Posts

Which Caregiving Benefits Do Modern Employers Provide?

What benefits are top-of-mind for organizations that want to attract and retain great talent in today’s challenging talent market? Many are finding it pays to step outside the standard benefits box with creative options that meet diverse employee needs. For example, caregiving benefits are gaining strong momentum.

To learn more about this, we asked business and HR leaders to describe one caregiving option they believe is essential in supporting employees as they move through various life stages — from family planning and fertility to childcare and eldercare. Their recommendations cover a spectrum of solutions:

  • Childcare Benefits
  • Tuition Assistance
  • Sabbatical Leave
  • Unlimited PTO
  • Nutritional Support
  • Family Medical Leave

To learn more about why these options are so helpful, read the responses below…

6 Caregiving Benefits for the Modern Workforce

1. Childcare Support

One “do-everything” benefit can’t cover all the complexities involved with each stage in life. To ensure higher utilization and satisfaction, focus on stages with the most impact on employees and find the best option for each stage.

Certainly, fertility and family planning are good benefits to consider. However, childcare has the biggest impact on employee retention and productivity.

Childcare costs are soaring. In fact, in most states, the average annual cost of childcare is more expensive than college. This expense means many working couples are considering whether they can even afford to have kids, or if one parent must resign from work to care for their children at home.

Childcare also has a direct impact on employee attendance. On average, parents who must respond to childcare needs miss 9-14 days of work each year. And more than 65% leave work early or arrive late because they lack access to care. This is nearly 3x more productivity lost than from employees who are managing healthcare issues.

Kevin Ehlinger, VP Product Marketing, TOOTRiS

2. Tuition Assistance

Higher education and vocational training open up a wide range of opportunities for employees. They equip workers with the skills and knowledge to pursue additional career options and improve job mobility.

Tuition assistance makes education more accessible, empowering workers and their families to plan for their future. Offering tuition assistance as a benefit helps attract high-quality candidates and helps them hone their skills while helping employers retain top talent. In addition,  government education assistance programs in the U.S. let employers deduct sizable reimbursements for employee tuition contributions.

Ben Travis, Founder, HR Chief

3. Sabbatical Leave 

Although sabbatical leave was traditionally offered only in academic settings, it has started to gain strong traction over the past few years in the private sector, in response to a rise in employee burnout and the Great Resignation.

Private employers are looking for generous perks to attract new employees, keep them engaged, and help them maintain a healthy work-life balance. Sabbatical leave is the perfect benefit to check those boxes. 

In short, sabbatical leave is the option to step away from work for an extended period (usually 6 to 12 months) for any purpose whatsoever. This is a perfect way to accommodate employees at every stage in the employee lifecycle, from cradle to grave.

Individuals can take a sabbatical to de-stress and get pregnant, care for a new child, fight an illness, spend time with a dying loved one, or just travel the world. It is a flexible, practical benefit that allows for a range of uses. Whether paid, partially paid, or totally unpaid, any employee will appreciate the flexibility that sabbatical leave offers.

John Ross, CEO, Test Prep Insight

4. Unlimited PTO

As a business, we are committed to helping our employees maintain a work-life balance. We’re also committed to creating an environment that supports our employees’ personal goals and lets them prioritize their families. One way we do this is through a generous personal time off (PTO) policy.

We offer unlimited vacation time as well as unlimited sick time. We encourage employees to take time off for both personal and family goals, as well as when they need to care for ailing family members.

In addition, we provide resources for employees so they can continue working from home and/or work on a flexible schedule while they are taking time away.

Luciano Colos, CEO, PitchGrade

5. Nutritional Support 

One aspect of healthcare that spans the entire lifecycle is nutrition. So one benefit worth considering is coverage for prescribed nutritional supplements — not just prescription drugs. Other ways to support nutritional needs during different life stages is by providing access to educational information and expert talks about nutrition.

Optimum nutrition at each phase in the lifecycle promotes more robust immune systems and higher energy levels. That means it helps keep your workforce and their families healthier. So ultimately, these benefits ensure better performance at work and fewer illness-related absences. 

Ruth Novales, Marketing Director, Fortis Medical Billing Professionals

6. Family Medical Leave

Family medical leave is one benefit every employer should consider to help employees address the full lifecycle, from fertility to family planning to elder care.

Family medical leave helps protect an employee’s job for up to 12 weeks if they become ill or they need to care for a family member. A supervisor cannot fire an employee when they rely on this benefit for a legitimate reason, so it can provide a helpful safety net if the need arises.

Lindsey Hight, HR Professional, Sporting Smiles

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: These caregiving benefits ideas were submitted via Terkel. Terkel is a knowledge platform that shares community-driven content based on expert insights. To see questions and get published, sign up at terkel.io.

Childcare Benefits: A Reckoning for Working Families

It’s not a stretch to say COVID changed everything—including the way working families think about childcare benefits. Before the pandemic, parents struggled with childcare challenges, of course. But the day-to-day realities grew much worse when the pandemic struck.

After the initial shock of schools and childcare centers shutting down, families were left to figure out how to work from home while parenting. Instead of being at school or daycare, children spent the day side-by-side with their parents. In fact, from February 2020-February 2021, the lack of childcare pushed 2.3 million women out of the labor force. And a very long time passed before these women could return to work (if they have returned at all).

While people in some jobs continued to work on-site throughout the pandemic, many workers had to adapt to the new remote work world. This is where many employees still find themselves today, either working remotely or in some form of hybrid schedule—splitting time between home and office.

Today, childcare conditions have improved slightly, but still are far from ideal. Fortunately for some working families, employers are sponsoring more childcare benefits for those who need this kind of support.

Remote and Hybrid Employees Still Need Childcare Assistance

The benefits of remote work are well documented. However, one drawback is often overlooked. I’m talking about the misconception that people don’t need childcare assistance when they’re working remotely. This notion became prevalent early in the pandemic, and unfortunately, employers still haven’t moved on from this line of thinking.

Picture a typical working mother in a remote or hybrid management role.

Compared to her in-office peers, she doesn’t have fewer deadlines, less ambitious KPIs, or a smaller staff to manage. Nor does she have extra hands to hold her baby while attending Zoom meetings or responding to email messages. There are no extra hours in the day when she can feed or play with a toddler.

The workday is still the workday—even when people perform those tasks at home, surrounded by family distractions and obligations, rather than in an office cubicle.

Families With School-Aged Kids Face Unique Challenges

Contrary to what some believe, childcare needs do not stop once kids start kindergarten. I’m a mother, myself, so take it from me! Parents of 5-year-olds are still in the thick of their childcare journey.

Historically, preschool programs (as well as before-school and after-school care) served as a safety net to support a large, productive workforce. But COVID, chronic underfunding, and budget cuts have left these programs with limited capacity, fewer teachers, and reduced hours. The safety net is frayed, at best.

And now, working parents have the added burden of anxiety about COVID risks.

Previously, when children were mildly ill, they still attended school. These days, we know better. Emergency and backup care are must-haves for working parents who are unable to stay home with a sick child.

Even when parents take precautions, they still face the risk of a COVID outbreak at school that can suddenly change the course of a day, a week, or a month—depending on mandated quarantine periods. This is a lot for working families to handle, which is why employee childcare benefits matter so much.

Throughout the pandemic, working parents have been balancing the risks of depriving their children of social interaction or exposing them to a potentially deadly disease. Some families decide to choose individual or small-group professional care, such as a nanny or nanny-sharing arrangement. But this increases overall childcare costs and isn’t affordable enough for some.

The Trouble With Workplace Childcare Centers

Some employers have tried to help working families fill this gap by investing in on-site childcare centers. While an admirable idea and a substantial financial commitment, these large centers fall short for many employees.

These facilities no longer meet many childcare needs, and simply do not work for remote and hybrid workers. For example, how many working parents would want to commute to headquarters for their kids when they may otherwise be working from home? Working families prefer caregivers who are located close to home—which should be good news for employers who don’t want to dedicate massive budgets to build and maintain large childcare centers.

Childcare Benefits Are Key to Employee Retention

No matter which childcare option families choose, it comes at a price. And it’s hard for people to keep in perspective just how unaffordable it has become.

The national average childcare cost has risen to more than $10,000 per year, per child. That’s incredibly steep. How many working families do you know with two or three kids who also have an extra $20,000-$30,000 lying around?

The increasing cost of childcare forces parents (and mothers, in particular) to make a very difficult choice: Stay employed or quit to care full-time for their children. This has pushed record numbers of women out of the workforce.

The reality facing families is stark and alarming:

Current and prospective employees value family care benefits more than ever. This means employer-sponsored childcare benefits should play a key role in retention and recruitment strategies.

Final Thoughts

COVID drastically changed employment and childcare. The status quo is no longer sufficient, for both employees and employers. Forward-thinking business and HR leaders are rising to the challenge and supporting working families with employee childcare benefits that make a significant difference in people’s lives. This is a step in the right direction.

Employee Caregivers Are Quitting. Here’s How to Keep Them

These days, we’re flooded with headlines about The Great Resignation, The Big Quit, and The Great Reshuffle. It’s not surprising. The desire for career advancement and better work/life balance are powerful reasons why people are resigning in record numbers. But these aren’t the only motives. Actually, a growing number of people are quitting so they can take care of loved ones. If your organization can’t afford to lose these employee caregivers, this advice can help you keep them on board.

Factors Driving This Trend

We’re seeing more employee caregivers, partially because the pandemic put older people at risk and disrupted existing family care arrangements. But also, it is the result of broader population shifts and the rising cost of long-term care. Let’s look at how this could play out over the next 15-20 years…

1) Our Population is Changing

Historically, if you mapped our population by age, the chart would look like a pyramid. In the past, many more young people were at the base. As they became adults, they helped support a smaller number of older people at the top. Today, that pyramid is inverted, with a larger elderly population and an increasingly smaller base of young people at the bottom who struggle to support the elderly. This is happening because:

  • Boomers are aging
  • Younger generations are producing fewer children
  • Medical advances are extending life expectancies

This inverted pyramid means that by 2040, the elderly will depend more heavily on the working population than those under 18. Put differently, in less than 20 years, more of your employee caregivers will be supporting elderly loved ones, rather than their own children. Or potentially, they could be caring for both at the same time.

That’s already the case for many employee caregivers. In fact, more than half of middle-aged Americans are currently “sandwiched” between generations.

2) Caregiving Costs Are Rising

Because care is expensive to provide, not everyone will be able to hire professionals to look after aging family members. Instead, they’ll need to provide care themselves at home. According to a recent AARP survey, there are 48 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. and 80% of these caregivers are providing care to an adult family member or friend.

This means organizations will increasingly have employees who are juggling job performance with the burden of being a caregiver—along with all the time, energy, and emotional commitment that caregiving requires. While they may manage caregiving by missing time at work, it could also be as serious as leaving the workforce altogether.

