How did the pandemic influence employees’ benefits decisions?
March will mark the two-year touchstone of the COVID-19 pandemic. And since we’ve all lost touch with the concept of time in those two years, here’s some context: A child born on Mar. 11, 2020, can now walk, draw circles, and has begun speaking in sentences.
And as approved vaccines and proven safety measures have helped allow our physical and social worlds to reopen since then, it’s easy to forget the fear we felt in the beginning. While some of us have finally begun enjoying time with family and participating in social activities again, many are still waiting to eat out at restaurants, attend sporting events, see movies, and hug loved ones.
For many employees, the COVID-19 anxiety and uncertainty remain.
An unexpected health expense can disintegrate a family’s budget, evident by the fact that medical debt is the primary cause of U.S. bankruptcies. Seeking financial protection, a significant portion of employees added new elections to their enrollment.
And as the saying goes, “There is opportunity in adversity.” As a result of the pandemic, 44% of workers purchased at least one new benefit. Topping the list: life insurance, critical illness, and mental health resources.
Popular benefits in the age of the pandemic.
Time with family has felt even more precious these last couple years. When time has come to an end, it’s difficult enough for surviving family to get through the day, let alone make funeral arrangements and all the other duties that accompany such tragedies. Life insurance means loved ones don’t have to stress over finances in the worst-case scenario.
Critical illness tends to fly under the radar when employees are choosing their benefits—mostly because no one likes to think about catastrophic illness, let alone plan for it financially. Still, an unexpected hospital stay—although it can save someone’s life—can yield a tremendous, sometimes insurmountable, debt.
To date, over 3.9 million people in the United States have been admitted to the hospital due to COVID-19. Many will face long-term health complications, too. Critical illness insurance helps employees handle life’s unfortunate twists and turns.
Mental health resources
COVID-19 has amplified everyone’s stress. And two years of fear and uncertainty takes a mental and physical toll. Because the stigma in seeking mental health help has eased in recent years—combined with an increase in burnout—employees are actively looking for mental health resources.
In addition to offering mental health benefits, employers can implement and encourage wellness programs. Wellness programs not only increase employee engagement and save money, they also help people get and stay healthy.
What employers need to know.
The stress is real.
Right now, employers need to practice empathy. Stress born of the pandemic continues, from the discovery of new variants like omicron to the uncertainty of vaccine legislation. Additionally, parents, immunocompromised people and their caregivers, and frontline essential workers are struggling particularly hard.
Today’s employees are seeking:
- Financial wellness and protection from future emergencies
- Unique benefits packages that address individual health needs
- Mental health support and resources
Proactive employers can use these insights to create better benefits offerings that serve the needs of today’s workforce.