‘Long overdue for systemic change,’ benefits to get new focus this year

The pandemic and its challenges are making HR leaders rethink what benefits they offer employees.
By: | May 18, 2021 • 2 min read

It’s unquestionably been a tough year for employees: Aside from the obvious healthcare concerns of COVID-19, the pandemic has driven a rise in mental health issues, extreme stress for working caregivers and parents, high rates of burnout and much more.

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“Many of your employees are barely surviving,” Emily Paisner, director of marketing at Care@Work by Care.com, said last week at HRE’s Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. “During the pandemic, one thing became very clear very quickly and that’s the undeniable interconnectedness of work and life. We’re long overdue for systemic change.”

One survey from Care.com finds that 71% of family caregivers feel their job performance has suffered due to the responsibilities of caring for an aging loved one, Paisner said, and 73% say they may have to make major changes at work due to their caregiving responsibilities.

Because of those, and similar, challenges being made apparent during the pandemic, the benefits that employers offer will change—now and in the future, Paisner says. A survey of more than 500 HR leaders from Care.com found that 98% have plans to expand their benefits due to COVID-19. And 89% say that as a result of the pandemic, they are deprioritizing at least one type of benefit because of COIVD-19. Most frequently the benefits being deprioritized are onsite childcare, paid vacation days, commuter benefits, tuition reimbursement and food or meal reimbursement, she said.

Instead, a new focus will be put on benefits to support caregiving, flexibility and mental health, she said.

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“The pandemic’s toll on our mental health and wellness has been astounding and can take years to undue,” Paisner said. “Employers are realizing in order to help mitigate some of the mental health issues that are afflicting some of their employees, including burnout, which was a crisis well before COVID hit, that they must see it as an employer problem as well as an employee problem.”

Related: Improving workplace mental health must be a strategic imperative

Care.com’s survey also found that 57% of HR leaders said their organizations are assigning higher priority to care benefits to better support their employees in both work and life. Meanwhile, 63% plan to increase their company’s existing childcare benefits, and 41% plan to newly offer or expand senior care benefits to employees to improve attrition.

Offering more caregiving support and flexibility is vital as scores of research finds that women are leaving the workforce due to caregiving concerns. Longtime journalist Joan Lunden also advocated at HBLC for employers to step up to help caregivers and female workers.

“Visionary companies cannot wait for long overdue, systemic change to be passed,” Paisner said.

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Conference sessions remain available through June 11. Register here and click here to view this session.

Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She can be reached at kmayer@lrp.com.

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