Over the course of the pandemic, companies have looked at their benefit offerings to see how employees can best utilize them. Now,  as they look to the future, employers are considering what changes to make with this adjusted work environment, with many companies working remotely through 2020 and some into 2021. In fact, according to a recent study by LIMRA, a quarter of employers plan to adjust benefits packages because of COVID-19 within the next 18 months.

As you look to your organization’s benefits packages and consider changes, the first step is understanding what employees are taking advantage of. The best way to do this is to survey staff to identify which benefits they have found most useful. Data will help you make better, educated estimates as to what employees will utilize in the months ahead. The other key step to initiate now is to talk to your benefits broker and ask what adjustments companies similar in size and industry are making and ask them for their suggestions considering your workforce.

Before making changes, evaluate your current benefits and perks, and determine what can be utilized virtually. If your workforce will be remote for the foreseeable future, your benefits should be adjusted to cater to that. For instance, gym reimbursements are not ideal as fitness centers remain closed, and instead, you can use that dollar amount towards another, more practical benefit.

Some of the most popular benefits taken advantage of over the last several months, and those that will continue to be popular in the months ahead, include:

Mental health:  Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) have become extremely helpful to employees across the country when working from home given the accessibility and helpfulness. Working from home and increased social isolation can be difficult and lonely for employees.

Offering an EAP is a great way for employees to get the help they need from home, connecting with counselors and professionals. EAPs have been especially important for people who are suffering from financial hardship, as you’re able to connect with financial experts. FSA is a tax-free resource to help employees pay for assistance like virtual therapy co-pays, medications, or other health-related costs.

Wellness programs:  Wellness programs have also surged in popularity to assist with physical and mental health and wellbeing, like virtual smoking cessation programs, virtual diabetes management programs, virtual weight loss programs, preventative health screenings, and mindfulness programs. Programs like these will help employees better cope with the anxieties and stress built up during this chaotic time.

Digital mental health apps like Calm and Headspace are becoming increasingly popular amongst employees while working from home. Meditation is an extremely beneficial practice to reduce anxieties and help employees get through these stressful times. Consider a corporate membership if there’s a cost associated or subsidizing the cost.

Time off:  Employees are working in overdrive, and with shelter-in-place orders, employees haven’t taken time off. This mounting stress can be detrimental to employees and lead to burnout. While your organization may have had certain PTO policies in place, consider revising them in the months and year ahead so not all days are missed. Employees need mental health days to step away and recharge.

While no one can predict what 2021 holds, employees are relying on their companies to have their best interest in mind when it comes to protecting their health and well-being. Making the most informed decision on future benefits starts with looking to your current offerings and asking employees what is important to them. Offering the right benefits for your company can be the difference for employees during challenging times.

This article was written by Emily Payne from BenefitsPro and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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