For example, consider these statistics:

How to Support Employee Caregivers

What are forward-thinking HR leaders doing to help employee caregivers? Our recent conversations focus on three key action areas:

1) Provide Financial Solutions

One of the most important ways to support employees is by helping them plan for their own long-term care. While younger employees may not see the need, education and planning now will offer them more care options in the future if they’re injured or become ill.

When you create financial programming, be sure it includes discussions about the role of:

  • Medicare and Medicaid – Some people see government programs such as care options. However, they typically don’t cover long-term care (Medicare) and access involves significant drawbacks and limitations (Medicaid).
  • Retirement savings/401k – Similarly, using 401(k) and retirement savings to pay for care is possible, but this also comes with drawbacks. These investments are best reserved for funding life expenses during retirement and are not recommended for use during working years.
  • Standalone long-term care insurance – This coverage may be offered at work or purchased through an independent insurance provider. It can be a viable solution that can help cover some costs of long-term care.
  • Hybrid life insurance with long-term care benefits – This lets people purchase life insurance coverage that includes the ability to advance part of a death benefit for care needs. Many products on the market focus care benefits on professional care such as a nursing home or home health aide, but new products in this category cover family caregiving, as well.

2) Promote Your Employee Assistance Programs

Another way to support your workforce is through an employee assistance program (EAP). The right program can help employees navigate the challenges they face as caregivers. Whether it’s offering care planning tools and strategies or access to tools to help people manage complex aspects of care, be sure to consider a wide range of resources. For instance, you could include:

  • Care planning services
  • Care needs assessments
  • Help in finding and evaluating care
  • Life insurance claims support
  • Long-term care claims support
  • Home care placement assistance
  • Legal support for wills, trusts, and power of attorney documents
  • In-home loneliness solutions
  • Home modification services
  • Relocation support

Finally, it’s important to share details about your EAP program, and re-communicate the program’s features and benefits on a regular basis. Pairing this with enrollment or re-enrollment of your financial support solutions is a great way to protect your employees.

3) Pay Attention to Caregiving Legislation

Many state governments are taking notice of the need for care—the growing number of people who need a solution, the lack of affordable care, and the expected future drain on state Medicaid funds. A growing number of states are enacting legislation to address these care issues.

For example, in 2021, Washington became the first state to pass this kind of legislation. The Washington Cares Act provides long-term care financial support for state residents. The program is funded by a payroll tax. Employees with qualifying long-term care coverage could opt out of the program (and the associated tax).

Although this legislation may provide a rough blueprint, each state’s approach is likely to be different. To prepare their organizations and their employees for the future, employers should begin tracking legislative activity.

Start Planning

It’s hard to know precisely what’s in store for employers as more Boomers leave the workplace and younger employees step in to care for aging loved ones. But thus far, it’s clear that employee caregivers will need support and solutions as they navigate an increasingly challenging eldercare crisis.

HR leaders can be an essential part of the solution, but it’s important to start planning now. Workplace programs and policies need to evolve, with active involvement from employers and their employees. Start by educating your workforce about the need to plan for long-term care–whether caring for an elderly parent or planning ahead to manage their own care should they need it. Working together with employees to address their needs will help them understand your commitment to them, and encourage them to stay.

Keys to a Successful Open Enrollment Season

Open enrollment season is upon us again, and the world of work continues to shift at a head-spinning pace. This fluid environment poses benefits-related challenges that HR leaders can’t afford to ignore. For example, decision-makers are wondering:

  • How to address employees’ evolving needs. It’s essential now to meet individuals where they are and provide clear pathways to benefits that resonate.
  • How to communicate effectively in a “work anywhere” environment. Everyone deserves easy access to clear, relevant benefits information, regardless of whether they’ve returned to the office, they’re working remotely, or their schedule blends both work modes.

Why Benefits Education Counts

To illustrate how important education is for a successful open enrollment season, consider these U.S. health benefits research findings:

  • 72% of employees wish someone would tell them the best health insurance for their particular situation. (Justworks/Harris Poll)
  • Nearly 90% of employers think their benefits are clear and easy to understand. Yet only 65% of employees agree. (via MetLife)
  • 54% of employees don’t know the full scope of their health benefits. Yet nearly 65% say these offerings significantly influence their willingness to stay with an organization. (Justworks/Harris Poll)

This means education is vital—not just to help people choose relevant benefits. The truth is that, without effective benefits education, you’re putting employee retention at risk. But improving open enrollment communication doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Below are a few simple ways to help employees through the decision-making process and ensure better overall results:

5 Ways to Improve Open Enrollment Education

1) Host Multiple Information Sessions

Conducting a single all-hands open enrollment season meeting no longer covers all the bases. Even if 100% of your employees work on-site, you can’t expect full participation. Some people will be out ill or on vacation. Unavoidable business priorities will keep others from attending. It’s smart to plan ahead and assume conflicts will make it impossible for everyone to join a live session.

You can rise to this challenge by producing content in various formats (for example, an in-person meeting, a live webinar, a digital recording, and a series of podcast episodes). You’ll also want to share this content through multiple delivery channels (for example, sending email messages, sharing in Slack groups, and posting on your organization’s intranet platform).

The goal is to make information easily accessible and available whenever people can fit it into their schedules.

2) Plan Open Enrollment “Office Hours”

To augment your core benefits “broadcast” content, consider offering prescheduled office hours with an HR staff member. You can structure and promote this as an opportunity for individuals to drop by in person or online and discuss their specific circumstances with a benefits expert.

Often in public information sessions, employees hesitate to ask questions about what they don’t know. But office hours provide a private safe space for discussion. This frees employees to speak more openly about their specific concerns. At the same time, it helps the HR team provide more relevant information to ensure individuals understand the impact of their open enrollment choices.

You may also find it helpful to extend the value of these sessions by repurposing the content for broader use. In other words, you can select some of the most common questions from “office hours” visits and repost them anonymously as “frequently asked questions” on a wiki or web page.

3) Get Your Vendors Involved

Sometimes, information is best received directly from the source. Hosting virtual live and recorded benefits fairs gives vendors a platform for sharing details about their solutions and services. It also provides more time for providers to discuss specific questions in-depth with employees.

So, instead of conducting a standard 1-hour session where your HR team summarizes available health benefits, you could schedule a series of 30-45-minute sessions showcasing key vendors. (For example, you could feature each of your health insurance companies, along with sessions devoted to specialized vendors, such as onsite dental services, wellness consultants, or fertility benefits providers).

These sessions can focus on basic facts about each solution, as well as ancillary benefits that are underutilized. Then you could close each session by answering individual questions from the audience.

Also, if you’re scheduling topic-focused HR office hours, you may want to ask vendor consultants to join relevant sessions. Or you could invite key vendors to conduct their own 1:1 sessions. Sometimes, employees feel more comfortable talking to external benefits specialists. For these people, dedicated vendor sessions or 1:1 office hours are an ideal solution.

4) Integrate Micro-Learnings into the Process

Micro-learnings are brief educational events and materials targeting topics that tie in with key benefits, such as health and finance. This kind of knowledge sharing encourages more employee interaction and tends to generate deeper interest in relevant benefits.

To illustrate, here are a few micro-learning themes:

  • “Urgent Care vs ER: What’s the Difference?”
  • “The Link Between Mental Health and Overall Health”
  • “How to Balance Work Life with Family Caregiving

Top online learning providers (such as LinkedIn Learning and YouTube channels) already provide excellent educational content about these topics. This means you don’t have to create content from scratch. Instead, you can curate strong programming from several online sources and then easily deliver the content to interested employees.

Packaging and promoting this kind of useful information upfront is invaluable for employees. It saves them time because they don’t have to research these topics on their own. Plus, the convenience of “anytime” access to high-quality educational content about health and benefits enhances workforce well-being.

5) Customize Educational Materials for Various Interests

Every employee is unique. And the beauty of today’s workforce is in its diversity. So everything about open enrollment season should support this reality. In other words, it’s important to appeal to various interests within your workforce.

For instance, recent grads may not appreciate benefits that appeal to new parents and vice versa. Instead of offering a generic “one-size-fits-all” menu, think about how you can categorize benefits so they align with groups that will value them most. Then present these benefits collections on your open enrollment site as packages. (For example, you could specify “Benefits that support LGBTQIA+ employees.”)

Clearly, you’ll find overlap among groups, so you don’t need to recreate an entirely new package for each community. But structuring benefits options in this way helps people more quickly identify the benefits information they’re likely to want.

If you’ve already established dedicated employee resource groups, consider creating packages for each of those ERGs and sending a customized message to each group with a direct link to their accompanying package. This extra measure ensures that individuals can quickly and easily find materials that matter most to them.

Conclusion

As we continue to navigate today’s dynamic business and benefits landscape, this year’s open enrollment season is sure to present challenges. But continually reflecting on your communication process, seeking employee feedback, and making informed adjustments can help you move forward more smoothly.

Remember to distribute information in more than one format. Also, make it as easy to find as possible, in as many places as your budget and resources will allow. And above all, focus on personalizing communication when you can. Although this is a “broadcast” communication challenge, benefits decisions are highly personal for each employee. The more willing you are to meet people where they are, the more successful you’ll be.

Why Benefits for Employee Caregivers Are Good Business

We’ve all seen alarming headlines about “The Great Resignation.” Some observers say it shows no signs of letting up. McKinsey recently called it the “quitting trend that just won’t quit.” And data confirms that the “big quit” is real.

In May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the U.S. voluntary quit rate was 25% higher than pre-pandemic levels. It’s hard to ignore numbers like that. And chances are you’ve experienced this recently in your own organization, as more top performers leave for various reasons.

What’s behind this surge in turnover? The pandemic forced us all to reevaluate what’s most important in life. Now, many are choosing to be more present for family while also juggling a demanding career. But the choice is especially challenging for those with family members who need special care.

This segment of the workforce is larger than you may think. In fact, according to the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, 1 in 5 American workers also double as an unpaid family caregiver for an aging, ill or disabled loved one. The amount of time they spend on caregiving, in addition to their full-time careers, isn’t trivial. The AARP estimates that these caregivers devote an average of 23.7 hours a week to these tasks.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that employee caregivers are struggling mentally, physically, and financially. Nearly 60% are dealing with clinical depression and anxiety. Experts say they are stretched so thin that the snowball effect of caregiving will cause 1 in 3 to leave the workforce entirely.

New Insights About Employees as Caregivers

A new study entitled Following The Journey of Family Caregivers” commissioned by Homethrive, Home Instead, and Certification in Long-Term Care (CLTC) sheds more light on how employee caregivers are responding to the pressure.

Nearly 70% of survey respondents who identify as employed said it has been important to rely on paid in-home care because it helps them avoid leaving their job, or because it helps them concentrate better at work.

