How the Coronavirus pandemic is impacting employee benefits planning and communication

By May 26, 2020July 28th, 2020employee benefits

HR professionals and management teams have had their shoulder to the wheel over the past couple of months as they have responded to the Coronavirus outbreak. 

But the time hasn’t just been spent dealing with the immediacy of the changes and challenges that businesses and their employees have faced.  Research tells us that in preparation for a return to some semblance of normality, they have been looking at whether their employee benefits programmes are fit for purpose in the post-pandemic world.  And change is coming for just under half of businesses.

Employers are acutely aware of the need to take proactive steps to better support their employees’ health and well-being

Recent research by Willis Towers Watson discovered that 42% of organisations have made, or are planning to make, changes to their benefits programmes. The study also found that while businesses are cutting costs by furloughing employees and implementing pay cuts for example, health and well-being programmes are being protected and enhanced. Supporting physical and emotional health was cited as a top priority by most employers and 64% of respondents thought that Covid-19 would have a moderate to large impact on employee well-being.

Increased investment in mental health support

Businesses are especially aware of the impact of the crisis on employee mental health. Research by Unmind and the Reward & Employee Benefits Association found that 87% of businesses reported that conversations about mental health have increased during the crisis, demonstrating a shift to more open conversions about a usually stigmatised subject and 79% reported a rise in requests for mental health support. Over half of UK firms thought that Covid-19 will have a negative impact on business due to the pandemic’s effect on mental health.

Companies are preparing for this and 91% of respondents reported that they have increased their emphasis on the importance of staff mental health and they are shifting gears by increasing budget and initiatives.   

  • 70% of businesses plan to increase investment in mental health support in the coming year.
  • To help their remote workers, 60% of companies are committing to investing in digital mental well-being apps and platforms.

The impact of more open communication on employee expectations

In the past few months, there has been a major shift in the way teams communicate. 87% of firms have increased communications from senior leaders, according to Aon.  But the important part here is not just the frequency. It’s the way a new culture of openness and ways of working have also changed employee expectations. For example, Heidrich and Struggles partner Rose Gailey asserts that respecting individual needs around work-life balance in the future is one of the key areas where an increase in open communication and inclusive leadership is now driving employee expectations.  Employees will expect this flexibility to continue and they will want to be part of the conversation on flexible working policy. Gailey believes that ‘it’s the mindset shift to become even more inclusive that employees will expect to see, along with the policies to sustain them in the future’.

Increased benefits communication

Just under half (44%) of firms have increased benefits communication, according to Willis Towers Watson research.  And businesses are also taking proactive steps on employee feedback, which is another key action point. The study discovered that almost one in five are holding focus groups, while one in six are introducing surveys.

Rethinking your plan?

If your business is looking at implementing changes to your benefits offering, we’re here if you need our help

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