We can all agree that the pandemic has shown us just how much work and life are interconnected. The idea that the optimal hours for work are Monday through Friday from the proverbial nine to five doesn’t hold up any longer. Another aspect that has evolved is changing employee benefits. The effects of the pandemic pushed nearly 3 million women out of the workforce due to childcare challenges.
This issue was recently addressed by HBR in an article by Care.com CEO, Tim Allen. He recaps the results of a study conducted with 500 HR executives and C-suite members about the future of employee benefits.
According to the respondents, many saw an increase in absenteeism and mental health issues as well as a decrease in retention rates and productivity. That’s why 98% said they will offer either new or expanded benefits that employees say are the most important to them. This includes care options for children and seniors, choosing when and where they work, and mental health support.
We know that work-life balance is just a phrase. In reality, they are interconnected. The article notes, “People – especially women – have been conditioned to design a life around the demands of work, and rarely to design work around the demands of life.”
With more than 1.2 million parents out of the labor force between February and September of 2020, companies realize they have to act now to improve their care benefits. 57% said they are giving it a higher priority and 63% are improving on their existing care-based benefits. Options include access to online platforms, subsidized backup care, and new parent support programs.
And it’s not just child care. The need for senior care options also became apparent during the pandemic. Roughly 17% of the US workforce cares for a senior relative, and half of those also care for children. In response, 41% of the study participants said they are offering new or expanded senior care benefits.
The hybrid work model can help businesses improve child and senior care benefits. Two-thirds of respondents are offering greater work flexibility options to enable employees to design their work around their family commitments.
The mental health and wellness impact of the pandemic has been profound and may take many years to recover from. Employers are trying to mitigate the impact of burnout, isolation, anxiety, and other related issues. These issues hurt the organization just as much as they hurt the employee.
From higher turnover rates to lower productivity, the mental health of employees and their families (children going to the hospital for mental health-related issues went up between 24% and 31% during the pandemic) is an important area for benefit offerings to address. Fortunately, 41% of respondents said they plan to expand their mental health offerings and 60% saw an improvement in employee well-being when caregiving benefits were improved.
Changing employee benefits to support caregivers, provide for improved mental health, and enable women to re-enter the workforce will require a continued focus on these types of employee benefits. One plan endorsed by the author, the Marshall Plan for Moms, is designed to build support with federal and state governments around these issues.
If you have questions about building your HR benefits to support caregivers and mental health or need to hire executive leadership around these important issues, send us a note.