“I wasn’t surprised to hear (working caregivers) turning more to paid care,” says Eileen J. Tell, a Boston-area researcher who administered the survey. “They cited the importance of doing well at their job and the desire to maintain their job.”

It’s no wonder why working caregivers said they need paid assistance. For example:

  • 35% often provide companionship
  • 33% often provide transportation help
  • 26% often help with daily living activities
  • 23% often help arrange care
  • 26% often help make care decisions
  • 31% always help make home safety changes

Respondents also said if they received help coordinating care, it would take a major load off their already piled-high plates. Specifically:

  • 42% want coordination with doctors or care teams
  • 38% want assistance in finding service providers
  • 34% want help finding benefits eligibility
  • 34% want meal delivery coordination
  • 32% want recommendations for devices and equipment
  • 31% want help assessing home safety

Interestingly, the study found that only 6% of working caregivers receive support from an employer-provided benefit program to help find reliable paid in-home care for loved ones.

What about the other 94% without access to employee caregiving benefits? There is good news. An increasing number of forward-thinking employers are offering these unsung heroes benefits packages that include family caregiving options.

Why is this a wise choice? Employers gain in multiple ways. For example…

Business Benefits of Supporting Employee Caregivers

1. Restore Retention

When employees have an option to access the right kind of assistance, when they need it, they’re less likely to leave. They’re also more focused and productive at work. Offering this benefit can position you as an employer who cares about worker wellbeing on all levels—which in turn fosters a sense of company loyalty.

2. Rev-Up Recruitment

You want to attract the best employees possible. Offering a family caregiving benefit is one way to excel at recruiting because your company will appeal to candidates who value an employer with compassion, a concern for families, and a sense of community.

3. Improve Employee Wellbeing

According to Mercer’s 2022 Global Talent Trends study, employee wellbeing programs are among the top five reasons why people remain at a company. Caregiving can be a time-consuming and emotionally draining responsibility. A family caregiving benefit helps take some of this burden off your employees and improves their wellbeing.

4. Increase Productivity

Time is money. And caregiving can take up a lot of time.

One employee might spend hours on the phone setting up doctor appointments for an aging parent, while another might leave work frequently to take a special needs child to therapy.

It all takes time away from the workday, decreases productivity, and increases employee stress. But with a family caregiving benefit, employees and their loved ones will receive higher quality support when it matters most, so your business productivity will flourish.

5. Revolutionize Work-Life Balance

A family caregiving benefit can drastically improve work-life balance. When employees continually put others’ care ahead of self-care, it can translate into mental and physical health issues such as exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. Those issues inflate your company’s healthcare costs.

When a caregiver’s mindset has shifted to a “life-work tilt,” career advancement, salary increases, and professional praise are important. But quality time with loved ones, the opportunity to explore passions outside of work, and overall mental wellbeing are also critical.

Leaning into this “life-work tilt” can have multiple advantages. By proactively acknowledging the needs and responsibilities of family caregivers and offering tangible support, you can set your organization apart. And when your employees find a better balance between work and life, they can focus better, be more productive, and stay loyal to your company.

6. Protect Your Bottom Line

High turnover is expensive. The cost often extends beyond investing in recruitment to replace lost workers. For example, institutional knowledge and team morale also suffer. In addition, productivity can take a hit, which in turn, can reduce innovation and growth. Ultimately, this negative spiral can prevent your company from reaching its full potential. 

A Solution That Helps Employees and Employers

Family caregiving benefits are a win-win.

They’re a win for employers because they help improve workforce wellbeing, retention, and productivityall while protecting your bottom line.

They’re also a win for employees because they help support work-life balance, mental health, and job satisfaction. 

As Eileen Tell explains, “I think it’s key that employers understand how important it is to family caregivers to feel like they don’t have to choose between their jobs and their role as a family caregiver. Employees may look like they’re not paying attention to work, but they really don’t want to compromise their job and they don’t want to skimp on their family responsibilities.”

Planning for Caregiving – How Employers Can Help

We must plan for caregiving instead of waiting for the medical crisis. Lack of planning is sadly the typical scenario for the vast majority of working families with aging relatives. Too many barriers exist when it comes to planning for caregiving. Such barriers include lack of knowledge, time, and procrastination. Ultimately, lack of preparation inevitably results in premature exit from the workforce. This is a costly scenario for the employee as well as the employer.

As part of a comprehensive benefits plan, employers can help educate future caregiver employees as to how to initiate the conversation and set up planning. Such a setup may vastly change the landscape around employees’ ability to remain in the workplace as they take on a caregiving role. The point of this article, therefore, is a wake-up call to the employer as well as the future caregiver employee.

Preparation for Caregiving

It is wonderful to think that people today have a good chance of living well beyond their 70s. However, with rising age comes increasing disabilities (1), and thus, the need for supportive care. In my profession as an eldercare consultant, I have come to realize that the vast majority of people take on caregiving responsibilities with little or no preparation; this is indeed the typical scenario for caregivers (2).

Unfortunately, it is human nature to wait till the last moment before we take action, especially with issues that are difficult to solve. In the caregiving world, people often do not learn about the many resources and services available until after the medical crisis occurs. Why do we procrastinate when it comes to planning for caregiving? There are many reasons: lack of time in our busy working lives, lack of knowledge, lack of confidence, and stressful family dynamics. However, lack of preparation around caregiving can lead to wide-ranging negative outcomes for the caregiver (3\4).

Planning for the Future of Caregiving

We plan our financial future; so why don’t we plan for caregiving? This should be a no-brainer, as lack of preparation can have a negative impact on so many aspects of our lives including deteriorating mental and physical health, loss of social connections, and reduced or lost income. For example, caregivers are more likely to experience stress, anxiety, irritability, hopelessness, and depression, as well as have coexisting substance abuse or dependence, and chronic disease (5/6). Furthermore, studies have shown that caregivers (age 50+) who leave the workforce to care for a parent lose, on average, nearly $304,000 in wages and benefits over their lifetime, and are at increased risk of living in poverty in their own old age (7).

Programmatic Solutions in the Workplace

The rationale for why we should plan for caregiving is clear. Yet, we don’t. I would argue that much of the fault lies in that structurally our society is not set up to support proactive caregiving. A key area where programmatic solutions could be developed exists within the workplace. The workplace employs many people who fall into the sandwich generation; that is, those sandwiched between children and aging parents. Even though many mid-size to larger companies provide eldercare services as part of their Employment Assistance Programs (EAPs), these do not promote proactive planning for caregiving.

EAPs cater to the employee who is in crisis mode. Instead, workplaces should do more to promote proactive planning for caregiving when the employee is not under duress. This could be done through educational ‘lunch and learns’ provided to employees where they may gain knowledge about warning signs of when it is time to step in, learn ways to initiate the conversation, and how to find resources in their community. Educating the sandwich generation workforce is a win-win scenario for the employee as well as the employer by diminishing disruption in the workplace because employees will be much more prepared for caregiving. 

Final Thoughts

The workplace captures a huge audience of future caregivers. This is a vital consideration as we are facing a looming shortage of caregivers as the large baby boomer cohort ages (8). We must start to implement structural changes within our society that can support caregiving in the same way that daycare was implemented to support working mothers! The programmatic solutions described in this article are relatively inexpensive and empower the family to make decisions that may better meet the wishes and needs of the care recipient. Ultimately, by planning for caregiving we may better promote the autonomy and the dignity of our loved ones.

1 Aubrecht, K., Kelly, C. & Rice, C. (2020). The aging-disability nexus. University of British Columbia Press.
2 Alvariza, A., Häger-Tibell, L., Holm, M. et al. Increasing preparedness for caregiving and death in family caregivers of patients with severe illness who are cared for at home – study protocol for a web-based intervention. BMC Palliat Care 19, 33 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12904-020-0530-6
3 Sung S Park, PhD, Caregivers’ Mental Health and Somatic Symptoms During COVID-19, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Volume 76, Issue 4, April 2021, Pages e235 – e240, https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbaa121
4 Broxson J, Feliciano L. Understanding the Impacts of Caregiver Stress. Prof Case Manag. 2020 Jul/Aug;25(4):213-219. doi: 10.1097/NCM.0000000000000414. PMID: 32453176.
5  Chang, H. Y., Chiou, C. J., & Chen, N. S. (2010). Impact of mental health and caregiver burden on family caregivers’ physical health. Archives of gerontology and geriatrics50(3), 267–271. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archger.2009.04.006
6 Lena Sandin Wranker, Sölve Elmståhl & Fagerström Cecilia (2021) The Health of Older Family Caregivers – A 6-Year Follow-up, Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 64:2, 190-207, DOI: 10.1080/01634372.2020.1843098
7 Feinberg, L & Choula, R. (2012): Understanding the impact of caregiving on work. (AARP Fact Sheet).
8.Feinberg, L.F. & Spillman, B.C. (2019). Shifts in family caregiving – and a growing care gap: Implications for long term services and supports financial reform. Generations: J Am Society on Aging, 43, 1, 73-77.

Minimize Worry and Maximize Employee Financial Health

Sponsored by: Nationwide

With 2022 shaping up to be much more economically challenging for many people, more so than in 2021, folks are doing what they can to get by. A recent study performed by Nationwide said that a whopping 90% of consumers are concerned about inflation and their financial health. Do you blame them? 

Some employees are even starting to reduce their 401(k) plan contributions. The economic downturn has employees feeling worried and insecure – rightfully so.

Another study I just read shows that 70% of employees believe they need help from employers to achieve long-term financial security. Employers and employees may not realize all the tools available to help promote financial wellness and help to alleviate worry and insecurity.

Let’s look at some ways organizations and individuals can ease their worries about retirement plans and lifelong financial health.

Are you ready to help your employees thrive?

Our Guest: Amelia Dunlap

On our latest #WorkTrends Podcast, I spoke to Amelia Dunlap, Vice President of Retirement Solutions Marketing at Nationwide. Her focus is on solving the complex challenges of the financial services industry. She leads retirement solutions and marketing and is responsible for connecting with participants to plan for and live in retirement. She says:

Many people may not realize the full scope of what Nationwide does and that they offer much more than just home and auto insurance.

The Big Picture

We need to focus beyond the here and now. While many people know they have to save as much as possible for retirement, they are often unsure of what retirement will look like when it comes. About one in five people are delaying their retirement date because they feel insecure about how much income they will need to live on comfortably.

Amelia shares some solutions from Nationwide, such as in-plan guarantees, a way to put money into an investment that guarantees retirement income. A recent macrotrend related to pensions should be of some concern:

Rewind decades ago, a lot of companies had pensions for those of us in the corporate or private sector. That provided you, as an employee, with a paycheck in retirement. Well, throughout the past number of years, pensions have started to reduce. That ownership of preparing for your retirement and living in retirement has transitioned from a company providing it to an individual’s responsibility. That’s what a 401(k) is.

