As 2021 draws to a close, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to influence many aspects of our lives. This time last year we were facing a lot of uncertainty surrounding the virus; vaccines were in the early stages of approval and fear and anxiety were high. As we near the end of this year, scientists know a lot more about the virus and we have all learned how to adapt to keep our fellow humans safe.
As an employer, you’ve likely learned a lot about how to operate your business while protecting the health of your employees and your customers. This has required a lot of innovation and flexibility. So, what’s next? As 2022 nears, you may be working on a return-to-office plan…. or maybe not. Now is also a good time to consider if your employee health benefits plan is set up to support your employees and your company is yet another COVID year.
Must-Have Employee Health Benefits to Support Your Employees Return to the Office
The beginning of the pandemic abruptly catapulted many employees into a new “work-from-home” reality. While initially ill-prepared, many employees now find it hard to remember the days of physically travelling to the office each day. Some employers have found new efficiencies in a remote-working arrangement, others are keen to get the team reunited (physically). If your company is looking to get everyone back into the office, here are some ways employee health benefits can support you in making this a smooth transition.
- Virtual healthcare – In the age of physical distancing, virtual healthcare has become a vital link to safe, effective healthcare. Coverage for virtual healthcare means your employees can access doctors and nurse practitioners using technology, instead of travelling to the doctor’s office. Employees save time and money that they would have spent on travelling to the doctor’s office. Virtual healthcare is good for your business too. Employees are more likely to seek medical advice when it is easy and convenient to do so – this helps keep employees healthy and can reduce illness-related absences.
- Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) – Return-to-office plans may cause some employees to feel anxious. The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on the mental health of employees, so ensure they have support available. Resources such as an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) or wellness resources that can help with anxiety or stress related to this change. An EFAP is one of the best ways to offer confidential, easily accessed support so that employees can get the help they need. A self-serve online component is also a “must-have,” so employees can access articles and toolkits to address many of life’s challenges.
- Wellness Program – Tied in with supporting the mental health of employees, a wellness program is another “must-have” for employee health benefits. Wellness can help reduce stress and improve physical and mental health. During a challenging time for employees, a wellness program can also help with team building. Employees that participate in wellness challenges and programs build comradery with their fellow employees and enjoy better health. It’s a win/win.
- Cost control mechanisms – The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the world’s economy, which has created financial challenges for many businesses. As such, ensuring your employee benefits plan has built-in cost-control mechanisms is a “must”. Now is not the time to have the costs for your employee benefits plan skidding out of control. Instead, it’s important to build cost-control into the plan to target and control the largest cost drivers for your plan. This may mean incorporating preferred provider networks for prescription drugs, encouraging employees to use generic drugs or limiting specialty drug coverage (check out our Smart Rx plans as an example). It may also mean including disability management services with disability coverages to support ill or injured employees in returning to work as soon as they’re able.
Good Advice is Key
Whether you’re working on a return-to-the-office strategy or looking to tweak your employee health benefits plan, start 2022 off on the right foot. 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.