The last decade has seen a lot of growth in workplace wellness initiatives. Right from focusing more on employee health and wellbeing, to offering financial wellness programs, corporate wellness programs have undergone a lot of change. With the COVID-19 pandemic stressing employees on various living fronts, employers are also focusing on the holistic wellbeing of the employees.
With the financial wellness programs gaining drift in the employee wellbeing frontier, employers are looking for different modules and services to be added to these programs. The expectations of employee benefits and perks have changed with time, and employers must cater to the specific benefits and services to ensure employee wellbeing. Studies have shown that employee benefit programs are one of the effective ways to help the workforce reduce their finances-related stress factors.
A recent Mercer study reported that despite the expected cost growth, employers are still committed to providing employee benefits to their workforce, without making many changes.
Mercer Employee Benefits Survey
Mercer’s Employer-Sponsored Health Plans survey was conducted on 1,113 employers and found that the employee benefits costs may rise by an annual average of almost 4.4% by 2021. However, there has been a lot of uncertainty while concluding the correct estimates.
Experts at Mercer say that there has been a lot of ambiguity over the COVID-related healthcare costs owing to the uncertainty of the vaccine availability, catching up on deferred care, and other assumptions.
Yet, only 18% of the employers are planning on shifting a portion of these costs over to the employees by ways like high-deductible health plans and copays. Unlike the times during the Great Recession of 2008, almost 57% of employers now are not planning on making any changes to their employee benefits programs for managing costs. That was an estimated 10% rise from 47% of employers making no changes in 2019 and 44% in 2018.
Employers have acknowledged the stress and turmoil which the employees have faced in 2020 due to the COVID-19. Extending their empathy towards employee wellbeing, employers are putting off from making any bold changes to their workplace benefits and health plans, and are looking to hold on to the balance of business productivity along with empathy.
Furthermore, many employers are planning on adding new additional employee wellbeing resources to their workplace benefits plans to help their workforce during the pandemic and to manage its aftermath. The most common employee benefits and services include –
- Digital Health and Telemedicine Solutions – More than 27% of the respondents were offering some kind of digital healthcare solutions like telemedicine, AI-based symptom assessments, virtual access to health coaches, and more.
- Voluntary Benefits – 22% of the participating employers offered voluntary benefits like critical illness insurance and hospital cost repayments.
- Behavioral Healthcare Benefits – 20% of the total respondents provided behavioral healthcare resources, while 59% offered training sessions to their managers since the pandemic started to support employee mental and behavioral health.
- Flexible Working Hours – 45% of the employers have permitted flexible working hours to make it easy for working parents to take care of their children during the pandemic, owing to the changing schooling and day-care schedules.
- Financial Subsidy – 16% of the responding employers offered financial aid to support in-home childcare, while 12% offered back-up childcare benefits.
- Targeted Health Solutions – 12% of employers offered health benefits plans, along with corporate wellness programs that came with targeted health solutions to manage specific health conditions like diabetes, etc.
Despite being aware that managing costs this year is a top priority since the economy and finances were hit hard by the pandemic, many employers are still not planning on making any changes to their employee benefits or health plans to avoid any further negative impact on the employees. Experts suggest that deferred care and plan member stress in 2020 could possibly lead to a 5.3% increase in healthcare costs in 2021. To make up for the lost revenue, the health plan systems may charge higher prices in 2021. On the sunny side of the situation, advancing digital health solutions is driving innovation towards efficient health management and better member satisfaction.