The Future of Retirement

 Economic security is of great concern for everybody, whether nearing retirement or just entering the workforce. There may be legislation from Capitol Hill that could help here, but in the nearer term, there are options and ways to educate younger generations. 

We in the industry often say, “If only everyone knew that your retirement plan is the best option for saving that you’re going to have.” It gives you the most access to investments. It’s the lowest cost. If you have a retirement plan, you should absolutely be taking advantage of it. We in the industry know that. Unfortunately, I don’t know if that is always effectively communicated to employers and ultimately to employees.

Educating younger workers on the benefits of investing earlier in their careers can make a huge difference. 

Lessons Learned

The turbulence in the last year has been a wake-up call for many people who had previously been in a stretch where things had been just ticking along well for a number of years. So what have we learned? 

This really underscores the need for employees to understand that adversity is going to happen and that you need to be thinking about your financial wellness plans long term. Putting your money in your retirement plan, continuing to save, and diversifying your investments are all good keywords you hear. Right now is a really unique time for employers because they’ve got the attention of their employees.

I hope you found this episode of #WorkTrends helpful and inspirational. To learn more about employer-sponsored retirement programs and the changes needed to help secure employee financial wellness, visit Nationwide.

Subscribe to the #WorkTrends podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Be sure to follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on LinkedIn and Facebook, too, for more great conversations!

Digital Health Coaching as a Modern Employee Benefit

Whether working onsite in the healthcare, construction, service, and hospitality industries throughout the pandemic, the stresses of the past two years have taken their toll. Employees are tired. Employee Burnout is being experienced at an extremely high rate. 

More than four in 10 workers surveyed by global staffing firm Robert Half said they are more burned out on the job today compared to one year ago. That’s a 10% jump from a similar poll in 2020. In addition, nearly half of workers surveyed, some 49%, who are experiencing increased fatigue, blame this on heavier workloads. 

As the pandemic lingers, digital health coaching is on the rise. This modern employee benefit is proving to be a critical lifeline for employees now and in the future.

New Work Models Increase Employee Burnout and Health Issues

Open-ended remote and hybrid work has exacerbated employee burnout — a syndrome outlined by the World Health Organization resulting from chronic workplace stress characterized by decreased work efficiency, exhaustion, energy depletion, and negative and cynical feelings related to a job. 

These feelings are further compounded by increased substance use, sleep issues, and chronic health issues due to the current climate. All of which have a negative impact on safety, absenteeism, and productivity. To make matters worse, remote and hybrid workers aren’t always getting the support they need to cope.

Employers Turn to Digital Health Coaching to Support Workers

Employees need to feel supported while maintaining a sense of privacy. Unfortunately, people struggling with substance abuse disorder and mental health issues are often conditioned to remain silent — to suffer alone. Especially now, workers may even view their struggles as a temporary result of the pandemic rather than an undiagnosed problem. The issues are real, however. 

Between August 2020 and February 2021, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of anxiety or depression increased from 36.4% to 41.5%, and the rate of those reporting unmet mental health care needs increased from 9.2% to 11.7%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With the pervasiveness of unfulfilled mental health care in America, companies can fill the void to provide employees with guided intervention — supporting employees and helping them make lasting change. Companies can accomplish these goals by adopting robust substance use health insurance and policies, improving workplace culture, educating employees to promote drug-free workplaces, and providing employees with supportive and confidential services in a digital health coaching program.

Digital Health Coaching Meets Employees Where They Are

The root of a healthy company is a healthy workforce. Yet, many employer-backed health and wellness programs struggle to attract, engage, and produce tangible outcomes for employees. In addition, traditional programs are plagued with a one-size-fits-all approach to personal struggles. Personalizing care is critical for employers who want to build a pathway that helps individual employees build a strong foundation and momentum to overcome their struggles. 

With the help of a digital health coaching program, blending cognitive-behavioral training with video-based educational modules and a vast library of impactful content, every employee can obtain support and help when they need it. In addition, by creating personalized experiences and providing targeted content that appeals to different learning styles, such programs can effectively engage employees — raising the likelihood employees complete the program and achieve positive outcomes with staying power. 

Engaging Health Coaching Programs Benefit Workers and Employers

For employers questioning whether adding a digital health coaching program to their employee benefits is worth the cost, the answer is a resounding yes — yes, it is worth it. 

Some 80% of the total costs for treating chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer, asthma, and more stem from risks and unhealthy behaviors worsened by the pandemic. These include poor stress management and standard of care, insufficient sleep, excessive alcohol, drug use and smoking, poor diet, and a lack of physical activity and health screenings. As a result, costs to both workers and employers come in the form of additional healthcare spend and productivity loss. 

Data suggest the benefits of adopting a digital health coaching program, which helps reduce lifestyle risks and unhealthy behaviors, can result in significant savings for employers and employees alike. 

Depression, for example, the second-leading cause of “years lived with disability” worldwide, is steadily linked with greater economic burden and reduced work productivity, and this was pre-pandemic. It’s also estimated to cost employers nearly $20,000 per 100 employees each year in lost productivity and additional healthcare costs. Then there’s obesity. A chronic condition gradually rising, obesity increased from 30.5% to 42.4% from 1999–2000 through 2017–2018. Obesity alone can cost employers $100,000 – $550,000 each year per 100 employees in disability, workers’ compensation, absenteeism, and presenteeism.

Enhanced Digital Health Coaching

Enhanced digital health coaching serves to lower these costs. Employees who improve their general health and complete their treatment protocols to address risky behaviors, mental and chronic health issues are less likely to require expensive interventions later, saving them and their employers in the long run. 

Employers must act as employees continue to deal with pandemic burnout, increased stresses, substance use, and other risky behaviors. In doing so, they’ll help employees address the issues they may be silently struggling with, allowing them to make lasting change and improve the health of their workplaces.

The Future Workplace and How to Prepare

I’m often asked to give my predictions for what the new year will bring to the future workplace. We’ve seen changes we never imagined, from the shift to remote and blended workforces to flexible scheduling—not as a perk but a necessity.  We observed just how critical mental health and family benefits are to our employees. We’ve watched millions leave our workplaces as part of the Great Resignation. And they’re still leaving. Our workforces are shrinking.

Looking back on the past two years, I didn’t know what would trigger the shift to an employee-centric dynamic. But I was sure it would happen. I wish it didn’t take an unprecedented pandemic to push the envelope. But it necessitated changes in HR and leadership that we were already talking about.

Workplace Revelations

Thanks to the pandemic, employers see how critical it is to treat their employees as people. They know that they need to recognize that employees have lives and stresses outside the office. And also, that they have needs well beyond having the right equipment and processes to get their work done.

A prolonged health, economic, and social crisis has sent the walls between work and life tumbling down. Employers who don’t support that reality are going to find themselves on the receiving end of an exodus in the future workplace. An August 2021 jobseeker survey found that 55 percent of American employees plan to search for a new job in 2022.

How can you ready your workplace for the changes already happening?

First, acknowledge they’re happening and they’re not going to stop. This is not a course correction or a passing trend. This is a new reality. Second, address the basic needs employees have—the fundamentals that make their work and lives easier. In some cases, we can follow the examples of front-running organizations. They may not be perfect but are nevertheless the ones innovating solutions to better support their workforce. In other cases, you’ll likely be on your own: no two organizations are alike any more than any two people are. The good news is that we can all learn from each other.

Family Support

One of the hardest parts of managing work and life in the pandemic has been somehow navigating caregiving and domestic responsibilities. The pressures of childcare forced a whole cohort—women—to make a terrible decision between jobs and children. Women are the ones leading the Great Resignation. A Lean In/ McKinsey report found that one in three women contemplated changing or leaving their jobs in the past year, up from one in four women in 2020. Forty-two percent of women and 35 percent of men say they are burned out, up from 32 percent of women and 28 percent of men last year. Women are bearing the brunt, the numbers show.

But solutions need to accommodate everyone and need to meet evolving definitions of what family means in the future workplace. This leads me to Amazon (remember I said they may not be perfect?). Amazon’s Family Flex program offers working parents a whole new level of flexibility—customizing schedules, swapping shifts, as well as care and financial resources—to make working easier. Adoptive parents—too often, left out of family support networks—are included here.

Remote Work

If you can offer remote work, should you? The answer is yes. If you can continue to provide remote work options for your teams, do so. And don’t just offer it to employees, offer it to managers as well. According to a recent study of tech professionals by Guru and Loom, both managers and employees have spent nearly two-thirds of their weekly work schedule working from home—64.4 percent of employees, and 66.4 percent of managers. A full 91.6 percent were satisfied with their working environment; 32.5 percent said they experienced a better work/life balance when working from home or in a hybrid setup.

Remote work is sometimes still seen as a perk or a trend—as if people will “sober up” and want to go back to the office. But remote work is a big part of the future workplace. Of course, this only holds true for industries where remote working is feasible. But even there I’ve been privy to discussions where the question isn’t how to enable more remote work, but when to transition people back—as if we’ve all been on some kind of diet or part of a social experiment. 4.3 million people quitting in August and then 4.4 million in September isn’t a fluke. Employees want to feel better about taking themselves to work every day. Becker Friedman Institute for Economics’ survey on some 30,000 employees found that nearly half of employees could work from home, with employers enabling them to do so an average of two days a week. Depending on your industry, if you can provide remote, you should, or you may lose out to a competitor who does.

Job Security

By April of 2020, more than 30 million Americans had filed for unemployment benefits (the highest increase in claims ever recorded). Furloughs, staffing changes, shrinkage, and temporary layoffs left many employees feeling betrayed (and furious).

But some companies took it upon themselves to retain employees any way they could. Inc’s list of top workplaces includes organizations like Autoscribe, who committed to keep all their employees through the pandemic. Likely the move took some extreme budget maneuvering. But the result is a sense of trust that’s going to be priceless in the years to come. When you’re presenting yourself as an employer, how you address the issue of job security is going to be a big deal to skittish talent. Be transparent, dispense with the platitudes, and if you have to, reassess your values and your culture when it comes to supporting employee retention.

Ninety-four percent of enterprises and 93 percent of SMBs reported plans to expand their job opportunities in the coming year. But keeping pace with hiring goals for the future workplace isn’t about numbers. It’s about meeting the needs of people coming to work for you. Every organization has its own culture, structure, and technology. Use these to create the kinds of programs that set you apart. Find ways to provide learning opportunities that extend well beyond the parameters of job skills. Or offer trackable development journeys established between managers and their teams. Other options include financial solutions like student loan benefits or committed DEI initiatives, including leadership development opportunities, mobility, and more.

Key Takeaways

This is a perfect time to do some soul-searching within your organization. Work may have changed for good these past two years—and that may be a good thing. My advice: embrace it. Don’t just ask your employees to bring their best selves to the workplace. Bring your best workplace to your employees. That’s the best way to set up your recruiters and talent acquisition teams for success.

