New COVID-19 Related Employer Benefits to Look Out For

COVID-19 related employer benefits

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 brought a lot of change to the workplace (not to mention the world in general). As a result, some companies have stepped up when it comes to taking care of their employees. For many, this looks like new and improved employer-provided benefits that help workers find balance and allow them to take care of themselves and their families better. 

A new benefit many workers are seeing is the opportunity to work remotely, create a hybrid schedule, or have more flexibility throughout their days in general. Since much of the workforce transitioned to working from home at the start of the pandemic, many companies that didn’t offer hybrid/flex work had to adjust to accommodate their employees in the best way possible. Now that these organizations have processes in place, it’s made it easier to offer a permanent solution for their employees. There’s no doubt that this is a significant benefit to professionals everywhere, especially those with families. 

The pandemic brought to light the pressure employees are under at home and work and the struggle to successfully integrate the two. Many professionals took a step back and evaluated whether or not their employer offered them enough compassion during this time of crisis. The result? Many organizations lost valuable talent because they left to join new companies that would take better care of them beyond providing them with a steady paycheck. 

This power shift has worked in favor of professionals because now, to recruit and retain top talent, companies are making necessary changes to their benefits beyond flexible schedules and working from home. Here are some of the more common new benefits a lot of companies are now offering that you should be on the lookout for where you work. The organization you’re working for may very well be one of them, too. 

Mental Health Benefits

The pandemic has been emotionally and mentally hard on all of us. Every sniffle or cough causes a wave of panic because we’re wondering if it’s an early sign of the destructive virus. We’re constantly on alert for those of us with kids because it’s only a matter of time before they have to quarantine at home. After all, if there’s an outbreak at their school or daycare (assuming they’re not already home 24/7 because they’re doing virtual learning). We’ve either lost or are constantly afraid of losing loved ones. And, all of this stress is just at home, before we even begin to process the everyday stress of our jobs. It’s a lot

This struggle has touched everyone, whether they’re entry-level employees or the CEO of a company. The silver lining here is that since no one is immune, leadership has become more inclined to do something about it for their employees, and many organizations have enhanced their mental health benefits significantly as a result. 

New mental health benefits may look different based on the organization, but here are some common things companies are now providing (and yours may be one of them): 

  • Increasing paid vacation and or mental health days (either built-in or for employees to take at their leisure)
  • Implementing new resources and policies to help employees avoid burnout 
  • Adding or enhancing an existing Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to help employees find mental health providers and possibly help cover costs
  • Offering employees free memberships to apps, whether it’s for counseling, meditation, or other mental health benefits

Wellness Perks

More and more organizations see that employee wellness goes beyond traditional medical healthcare (including mental health). Whole wellness includes things like healthy work-life integration, physical fitness, and financial wellness. 

Before the pandemic, many organizations would offer meditation rooms or a gym in the office. Still, now with so many employees working remotely, that perk isn’t as great as it once was. Also, COVID-19 has brought attention to personal finances. With so many people getting laid off, it became quickly evident that many families don’t have as much in savings as they need or want (including the weight of student loan debt for millennials), all finally brought to light. 

In truth, many of these things are personal and helping to manage overall wellness has never really fallen on organizations before. But, a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic has never been factored on companies before now, either. Thankfully, leaders across industries are taking notice and offering new or enhanced benefits to employees, such as:

  • Stipends for physical health; covering all or a portion of the cost of home gym equipment and or gym memberships (in-person and online)
  • Student loan relief programs; assisting employees by paying a certain amount towards their loans every year or matching up to a certain dollar amount
  • Financial wellness; enhanced retirement programs and or offering automatic payroll deductions to help employees build emergency savings funds that they can easily access when needed
  • Ergonomic home office equipment 
  • Stipends for the cost of internet, cell phones, or other utilities (especially for employees working from home)
  • Free access to or stipends for online courses or education 
  • Sabbatical programs/perks

Childcare and Family Support

If there was one thing the pandemic made clear, it’s the burden many employees face regarding child and family care. Parents everywhere rely on daycares, preschools, traditional schools, and before/after school care facilities to keep their kids safe while they’re at work all day, but the aggressive virus brought all of that to a halt, leaving parents scrambling. Even now, as vaccines are readily available, childcare centers/schools routinely shut down or send kids home for 10-14 days of quarantine to keep other kids safe, which puts working parents in a tough spot. 

It’s not just kids, either. Many professionals have other family members that they have to care for, like their siblings or parents. Assisted living facilities and home health care also were hit hard because of the virus. Protocols changed and family members were given limited (if any) access to visit their loved ones. It took a severe toll on employees who are also caregivers. 

📖  Read more: Learn how to understand and evaluate employer-provided insurance benefits. 

There aren’t many options for getting around this if you’re responsible for taking care of someone and there’s no one there to help you, and family comes before work. Organizations lost many valuable employees because of the lack of available child and family care during the pandemic. Now, many companies have stepped up to make sure it doesn’t continue to happen (or happen again) by offering benefits like:

  • Free access to online platforms that help caregivers find backup in-home care when needed
  • Tuition assistance for nearby childcare facilities (or national chains) or tutors for e-learning
  • Enhanced in-home health care benefits for dependents 
  • On-site emergency childcare options 

Final Thoughts

It’s important to note that while many organizations implement these new and enhanced benefit programs for their employees, not all are. If you’re working for a company that hasn’t improved things yet, remember that it’s still early and there may be changes in the works that have yet to happen. If you’re working for a company unwilling to evolve to meet new employee demands, don’t be afraid to start looking elsewhere. There are so many incredible organizations looking for talent and are willing to take care of their people that it’s not worth staying somewhere that doesn’t value your whole health. The pandemic has changed many things, and you don’t have to go back to the way things were if it doesn’t work for you anymore. 

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