The four benefits that emerged supercilious during COVID 19
A big Budget Benefits rucksack does not necessarily guarantee success – a clear strategy does
Covid - 19 will be a crossroad firmly etched in history. There will always be a comparison of before-and-after this pandemic.
The differences are sure to be so impactful that employees will see and feel the changes. Corporates, without any doubts, are reviewing their strategies at all levels and from various perspectives.
The pandemic has brought in a new way of thinking, the impact of which, is to stay for years to come.
Benefits strategy is no exception and corporates cannot pretend to be an ignoramus. With safety, health, and overall well-being of employees topping the priority list, the Benefits package that we thought earlier was resplendent may suddenly seem to be obsolete.
With the majority, if not all, the workforce moving to remote working, several new policies were scribed, and many existing ones modified. The Rosetta stone here is understanding employee’s needs.
Once that is done, the next step is to link it to business goals and build a bridging strategy that connects both ends for a seamless flow of work and business activities.
This article summarizes the four main Benefits that came into the limelight during the pandemic and which now will take precedence over many of the traditional ones.
Family-friendly policies replacing Parent-friendly policies With employees working from home and being suddenly overwhelmed with unexpected additional responsibilities of kids, elderly parents, pets, and chores, flexibility is the need of the hour. Corporates are considering several programs to enhance work-life management for their staff.
▪ Flexitime or flexible work schedules – corporates can consider several options. As long as the required hours are put in every week, employees get the flexibility to choose their schedule, compressed workweek, a day off mid-week instead of weekends, starting or ending work hours earlier or later than the regular schedule.
▪ Provide option to employees to switch from temporary to part-time or between different shifts depending on the business requirements
▪ Shift split and Job Share where one job can be shared between 2 part-time employees thus allowing each one of them to hold on to a job while they get the opportunity to take care of their personal needs
▪ Compassionate leave in addition to maternity or paternity leave where an employee can take a day off to take care of a sick dependent or tend to one at home
▪ Provide referrals, resources, or subsidies for Child and ElderCare
▪ Cover Parental/Family issues under the corporate Employee Assistance Program
▪ Virtual day camp for kids
▪ Modified Paid Time Off and Sick Leave Policies which can include one or more of the below options
• Increase ore give a higher capping on PTOs
• Allow employees to log negative balances which can be adjusted against future accruals
• Donation of PTOs
• Buying and Selling of leaves
Mental and Physical well-being
Corporates need to go beyond yoga classes and fitness sessions to help employees. In these trying times, it is necessary to keep an eye on attrition or leaves being high in certain departments especially in those where the requirement for Overtime and On Calls are High.
There is a need to constantly check if employees are expressing burn out or isolation. A lot of focus is currently on ensuring not just physical but also mental health to bolster the overall well-being of the employees.
Some of the noticeable programs and policies that have gained importance during a pandemic due to these priorities are:
▪ Employee Assistance Program – Services available through EAPs are free counseling sessions, webinars, interactive courses, free access to resources and sessions for fitness, meditation, yoga. These are being made available not just for employees but also for immediate dependents
▪ Wellness checks and regular surveys conducted not only to ensure the safety of employees but also understand challenges that employees are facing, which in turn is helping the organization to shape its support plan
▪ Giving ‘Happy Hours, ‘Recovery Days’ to employees to refresh and rejuvenate immediately after strenuous and tiring projects
▪ Employees have faster, easier and better access to Telemedicine/Virtual GP
▪ Conducting Virtual Wellness fairs, not just for the promotion of benefits but also to create awareness on mental health through talks, discussion, classroom and one on one sessions
▪ More corporate-wide communications to avoid ambiguity by giving directions, updates and provide additional emotional support
▪ Hosting virtual all – hands, interactive sessions, off-work events, team building activities to keep employees connected
Health and Wellness Packages in Particular
Health care costs may see an increase in the next few years with employees being conscious of the need to stay healthy, fit and take treatment for ailments, which, in the past, they would have ignored.
While keeping a check on this, the corporates will also need to ensure that employees have access to a good health and wellness package. So, in addition to good health insurance coverage, it will be important for corporates to focus on preventive programs that could reduce clinic and hospital visits of their employees.
By helping the staff stay fit, the corporates are reducing the expenses on health care utilization and payment for inflated costs of hospital stays.
This could be done in many ways.
• Get access to screening, tests and health evaluations for employees and their immediate family members
• Take advantage of healthcare technology platforms and AI driven applications that track important health parameters, identify potential risk, take preventive measures, and manage complete health and mental well-being. These applications can guide employees on healthy behaviors and pro-actively help manage their lifestyles
Financial Well Being
Financial wellness programs, a relatively new entrant into the Benefits package have gained momentum in the last couple of months as employees struggle with the loss of wages, increased medical expenses, and other monetary issues.
Some of the noticeable programs under this are:
▪ Financial support to cover cost resulting from having to work from home
▪ relief funds to tide over financial difficulties to maintain family incomes and unexpected medical expenses
▪ Covid -19 related Bonus especially for frontline employees who work in stores and distribution centers
▪ Consider options within voluntary retirement schemes to provide more flexibility to employees (opt-out or reduce contributions) and improve in-hand cash flow, find ways to address concerns related to drop in retirement fund values
▪ Salary Advance policies where employees can take advance and pay it back in installments Pandemic situation showed us that Benefits Programs cannot be just best practices, latest programs, and cool stuff. Rigid exactitude is not necessary, but it certainly must be pragmatic, authentic, and genuine.
Learning: A big Budget Benefits rucksack does not necessarily guarantee success – a clearly defined strategy with measurable outcomes depending on the need of the hour is mandatory. Also, it is necessary to revisit these frequently, tweak and modify them as the return on investment (ROI) is reviewed and acknowledged regularly. Covid - 19 just underlined this for you!