Supporting Employees Navigating Grief and Substance Use

Grief and substance use disorders have been considered taboo topics in the workplace for too long. With more than 600,000 lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. and alcohol consumption on the rise, we face crises related to mental health and substance use disorders—along with the pandemic itself.

We spend about one-third of our lives working, so employers must tackle grief and substance use challenges if they hope to improve the health and well-being of their workforces. To do that, they will need to address the relationship between alcohol and grief in the workplace.

Statistically, your employees are struggling.

Heavy alcohol consumption has been climbing for years, but the pandemic further exacerbated this trend. Nielsen reported a 54 percent increase in national alcohol sales in early 2020 compared with early 2019. Meanwhile, online alcohol sales had surged by 262 percent since 2019.

In an online survey, 60 percent of respondents reported drinking more than before COVID-19 because of increased stress, increased availability of alcohol, and boredom. Participants who reported being stressed by the pandemic also consumed more drinks over a greater number of days. This study is yet another reminder that many people use alcohol to cope with distress in the absence of better tools. And for anyone living with alcohol use disorder before the pandemic, isolation and stress presented additional challenges in their recovery.

Beyond all of this, another influence on our relationship with alcohol that has become exacerbated and hyper-relevant in light of the pandemic is grief.

Grief Is Present and Evolving in Your Workforce

It’s estimated that one in three of your employees is grieving, which makes it important to understand what grief is: a normative (nonpathological) experience that involves emotional, physiological, and cognitive responses. It impacts our mood and behaviors such as sleep, appetite, and substance use.

Although there are common patterns in grief, it impacts every person differently and looks different for the same person over time. Grief is a process of adaptation, and people naturally move from “acute grief” to “integrated grief.”

Acute grief is how we typically envision grief. It includes an intense and persistent emotional experience, difficulty accepting the loss, and disconnection from one’s social and professional world. As a person learns to live with the reality of their loss, they move to integrated grief. This grief might not be as frequent or as intense, but it remains a part of a bereaved person forever.

All of this said, how do alcohol and grief interact and intersect?

The Relationship Between Grief and Substance Use

Dr. Dan Wolfson, a clinical psychologist specializing in grief and a Lantern.co advisor, says alcohol can slow or prevent the ability to move from acute grief to integrated grief. He also says it’s a form of avoidance.

“When grieving, we need to engage with our emotions rather than avoid them,” Wolfson says. “Our psychological immune systems are tapped, so people fall back on the coping strategies they’re familiar with—even maladaptive ones like alcohol use. So we have to be proactive in engaging healthy behaviors and access support systems early and often.”

Sabrina Spotorno is a therapist for Monument, an evidence-based online alcohol treatment platform. Spotorno has helped many of her patients navigate grief and alcohol use disorder simultaneously.

“Grief can feel incredibly isolating, and we can temporarily lose our sense of self,” she says. “That’s why alcohol can often serve as an artificial source of comfort and companionship. Once we regain our awareness of how much we are in need of community, we can regroup from our period of emotional isolation and find our safe people in support groups and in therapy. Holding space for all feelings, sensations, and experiences, including grief, is what enables healing and change.”

How to Promote Healing in Workplaces of Tomorrow

Recognizing the relationship between grief and substance use, particularly alcohol, and knowing that your employees might be struggling are important first steps. Shifting company culture to support team members is an ongoing practice. Here are four ways to make that transition:

1. Encourage self-care in company policies.

Spotorno recommends encouraging self-care at all times, including consistent and concrete company policies that support this stance: “Offering flexibility with schedules, encouraging time off, and designating company mental health days can be invaluable ways to create a company culture that promotes self-care.”

2. Create open communication channels.

You should also create open communication channels to support grieving employees. This lets you share your support in concrete ways and ask direct questions about how to best meet employees’ needs. Even companies that supply every resource possible to grieving employees can’t truly foster a supportive environment unless they openly communicate about that grief and create space for it.

3. Revisit your bereavement policies.

To address grief and loss as specific influential factors in alcohol use, Dr. Wolfson recommends revisiting your bereavement policies or ensuring you have a bereavement policy in place.

“Someone taking a week off for bereavement leave doesn’t mean they are coming back at 100 percent,” Wolfson says. “We need to build their endurance back up. Expect an employee to start at 40 percent. When people feel overloaded or overstressed, they’re going to regress to potentially unhealthy behaviors. Wouldn’t you prefer a healthy employee performing well at 40 percent than an unhealthy one struggling to meet 100 percent of former expectations? We all need to be given time to work our way back.”

4. Examine the role alcohol plays in your culture and environment

Finally, take a closer look at how alcohol shows up in your office. Challenge your own biases and consider these tips from sober entrepreneurs. Perform an audit of where alcohol shows up in your work environment, whether that’s physically in your office, at company events, or during celebratory moments.

If you’re still not sure how to get started, know that there are numerous incredible ways to help your workforce. You might share grief resources and tools with your employees through internal communications and expanded benefits policies. You can also provide anonymous community support and point team members to virtual, evidence-based online alcohol treatment, including therapy and medication. Finally, connect employees with outside support designed to help with the logistical side of bereavement and grief management.

Employer Healthcare Benefits and the ‘Great Resignation’

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 11.5 million workers quit their jobs between April and June of this year, and that trend isn’t likely to end soon. A Microsoft survey found that 41 percent of people are considering making a similar move.

This mass exodus, referred to by many as the “Great Resignation,” came as a result of the pandemic. In fact, 74 percent of those surveyed by LinkedIn cited the pandemic as their reason for moving on. During the shutdown, people had a chance to really contemplate their current work situations. Stress and burnout were also contributing factors, but many workers appeared most concerned with their employer’s response to the coronavirus and the financial risks and ramifications (e.g., frozen merit increases, holds on promotions, potential layoffs).

None of this should be a surprise. Even under “normal” circumstances, people leave their employers for many of the same reasons. Burnout is the number one contributing factor, followed by lack of opportunities and low pay. People have also come to enjoy the flexibility of remote work. Returning to the office and working a set schedule is far less appealing, as evidenced by the prediction that freelancers could make up more than 50 percent of the workforce by 2027.

Employer healthcare benefits: a potential solution for the Great Resignation

Some industries have been harder hit by the Great Resignation than others. Leisure and hospitality are still struggling with attracting and retaining talented employees, losing more than 740,000 people in April alone. In the retail sector, nearly 650,000 people quit that same month. Nursing saw an 18.7 percent turnover rate in 2020.

Many businesses have responded by raising wages and offering hiring bonuses of up to $1,000, but financial incentives haven’t been enough. A Korn Ferry survey found that 94 percent of retailers can’t find talent to fill empty roles. Part of this could be due to the prospect of long hours spent in positions that involve interacting with the public, which still feels daunting and dangerous for many; the coronavirus still poses a severe threat to people’s health.

Another part of the equation is insufficient employer healthcare benefits packages. According to the 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Benefits Survey, just 50 percent of small businesses (fewer than 200 employees) offer health coverage to employees. And with more than 40 percent of the private workforce employed by such establishments, that’s a lot of people personally insured, underinsured, or uninsured. The Great Resignation is compounding the issue. More than 60 percent of the workforce receives health benefits through their employers. When someone leaves without another job, they lose their employer-sponsored health insurance and aren’t eligible for unemployment insurance, creating a gap in health insurance coverage between jobs.

The key to attracting and retaining talented employees could be as simple as offering employer healthcare benefits. It can be a huge differentiator by increasing job satisfaction, employee loyalty, and productivity.

Employer-sponsored health insurance options

Despite the benefits, finding room in the budget for employer-sponsored health insurance can be difficult for many small businesses. While deductibles and premiums may be on the rise, it is still worth the effort to explore your options. Many retail and services workers are now taking entry-level positions in offices and warehouses with lower wages because of the benefits, career development, and upward mobility they offer.

Here’s what to consider when building your employer healthcare benefits plan.

1. Supplement a high-deductible health plan with virtual primary care.

A complimentary virtual primary care plan can be a good supplement for businesses that cannot afford full employer-sponsored health insurance. Virtual care plans can reduce out-of-pocket costs associated with deductibles, copays, and prescriptions.

2. Include a health savings account with high-deductible plans.

Health savings accounts provide many advantages for employees. The funds are available to pay for medical expenses, which puts the individual in control of when and how to use the money. Want to pay a deductible? Go ahead. Need to refill a prescription? Feel free. But the contributions come out before taxes, lowering taxable income. Many plans also earn tax-free interest, and any unused funds can be rolled over for the next year.

3. Base premiums and deductibles on employee income.

Basing premiums and deductibles on employee income doesn’t always work for smaller businesses, as the difference in wages isn’t usually extreme. For midsize and larger employers, however, it can be a helpful tool in attracting and retaining talented employees. Perhaps pay 80 percent of premiums for workers making less than $60,000 a year while also offering lower annual deductibles.

4. Offer an independent virtual primary care plan when insurance isn’t an option.

Telehealth plans can help employees access the care they need. Look for comprehensive solutions like virtual primary care, which allow employees to see the same primary care physician regularly and manage chronic conditions with ongoing treatment plans. These plans also provide access to annual virtual wellness exams—including routine labs—as well as virtual urgent care and behavioral therapy.

The reasons people seek other employment opportunities will vary, even after the pandemic. Finding ways to address the most common causes of talent loss should help, but it’s also important to provide people with the perks and benefits they seek—one of which will always be employer-sponsored health insurance.

Four Ways to Overcome the Frontline Labor Shortage

A record 10.9 million jobs went unfilled in July. Meanwhile, 8.4 million people remained unemployed in August. If there are more jobs available in the U.S than people who need them, why is there a frontline labor shortage that’s causing restaurants to close dining rooms, retailers to reduce hours, and delivery operations to run short on drivers? Why didn’t the decision to cut off additional federal unemployment payments get people back to work?

The Great Resignation is hitting the frontline hard as businesses struggle to regain their footing after a year of shutdowns. Unfortunately, there’s no end in sight. New data from Arlington Research and Axonify shows that 45 percent of frontline workers have already decided to leave their jobs. Retailers, grocers, and restaurants that are already struggling to keep up will find themselves even more understaffed and overwhelmed when the holiday season arrives.

Why can’t we retain frontline workers?

Almost 50 percent of frontline employees were furloughed or laid off last year. Essential workers have dealt with non-stop safety concerns, operational changes, and frustrated customers. Frontline jobs have always been physically and mentally exhausting. The pandemic represents a tipping point for this part of the workforce. As executives determine the way forward for their businesses, frontline workers are making decisions about their own futures.

Many employers have improved their compensation packages as a way to attract and retain workers. Amazon hiked its average U.S. starting pay to $18. Target launched a debt-free education assistance program for its 340,000 frontline team members. Disney offered $,1500 hiring bonuses for culinary roles in its theme parks. These are great improvements, but they’re just first steps because they don’t address the main reason people are quitting: the work experience.

