In the last few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on work arrangements for people in all sectors. As an employer, you may have had to adjust to the operational challenges associated with hybrid or remote work arrangements. Your employee health benefits plan may require some adjustments too!
Hybrid Work Arrangements
Early in the pandemic, a huge proportion of the workforce was required to work from home. It was a significant adjustment and not without challenges. Several years down the road, many people have come to prefer a remote work arrangement.
For some companies, a hybrid work arrangement is now the norm. This means a combination of working in-person in the office and working remotely from home. Some companies have given up their office space altogether and employees rarely get together in person. This new reality of working from home changes the way that employees are managed, supported and communicated with. As an employer, it may warrant changes to your employee benefits plan too.
Employee Benefits for Hybrid Employees
Flexibility is synonymous with remote working arrangements, and your employee benefits plan should reflect this. For starters, including a Health Spending Account (HSA) alongside traditional benefits is a good choice with any plan. A Health Spending Account (HSA) works like a bank account where employees can spend the money in their HSA on eligible health and dental expenses. It can be used to cover deductibles, unpaid portions of other benefits, or stand-alone products and services.
In addition to a health spending account, there are a couple of other employee benefits that can be really valuable when supporting employees working remotely.
- Virtual Healthcare
Employees who work remotely are well versed in the virtual world. They connect virtually with their employer all the time. So it makes sense that they have access to virtual healthcare as well.
Virtual healthcare means connecting with a doctor or nurse practitioner using technology (usually a tablet, telephone or computer). Many of the issues that would typically prompt a visit to the doctor’s office can be addressed virtually. This saves your employees time and money that would usually be spent travelling to the doctor’s office. Virtual healthcare has become much more common since the COVID-19 pandemic, and feedback is very positive on the convenience and overall experience of using it.
- Central Dispensing Pharmacy (CDP)
Incorporating a central dispensing pharmacy into your employee benefits plan can be another important way to support employees working remotely. A central dispensing pharmacy is a full-service pharmacy that dispenses and ships prescription drugs from a central location.
Employees can schedule virtual or telephone conferences with pharmacists to review new medications and discuss health questions. The prescriptions are couriered directly to the employee’s door. Employees can track their medication via an online dashboard and can sign up for auto-refills so they don’t ever run out of maintenance medication. A central dispensing pharmacy can improve prescription drug adherence because it removes the need for employees to visit the pharmacy to pick up medications or refills. Improved adherence can help improve general health.
- Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP)
One of the most important benefits for employees in a hybrid or remote working arrangement is access to an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP). An EFAP supports the mental health of employees. Employees can phone the Employee and Family Assistance Program 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to be connected with support. Free, short-term counselling, online articles, podcasts and tools are just some of the ways employees can access support.
An Employee and Family Assistance Program tackles topics like: anxiety, grief, divorce, eldercare, childcare, parenting, financial challenges and more. This type of support is especially important for employees who are working remotely or in a hybrid arrangement. Many employees working remotely report that they feel disconnected from the workplace and lonely, which can have a negative impact on their mental health.
If you have employees working remotely, you’ll know that how you interact and communicate with your employees has changed. Gone are the days of large, in-person staff meetings and monthly birthday celebrations. The problem is, you still need to get information about your employee benefits out to employees, and it is something that needs to happen on an ongoing basis. The whole reason you are providing employees with health benefits is to promote better health and retention, so you do need your employees to be knowledgeable about their benefits so they can use them!
The challenge now is to find creative ways to communicate about benefits with employees who aren’t physically gathering. Consider creating infographics, games or virtual banners to promote benefits and educate your employees on what is available. Highlight benefits on your company intranet or host a “virtual” lunch-and-learn to keep employees engaged. Ensure your employees know who to contact at your organization about employee health benefit questions.
Attracting and Retaining Employees
With remote work arrangements the norm, one of the biggest challenges employers are facing is retention. It’s a competitive labour market, and when location and commute is removed from the situation (because of remote work), employees are finding it easier to switch companies. This means more competition for the best employees.
If optimized, your employee health benefits plan can be a great tool to help you attract and retain employees. The right plan should focus on total health – physical and mental. It should include sought-after benefits and extra perks above and beyond traditional benefits. Undoubtedly, it needs to offer employees flexibility as well. Let employees have input on benefits so they are getting the most out of your benefit dollars.
Good Advice is Key
Does your employee benefits plan align with hybrid work arrangements at your organization? Are you getting the most value from your employee benefits plan? Explore 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.