves.”

— Joshua C Morganstein
Assistant Director, Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress

And employees are already telling us that their employers aren’t doing enough to combat the increase in mental health concerns. So now is the time to proactively address those problems, highlight the resources you already offer in your benefits package, and invest in new mental health services.

Employers are finding creative ways to supplement their traditional EAP benefits with other mental health support: 

“Meditation and mindfulness are great tools to learn how to cope with some of these new changes. Use different techniques like breath work, reprogramming the mind, repositioning how we’re thinking about a situation—these are all opportunities for people who are struggling to invest in themselves and achieve personal growth.”

— Briana Bragg, Founder, Vacation of the Mind

“Our leadership has just flat out said, “Please use your vacation days. That’s what they’re there for, and we know people need them now more than ever.” The support and permission from that level was really great to hear, and saying it outright to everyone really made a big difference.”

— Allison Joseph, Vice President of Employee Digital Experience, Fidelity Investments

Other employers are highlighting the importance of holistic check-ins and manager training around mental health: 

“We moved away from an employee satisfaction survey to a simple, daily email that says, “How was your day?” Not, “How was your workday?” or “What struggles did you face in your work?” But, really, “How was your day?” We’ve been trying to push ourselves to make sure that people are feeling supported and feeling like they have the space to talk.”

— Tom Vranas, Vice President of Innovation and Culture, Everywhere Wireless

“Everyone on the team goes around and describes how they’re doing based on red (poorly), yellow (meh), or green (good). And the objective is to answer as a human being, not as an employee, for example: “I’m yellow today. My kids kept me up all night, and I’m super exhausted. So I’m trying to get to green but I’m pretty yellow.”

— Steph Yiu, Head of Customer Success, WordPress VIP

And we’re constantly updating ALEX with new content to address current employee needs and share new benefits tips—mental health resources included. Here’s how we’re helping employers communicate mental health benefits better this year. 

A truly accommodating work environment

“Flexible schedules” has been a buzzword for a long time. And even before COVID, we were starting to break the 9-to-5 mold, trend towards remote work, opt for unlimited vacation, and more.

But it’s taken a global pandemic for many employers to fully embrace flexible work arrangements—perhaps partially out of necessity, but also because we’ve realized that many of our previous notions about the best ways to work together were incorrect. 

For example, according to a recent Jellyvision staff survey, 81% of respondents said they’re at least as productive working at home as they were in the office. A recent study by Gensler Design shows similar trends on a national scale. The old idea that we’re most productive when we’re all working in the same physical space just doesn’t hold up anymore. 

Source

So how does all of this data inform our plans for the future here at Jellyvision? Well, this current moment presents a huge opportunity to redefine not just where we work, but how we work.

That’s why we’re implementing a new “Flexible First” plan. “Flexible First” means that as soon as we’re able to safely share a workspace again, we’ll embrace a hybrid model that allows employees to work remotely as often they’d like, during the hours that make sense for them, while making the office a place for collaboration, community and teambuilding.

Find out how 25+ other leaders are preparing for the future of work in our discussion series, What’s Next With Work: Reimagining Leadership, Collaboration, and Culture-Building in a Post-COVID World.

Download now

Other companies are redefining what work looks like, too. For example, Raise the Bar is reevaluating how they measure employee productivity, by focusing on outcomes, not hours:

“The nine-to-five started in the Industrial Revolution, when we went into a factory and worked on the assembly line. It was the working economy, but we’ve changed over the last 40 years into a knowledge economy…which means the way in which we work has to change. I do some of my best work walking home from the gym, or taking a shower, or when I’m reading a book. The companies that will thrive are the ones that ask, “How do I get to the best outcome and how do I help my people get there?” Versus, “How do I watch my people or make sure they’re working when they’re ‘supposed to’?”

— Aaron Levy, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Raise the Bar

And Upwork is planning to invest in manager training so that their teams are set up for success in the new normal:

“Sometimes, you feel like productivity has to be visible…and a lot of our leaders have had a hard time adjusting to building that trust and confidence in our team members while working remotely. As we continue to develop our diversity, inclusion and belonging programs, we’ll continue to invest in manager education so that we can meet people where they are.”

— Eric Gilpin, Senior Vice President of Sales, Upwork

Your employees are different people than they were pre-COVID. Their personal and professional needs have changed significantly, which means your benefits package and work environment need to change, too. Your company’s success depends on how well you take care of your workforce now—and this is the moment to make sure you have the right systems in place for the year ahead and beyond.

Find out how ALEX can drive higher engagement in new benefits this year.

Learn more

Join 8,000+ HR pros who receive monthly employee benefits insights, straight to their inbox.