Compensation ranks fourth on frontline employees’ list of reasons for leaving. Burnout is number one. You can’t pay people to stop feeling exhausted. And compensation only goes so far, especially as more employers offer competitive wages. Beyond band-aid solutions, organizations must meaningfully improve the day-to-day work experience to attract the best people—and keep them. With that in mind, here are four things you can do to overcome the labor shortage and become a frontline employer of choice.

Show employees that you care.

Burnout is the biggest reason frontline workers are walking away. Number two: lack of appreciation. The pandemic has made us all reflect on how we work and live, and the subsequent economic rebound has opened new opportunities. Staying in a stressful job where you’re not appreciated just isn’t worth it.

Fix this by making “thank you” the two most commonly used words in your workplace. Next, prioritize mental health by making related benefits and training widely available to full-time and part-time staff. Show new and experienced employees you prioritize their wellbeing by reducing common job stressors. This includes offering flexible scheduling and monitoring employee workloads. Foster a sense of community through social events and recognition programs. Even better, leverage employee-led committees to organize these activities.

Foster an inclusive and equitable workplace.

Frontline employees work in stores, branches, and warehouses. Their time is heavily scheduled, often to the minute. They’re unable to work remotely or adjust their schedules to accommodate personal responsibilities. This inflexibility has a direct impact on their job satisfaction, as 64.2 percent of store-based employees expressed happiness with their everyday work as compared to 81.4 percent of office-based workers.

This workplace inequity extends to factors like career development and pandemic support. In every case, employees who work on-location are less happy with their workplace experience as compared to those who work in an office. Furthermore, part-time employees are significantly less satisfied than full-timers when it comes to compensation, communication, technology, and manager support.

Become an employer of choice by demonstrating that everyone–regardless of role, location, or status–gets an equitable opportunity to succeed. Explore flexible working practices, such as adjustable shift times and hybrid roles. Conduct regular equity assessments to identify and close gaps between location and office-based work.

Empower frontline managers to create positive experiences.

One in two employees have quit a job to get away from a manager. Frontline employees who intend to leave are less happy with their direct managers (66 percent) as compared to those who plan to stay (80.9 percent). On the frontline, the manager is the face of the company, and they play the most important role in preventing turnover.

But managers walk a challenging tightrope between short-term performance goals and long-term relationship building. To avoid the frontline labor shortage, provide employees with the support they need to prioritize their teams. Reduce administrative workloads so they have the time to be present in the operation. Make sure new managers receive training and support immediately instead of waiting for the next program to come around. Provide on-demand resources and microlearning to help them prepare for their new roles.

Build your talent pipeline before you need it.

Many of the frontline workers who left were your best people. They were your future supervisors and managers. Hiring challenges make it unlikely that you’ll fill these gaps with external candidates. Instead, you need to build your talent bench internally ASAP. However, 35.8 percent of frontline employees only receive training during big job changes while 20.3 percent rarely or never receive it.

Frontline workers have always been difficult to reach with traditional classroom-based training. Pulling them out of the operation hurts the business, so their development opportunities have been limited. On the flip side, a reimagined training program is one of your best lines of defense in the war for frontline talent.

Apply new talent strategies, such as mobile and microlearning, that make development opportunities more accessible on the frontline. Design reskilling and upskilling activities that can be completed in just three to five minutes per day, thereby not disrupting the operation.

Employee experience can end the exodus.

The frontline labor shortage isn’t just about pay. It’s about the work itself. If you want to attract and retain the right people, give them an experience that helps them be their best, feel included and supported, and develop their careers. For even more insights on how to reimagine your frontline work experience, check out Axonify’s full report on The State of the Frontline Work Experience in 2021.

On-Site Employee Benefits: Bringing Dental Care into the Workplace

Employee expectations are changing, with many looking to their workplaces to provide better benefits and wellness solutions. Employees want to feel valued, and in turn, they value employers who take the initiative to make sure their workers are healthy.

In recent years, workplaces have been offering on-site health services, including massages, counseling, eye-care check-ups, and more. Bringing benefits to employees makes their lives easier and gives them a greater chance of staying healthy. Organizations that prioritize comprehensive benefits not only make themselves more competitive in the job market, but also show that their brands are flexible, forward-thinking, and that they care about the wellness of their people. Which, as we all know, should always be a top priority.

Our Guest: Jordan Smith, CEO, Jet Dental

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Jordan Smith, CEO of Jet Dental, an on-site provider of dental care for corporations nationwide. They offer pop-up clinics, which can be set up in the office. Jordan is a seasoned chief revenue officer with experience in the healthcare industry and growing call centers. Before joining Jet Dental, Jordan led a 400 person sales team with annual sales of $200 million.

Pre-pandemic, 45 percent of people with dental insurance were not going to the dentist annually, Jordan explains. This was due in part to it being difficult to get away from their busy work schedule. Now that people have more flexibility with hybrid work, I wanted to know: What’s the advantage of pop-up dental clinics for today’s employees?

Since COVID, a lot of people have delayed preventive care. A study by Business Group on Health is predicting a 5.3 percent increase in health plan costs for large employers because of delayed care brought on by the pandemic,” Jordan says. “As a result, individuals are delaying care, waiting until maybe it’s too late.”

A big incentive for employers to offer in-office services like dental care is to prioritize employee health. Not just to make sure employees are well, but to help cut unnecessary costs. Insurance carrier Cigna did a study of a million of their members over a five-year period and found that those who got regular preventive care saw a 31 percent decrease in costs in that period. People who didn’t get that care saw a 43 percent increase in costs.

“The healthier your workforce, the less likely it is for you to see increases in premiums,” Jordan says. “A simple thing like regular dental care check-ups, twice a year, can prevent a host of maladies.”

Bringing Dental Care to Employees: Motivating the Unmotivated

So what does in-office dental care really look like? How do employers motivate employees to walk down the hall to pop-up clinics and prioritize their health?

“The vast majority of the folks we’re seeing aren’t going to the dentist just because it’s one other item on their task list. So by making it convenient, we get those people to go down the hallway to get a cavity filled. We motivate the unmotivated,” Jordan says. “Also, in our experience, there are people who are afraid of the dentist, and by offering them the in-office option, we see those people on a daily basis.”

As employees continue to demand better benefits packages in the competitive job market, employers are looking for new ways to make benefits a top priority. On-site benefits and services like dental care will likely become the new normal, Jordan says. Perhaps even expected by employees.

“A lot of us have gained more empathy for one another due to the pandemic. Because of that, I think employers are looking even further into how they can help employees have a better experience at work and find a better work-life balance,” Jordan says. “Going forward, we’re going to continue to see more onsite health vendors. We’re going to see not savings for 401ks, but for travel and matching travel expenses to help people go have great experiences. Those competitive offerings are going to continue to evolve and improve and not just for white-collar businesses, but blue-collar as well. We’re starting to see that and will continue to see it.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Jet Dental. You can learn more about employee dental care by connecting with Jordan Smith on LinkedIn.

Taking Time Off Won’t Fix Employee Mental Health

For too long, employers have leveraged time off to support employee mental health. We’ve all heard managers or supervisors respond like this to a stressed and weary employee: “You’re feeling tired? Take some time off and recharge your batteries!” or, “You’re feeling overwhelmed? Use your PTO and step away for a bit.”

Unfortunately, anxiety and depression are worse for employees during the pandemic. But employers continue to rely primarily on time off as the solution. In fact, some companies are actually increasing the amount of paid time off they’re providing.

More than one in five companies are offering employees more vacation time this year, according to a survey from the executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Some employers have gone a little further by encouraging employees to unplug, and they’ve designated time during the week or month for employees to do just that.

  • One technology startup declared the last Friday of every month as an office holiday.
  • A 50-person business-to-business marketing agency in Texas permanently revised its office hours to be based on what it calls a “three-day weekend” calendar.
  • Technology giant Cisco last year introduced “unplug” days.

Other companies have gone even further to encourage employees to take time off. PricewaterhouseCoopers started paying employees to use their PTO—offering $250 for taking a full week off.

Yes, taking time off helps. But it isn’t helpful when it’s mandated as a preventive measure or treatment for burnout, stress, and other symptoms of mental ill-health.

Time Off Is a Double-edged Sword

As Erin L. Kelly, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, told Forbes, a vacation declaration essentially pushes some people to take unpaid leave when their families might be under great financial stress. And with the continuing high unemployment rate, people who feel lucky to be employed may think they’re taking a risk if they take vacation days.

Employees also may feel legitimate anxiety around taking time off, according to Kelly. In their minds, admitting they need a break will mark them as less committed and make them vulnerable to poor performance reviews. It can also result in missed opportunities for good assignments or shifts, or they may be targeted in the next round of layoffs.

So, will employees really take advantage of permanent three-day weekends and Friday afternoons without meetings? Will they really unplug when they’re scheduled to? Statistics say they won’t, and especially not workers in the U.S. American workers left an average of 33 percent of their paid time off on the table last year.

Better: Supporting Mental Health Every Day, for Everyone

Every mind is unique, and every person’s situation is different. And just as we all exist somewhere on a very wide spectrum of physical health, we are every day somewhere on a very broad spectrum of mental health: from barely coping to abundantly thriving, from totally disengaged to fully and productively engaged, from struggling to stay focused minute-to-minute to sustaining razor-sharp attentiveness.

And it’s not just about how we feel when we’re at work. What happens at work doesn’t stay at work, and what happens at home doesn’t stay at home. This is even more true as we continue to navigate the uncertain and constantly stressful impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Research has already proved the importance of focusing on a healthy work/life balance, of supporting employees to be more mentally fit in every area of their lives, personal and professional. Giving employees more time off is only a first step in preventing more frequent and more serious incidents of poor mental health in our workforces.

9 Steps Toward Greater Employee Mental Health

To be as effective as possible, consider these nine aspects of a proactive and preventative mental well-being strategy.

Accessibility

Ensure every employee has access to all of the mental health services and programs you offer— anytime, anywhere. A digital approach, for example, allows all employees to engage with resources however and whenever they want.

Data

Use data and insights to influence your wider strategy. Data on uptake, engagement, outcomes, improvement, and the collective well-being of your organization will help you track and understand the impact of your initiatives.

Training

Empower your managers to support mental health. Four in five managers believe it is part of their job to intervene when an employee shows signs of depression—but only one in three managers report having appropriate training to intervene.

Measurement

Empower employees to measure and manage their mental health and well-being. Online tools are available to help employees track changes in their moods and emotions, to better identify triggers, and ultimately be able to make better-informed choices about how best to respond.

Variety

Cater to a diverse range of needs and preferences. Everyone’s mental health and well-being are diverse, vibrant, and ever-changing. It’s also essential to consider how a diverse population will have different preferences, requirements, and outcomes.

