The impact that COVID-19 has had on the world is unprecedented. Health regulations have required significant changes to our lives, including our experience with employee benefits. It has been a fast-paced, roller-coaster ride, and it’s not over yet. Even though further changes will likely take place, let’s take a look at where we are now.
As far as the employee benefits experience goes, what has COVID-19 changed for small businesses?
1. Examining the cost of employee benefits.
If you’re like many small businesses, COVID-19 has made you take a closer look at your costs, especially big-ticket items like employee compensation. As a small business, you may have had small margins, to begin with. Now, closures and restrictions on how you operate your business have reduced margins even more, and eliminated buffers.
Reviewing your employee benefits plan is something you hopefully already do on a regular basis, likely at renewal. But doing so in a high stress, uncertain times (like during the COVID-19 pandemic) takes it to a whole new level. Now you’re trying to rapidly assess whether to make cuts to your plan. You’re looking to put cost control measures in place for your plan. And you may even be re-examining why you’re providing benefits in the first place, and if they’re worth the cost.
Take a minute to slow things down and look to the future, when the COVID-19 pandemic has passed. Understand the business relief measures that might already be available to you, from your insurer or from provincial or federal governments. Get in touch with an expert in employee benefits who can help you objectively examine your plan. They’ll explain the different options available if you do need to make changes now and in the future.
2. Recognizing the value of mental health support and benefits
Everyone is feeling some level of stress as a result of the pandemic. Mentally and emotionally it’s been tough – for you, but also for your employees and their families. If you’re like many small business owners, your view on the mental health support and benefits you provide employees may have changed.
Suddenly, those types of benefits seem a lot more important. By providing access to services like an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) you’re helping employees through a very challenging time. Having access to support such as short-term counselling to help deal with feelings of uncertainty, fear and anxiety make all the difference to your employees.
3. Adapting to remote access to work and benefits
The COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying physical distancing requirements have changed how your business operates, and how you and your employees utilize employee benefits.
Depending on your business, you and your employees may be working remotely. This in itself can be a big change from your “normal.” How do you foster employee engagement and teamwork when you’re working at locations all across town? Does your benefits plan support this? Remote access necessitates a new way of communicating with your employees about benefits, and everything else.
Other significant changes to the employee benefits experience involve access to benefits. Physical distancing requirements mean some benefits have been inaccessible (by order of public health authorities). For example, massage therapy has been unavailable in many locations due to physical distancing requirements. Other benefits that have continued to be available are being offered virtually. It’s a completely different experience receiving physiotherapy services remotely!
4. Accessing digital solutions
As a small business owner, the COVID-19 pandemic has likely changed your employee benefits experience by significantly increasing the need for you to access digital solutions.
Hopefully, you already had access to a digital means of administering your employee benefits plan, but if not, you have had to learn quickly. You may have had to adapt to new procedures (such as digital billing and claim submission) or refine procedures that were already in place.
For your employees, the benefits experience may have changed to all-digital, whereas prior to the pandemic the employee could mail documents if they desired.
For many people, learning a new technology can be challenging. This is yet another change to the employee benefits experience.
Good Advice is Key
COVID-19 has already changed the employee benefits experience. There will likely be further changes and challenges ahead. As you deal with the challenges that come along with running a small business during a pandemic, don’t let employee benefits be another stress. Start by talking to an expert. Review your options with one of our licensed advisors on the phone, or contact us for a comparison quote.
Whether you’re looking for extended health and dental coverage, disability coverage, or life and critical illness coverage, GroupHEALTH has affordable benefits packages that work as hard as you do.