Credibility

Have experts in their respective fields design your initiatives. Research has shown that only a small proportion of the thousands of mental health applications on the market are backed by clinical evidence.

Tone

Make your employee communication aspirational and engaging; talk about mental health as something to aspire to rather than hide from. The terminology and tone you use can have a significant impact on employee perceptions of your program.

Visibility

Combine a top-down and bottom-up approach to communication. Success demands an always-on communication strategy that continually reminds employees of the support, tools, and networks available to them.

Signposting

Direct employees to reactive support when necessary. Ideally, treatment-based support strategies need to be timely and offer a sense of choice in available treatment. One example: instant access 24/7 to your employee assistance program (EAP) with the touch of a button.

Key Takeaways

A proactive, whole-person approach to supporting employee mental health will create a culture of caring and support, an environment in which employees can express their emotional and mental challenges, and a workplace where mental health is understood, nurtured, and celebrated day in and day out.

Voluntary Benefits and Why Employers Should Offer Them

The coronavirus pandemic has greatly accelerated two recent and parallel trends in employee benefits. One is that more employers want to take a holistic approach to employee health and wellness. The other is that employees are increasingly looking to work for companies that show a culture of caring.

These trends, combined with other impacts of COVID-19 on the global workforce, have brought the value of so-called voluntary benefits to center stage. Employers should take note if they’re not already.

The Current State of Voluntary Benefits

Even before the pandemic, 41 percent of workers said they were likely to look for a new job with better benefits, according to Unum research. That percentage is even higher among the younger generations: 57 percent of millennials and 65 percent of Gen Z workers said they felt the same. Meanwhile, a recent employee benefits survey found that if employees had to choose between a high-paying job and a lower-paying one with quality health benefits, 88 percent would consider the lower-paying job. More telling, a majority (54 percent) of employees would “heavily consider” the tradeoff.

And employees are looking more closely at the benefits they’re being offered. During the last enrollment season, thanks to COVID-19, more than seven in 10 employees (71 percent) reported that they intended to spend more time reviewing their voluntary benefits. More than half (53 percent) planned to make changes to their benefits coverages.

No wonder 94 percent of employers now consider voluntary benefits part of their value proposition. That’s a massive increase from barely 33 percent of employers who felt the same way in 2018. When they were first introduced, voluntary benefits were considered icing on the cake. They were sweeteners to help close a deal with an employer buying basic medical (core) benefits. About a decade ago, the voluntary benefits market grew gradually, and then it exploded with a variety of supplemental benefit add-ons. Consider this: 63 percent of employers are adding child care benefits to their lineup this year.

Statistics to Consider

The subject of voluntary benefits has recently become a critical tool for employers to support employee mental health. It’s a topic that employers were just starting to focus on before the pandemic. This happened, coincidentally, when voluntary benefits were beginning to take off. The pandemic catapulted voluntary benefits into the spotlight. People everywhere were forced to work from home, social-distance, wear masks, and forgo most of their everyday social habits. Consider these telling statistics:

  • In early 2019, SHRM’s annual Employee Benefits Survey found “slow but steady increases” in on-site stress-management programs provided by employers, compared to five years prior. Stress management programs were up to 13 percent and meditation and mindfulness programs were at 11 percent.
  • Earlier this year, research by Randstad found that 41 percent of workers say their employers began offering new health- and wellness-focused benefits during COVID-19. Among those companies, “mental health assistance” was the third most commonly added benefit (13 percent). The number of companies adding benefits to support mental health was, in fact, statistically the same as for new “general health and wellness benefits” (14 percent). (At 20 percent, “flexible work hours” was the most prevalent new benefit.)

The increasing attention by employers to employee mental health is coming none too soon. Roughly two in five U.S. adults reported symptoms of either anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic—up significantly from one in 10 who reported these symptoms in the first half of 2019. The rate is even higher for essential workers (42 percent) versus nonessential workers (30 percent).

Developing an Effective Mental Health Initiative

These numbers shouldn’t alarm just HR and wellness professionals. All business leaders should take note. Why? Two reasons:

  1. The global cost of lost productivity, absences, and turnover caused by poor mental health is already estimated to be about $2.5 trillion annually.
  2. Employer investment in what one study called “effective mental health initiatives” can return an average of just over $4.00 for every $1.00.

So, where do you begin to find and implement an effective mental health initiative?

First, look for a solution that takes a four-part approach. You’ll need a solution that:

1) Takes a whole-person, whole-organization mindset

2. Includes tools and programs for all employees (not only those who are reporting mental health concerns)

3) Empowers employees and delivers practical insights to HR and wellbeing leaders

4) Has a human touch (support from experienced, dedicated service specialists) backed by solid science

To stay competitive in the new world of work, there really is no Plan B.

How to Build Employment Value with Better Benefits [Podcast]

Salary isn’t everything. As a matter of fact, eighty percent of employees say that they’d choose additional benefits over a raise. Sixty percent say that benefits are a huge deciding factor in whether candidates take a job at all. And HR professionals report that the benefits are what’s leveraged most often to retain top talent.

To put it another way: Employees are vocal about the swaying power of offering better benefits. And employers will want to listen.

With this in mind, to stay competitive, organizations need to know how to tailor benefits to both the employees they have and the candidates they want to attract.

Our Guest: Alexa Baggio, Employee Experience Expert 

On the latest episode of #WorkTrends, I had the pleasure of speaking with employee experience expert Alexa Baggio. She’s devoted to creating immersive experiences and encouraging thought-provoking interactions between employers and employees–with the aim of improving upon “traditional” HR practices.

For example, Alexa founded The PERKS Conventions (PERKS) to make employee-focused services easier to discover, access, and afford. Currently, PERKS has expanded to six cities across the U.S. and is the largest employee experience expo on Earth. This past year, PERKS also created Showcase™, an innovative virtual benefits fair platform that empowers employers to host live info sessions, eliminate hours of work wrangling vendors, and improve employee experience communications all year round.

With so many employees reporting that better benefits are extremely valuable to them, I asked Alexa how employers can use benefits to build and enhance their employee value proposition. Her answer? Offer personalized benefits to suit specific employees.

“You’ve got four generations in the workforce. Some people care about fertility. Others care about loans,” Alexa says. “Some people also care about debt. How are you going to make everybody happy? You personalize.” 

Employee “Experience” vs. Employee “Lifestyle”

So how do you personalize benefits to optimize for a better employee experience? Basically, says Alexa: You choose the lifestyle benefits that suit the employees you hired. In other words, don’t just get a foosball table as a perk because the rumor is that foosball is cool.

“Everybody heard that [foosball] was trendy, so they did it,” Alexa says. “That may be the right culture for the 75-person sales team with an average age of 23 in your office, but what if your culture isn’t that? What if you have a bunch of engineers, or researchers, or lab technicians?” 

After figuring out what core benefits fit the employee population, employers need to understand that perks offered also are a reflection of company culture. For example, if your organization values health and wellness, that needs to be articulated in the benefits. Communicate this by offering a gym membership or nutrition program.

“As an employer, you have to decide: What are the cultural benefits you want to signal? Is it fitness? Wellness? Timeliness? Cost reduction? Financial education? Community giving?” Alexa says. “Give people the experience to get in there, and to explore, and show that you’ve got great systems set up to be a person that works there.”

Basically, to stay competitive as an employer, get to know the people you hire. Learn what’s important to them and offer better benefits to reflect that. It could increase the longevity of your hires and foster the company culture you desire.

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by PERKS. You can learn more about how to optimize benefits for employee experience and lifestyle by connecting with our guest, Alexa Baggio, on LinkedIn.

Coping With Talent Shortages for On-Location Roles

As healthcare workers administer more vaccines, many companies are pushing employees to return to in-person work. However, not everyone wants to go back to hour-long commutes and drab little cubicles. In fact, some people would rather quit their jobs than give up remote work. And thousands of Americans are doing just that.

While their decision to work from home (or not work at all) may improve their well-being and work-life balance, it’s caused severe talent shortages in on-location roles across the country. Subsequently, countless businesses are struggling to fill their offices and retain skilled employees.

How to Attract Talent

Many of today’s workers have spent more than a year earning a paycheck at home. These same employees will likely expect similar perks when they return to the office. Thus, if businesses want to retain their current workforce and attract new talent, they must make on-location roles more appealing.

Here are a few ways modern businesses might rethink their benefits package, workflow, and office design to accommodate and welcome back a post-pandemic workforce.

1. Encourage Open Dialogue

After businesses laid off millions of workers, those who were left began to experience mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. They didn’t know if they’d have to pick up the slack or if they’d be sent home next. These same employees are now returning to the office with survivor guilt. Their co-workers’ desks sit empty and, to make matters worse, many supervisors are completely oblivious to the widespread survivor guilt wracking the team.

To move forward in a healthy way, employers must become aware and accepting of their team’s worries and frustrations. Allowing them to openly voice their thoughts and opinions can also help workers release some steam and discuss their needs. Companies should implement an ongoing feedback loop. This will ensure both current and future employees are satisfied and will help them understand why furloughs and firings are necessary.

2. Provide Child Care

One-third of the U.S. workforce has a child under 14 in their home, and nearly 20 percent of them must reduce their work hours due to a lack of child care. Meanwhile, 26 percent of women had to quit their jobs to raise their kids. Only 30 percent of working parents had backup child care, highlighting the disparities between low- and high-income families.

As of December 2020, more than 25 percent of child care providers remain closed. However, more businesses are requiring employees to return to the office. Employers will have to provide free or at least discounted childcare to these workers if they’re to avoid talent shortages in the post-pandemic era. Whether it be on-location or a few blocks away, this employee benefit will help retain working parents and entice new ones to submit a job application.

3. Invest in Ongoing Training

The increasing demand for remote jobs has affected practically every business. However, industries like healthcare, hospitality, financial services, and construction are experiencing the most severe talent shortages.

These professions often require on-location workers that train under an apprentice if need be. Thus, employers can attract new talent by improving training programs and investing in ongoing learning. This arrangement also contributes to current employees’ engagement to improve retention.

4. Offer Better Benefits

Employers looking to develop a hybrid workplace environment might consider offering better benefits to on-location workers. Contrary to popular belief, this method is completely legal, as there are no federal laws requiring plans to provide the same benefit coverage to all employees.

Thus, providing childcare, learning opportunities, health insurance, 401(k) plans and other perks to on-location employees may entice more workers to stay and others to apply for such positions. Adding amenities like a fitness center, coffee shop, and even sleep pods could also bring more workers into the office and help with talent shortages.

5. Plan for Flexibility

Regardless of how many benefits you offer, some employees will still prefer to work from home. If most of the team feels similarly, supervisors might consider a flexible schedule rather than a complete company overhaul. This approach will help them save money and adapt to the ever-changing workplace environment. More importantly, it will help retain and attract cream-of-the-crop workers.

Employers should collaborate with employees to determine a schedule that works best for them. Maybe they’ll work from home every other day or only come into the office for meetings. Whatever system they choose, team members are bound to be less stressed and even more productive if they spend at least part of their workweek at home.

Finding and Retaining Talent

Ironically, finding on-location workers will require many human resource professionals and talent acquisition specialists to work remotely and use online resources. By utilizing digital job fairs, experiential events, and artificial intelligence, businesses can effectively search for and vet potential job candidates. Emerging recruitment tactics like jobcasting and gamified skill tests can also attract talented employees who don’t mind working in an office.

While this process may be incredibly stressful and expensive, it won’t go on forever. This is especially true if businesses alter their hiring and retainment strategies. As long as they incorporate the tactics above, they shouldn’t have to face a talent shortage for a long while—or at least until the next pandemic.

 

Image from Lightspring

The Deeper Benefits of Employee Mental Health Programs

Rewind for a minute to the pre-pandemic state of your company culture. How did you measure up in terms of morale? Recruiting? Retention? How about employee engagement, productivity, presenteeism, and positivity? These are all critical attributes companies increasingly evaluate for their value on investment (VOI), a progressive alternative to ROI. In many organizations, the use of VOI is gradually changing the way employers assess the impact of their people programs, including employee mental health programs.

Of course, companies had begun to rethink their approach to employee mental health and well-being before COVID-19. Then the pandemic hit. Suddenly life was more about surviving than thriving.

There hadn’t been time (or much interest) before we all went into sheltering in place to call the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). And there certainly wasn’t time during, what with homeschooling and back-to-back Zoom meetings. We all seemed awash instead in apps for meditation and calmness.

Measuring Employee Mental Health Programs: ROI or VOI?

But as the dust settles and work life finds its new sense of normal, HR, talent leaders, and the C-suite are all certain to return to putting a finer pencil to the cost of these programs and well-being initiatives. This begs the traditional question: Where is the ROI?

What HR and benefits will quickly learn is that the ROI of mental health programs is at best an elusive target. At worst, ROI is an impossible metric to nail down. But this is not the first time category leaders in a company have faced this quandary.

For example, learning and development has been buzzing with the need to hire and train for “soft skills” for at least two decades. But as important as those skills are for the way work gets done today, L&D leaders still struggle to prove the ROI of those traits. They also struggle to quantify the programs intended to build soft skills. Yes, learning has found ways to produce data that draws a line (if often indirect) from soft skills development to changes in productivity and ROI. But the objectivity of the data, and the authenticity of the reports based on that data, are often questioned.

Of course, connecting the dots and measuring the true ROI of employee benefits and programs that offer financial planning, better nutrition, mindfulness, and improved mental health faces similar challenges. So what if, instead of ROI, you shift your focus to a whole-person, whole-organization approach of employee mental health – and consider its value on investment (VOI).

Defining Employee Well-being and VOI

Consider a clinically-based approach that addresses mental health proactively from the standpoint of physical, social, and psychological well-being — the three spheres that psychologists and healthcare providers agree make up the whole person. It isn’t just about treating the 1 in 5 Americans who have mental health issues. It’s about proactively reaching and educating every employee about mental health. Because just as everyone is somewhere on the yardstick of physical health, we are all also somewhere on the continuum of mental health.

And what supports our mental, physical, and social well-being? What — speaking of VOI — can add value to our mental health?

Science says there are seven aspects of daily life to consider: happiness, sleep, fulfillment, coping, calmness, health, and connection all influence employee mental health. When one area is off-balance, an employee — and ultimately their coworkers and the company — are directly affected. Your company’s performance, culture, and reputation are all on the line. At the same time, studies show current programs to support mental health are under-utilized. EAPs, for example, are hugely underutilized with an average 3% to 4% engagement rate.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a “one size fits all” mental health solution that can add value to your organization by optimizing the use of well-being programs you’re already paying for, improving employee performance, and positively affecting your company culture and brand.

Four Benefit Areas with Measurable Outcomes

You need a platform with expert guidance, scientifically-backed tools, and data-driven outcomes. And, you must take a proactive approach that inspires and empowers your employees to take matters into their own hands. You need a platform that speaks to the employee experience and adds value to the organization. You can prove that value by focusing on these four areas critical to any organization — and have measurable outcomes.

1. Strengthen existing well-being payout

Our first goal: Close the gap between an employee having a problem and the employee going to the EAP to solve that problem. For example, trouble sleeping doesn’t lead employees directly to their EAP. But with a better understanding of what mental health truly means, how a sleepless night might indicate a more significant issue exists, and with support to navigate them to existing programs and services — employees feel knowledgeable and safe. They’ll reach out to their EAP — and get the right care at the right time.

2. Improve performance

It’s no secret that a thriving workforce leads to better performance. Providing employees with the tools to manage their individual challenges equips them to make incremental changes in their well-being and job performance. With that comes fewer sick days, less presenteeism, and fewer accidents on the job. Once you empower employees to take mental health matters into their hands, understanding and measuring progress becomes natural.

3. Strengthen company culture

Mental health is not binary; it’s more than being OK or not OK. Move away from mental well-being programs that offer checklist or check-the-box approaches. Shift the mindset to where everyone’s on the spectrum — because we all have mental health. Forget “show up, be your best, and get rewarded.” It contradicts the culture of well-being and taking care of oneself. And it certainly isn’t a culture that supports openness about mental health (or much of anything else, for that matter).

4.    Enhance company reputation and brand

When it comes to the most in-demand traits of employers, a company’s mission, sense of values, and providing support for total well-being have surpassed compensation. Job seekers now look for companies ready to protect and care for people — including offering programs to support their mental health. Enhance your company’s reputation and brand by taking a proactive approach to  — and a vocal stand on — mental health.

Employee Mental Health Programs: Next Steps

Advocate for what matters. VOI does that and will help sell a whole-person, whole-organization approach to employee mental health up the ladder. Choose a vendor you trust. Invest in technology that delivers or optimizes what you have. Research, research, research. Then, ultimately, prioritize what truly matters.

 

Image from Africa Studios

How Your Approach to Employee Well-being Impacts Business [Podcast]

Thus far into the COVID-19 crisis, mental health and well-being have dropped a staggering 33 percent. As a result, many employees are no longer content with basic health benefits as a perk. Instead, now more than ever, they think of wellness as a critical element of their overall compensation package. As many employers are learning: The pandemic didn’t just revolutionize remote work. It is also driving a pivot in how organizations approach employee well-being.

So in this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, we’re discussing how an organization’s post-pandemic approach to employee well-being impacts so much more than just performance. Let’s get started!

Our Guest: David Osborne, CEO of Virgin Pulse

David Osborne, the CEO of Virgin Pulse the world’s largest digital health and well-being company joins us on this week’s podcast. Given his company’s focus on bringing employee well-being into the DNA of corporate culture, David is uniquely qualified to help us take on this timely topic.

I started this episode by asking David the difference between “basic health benefits” and a more human approach to employee well-being. David framed our entire conversation with his response:

“Well-being prioritizes the whole person. It takes everything into account. Physical activity, nutrition, sleep, financial wellness, mental health, and more.” 

David quickly added that today’s best employers realize that “wellness” is a much different approach than just offering healthcare benefits and provide a human-focused level of care to their people.

Employee Well-being: The Right Approach

“People are going to come out of the pandemic relatively broken. A lack of activity, gaining weight, mental health, the financial impact, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc. So well-being should be the number one area employers focus on right now. As more people get the vaccination and the world opens up, employers must meet employees where they are. They must recognize that life and work are not going to go back to just the status quo.”

“We’re not going to flick a switch and be perfectly fine all over again. We must be prepared.”

David and I went on to talk about how the approach employers take to wellness — starting right now — can make or break their businesses. Grab a cup of caffeination or a healthy drink of water, and listen to the entire episode!

We thank Virgin Pulse for sponsoring this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, and we thank David for joining us! Be sure to connect with David on LinkedIn and follow Virgin Pulse on Twitter. 

And, as always, thank you for being a member of the TalentCulture community!

 

Image by Eva Blanco

Post-Pandemic Pet Care: What a Return to the Office Means for Our Pets

Returning to work soon? Ready for post-pandemic pet care? It’s time to take a look at your pet’s upcoming new normal…

The coronavirus pandemic left few areas of our lives untouched. Before March 2020, it was no big deal to head to work in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, or go out to lunch with work friends. These days, some of us only leave our homes to buy groceries or walk the dog.

It’s unclear when the pandemic will end or how the new normal will look and feel. But one thing is certain: many of us have turned to pets to help us cope. From Canada to India, demand for adoption or animal fostering has risen, especially for dogs. Between March 2020 and September 2020, foster pets in U.S. homes went up by 8%.

But as the world slowly re-opens, we’re faced with a reality we once took for granted: leaving our pets alone at home. There is no doubt: Our relationship with our pets will change – again.

Here’s what returning to the office means for our pets, what responsible pet owners can do to help their pets adjust, and how pet perks might become a new essential workplace benefit.

The Mental Health Benefits of Having a Pet

For many of us, our pet is our best friend. During the time of lockdown and COVID-19, when many of us were cut off from in-person interaction with our loved ones, our pets became – and still are – more important than ever.

A study of 6,000 people in lockdown in Britain, 90% of whom had at least one pet, found there are links between a person’s mental health and the emotional bond they form with their pet. Measures of the human-animal bond were stronger among those with lower mental health scores as a baseline. The strength of the bond – and the benefits derived from it – do not differ among the types of pets.

People have strong bonds with their animals, lockdown or not. But during shelter-in-place orders, those bonds help us pull through.

How Pets Help Us Cope During COVID-19

During shelter-in-place orders and months of lockdown, pets offer much-needed levity and solace. They counteract the two most significant pandemic pain points:

  1. The isolation brought on by social distancing.
  2. Worry and anxiety brought on by health fears.

Pets provide unconditional love and companionship, but they also prompt us to participate in everyday life beyond our own needs. They force us into a routine – while it would be easy to stay in bed all day if you live alone, you have to get up to feed your dog or cat. We prioritize their wellbeing and happiness, and the care given benefits us humans in the process.

Dogs get the most attention, and for good reason – they relieve stress, prod us out of our shells, and make us feel more friendly and trusting. Cats also provide much-needed resilience – one study found that cat owners were calmest during stressful tasks and made the fewest errors when their cat was present. Cats may get some grief for being more aloof than dogs, but by the same token, they offer a constant presence that can make our burdens and worries seem superfluous.

The Stress of COVID-19 for Pets

That said, while the pandemic has brought us closer to our pets, it’s also brought a lot of stress – on pets as well as humans.

On the one hand, pets love being able to spend every day with us. On the other hand, the pandemic turned their worlds upside down. Pets thrive on routine, and having their human home every day is a dramatic shift in that routine. All pets react differently, but the general shift represents a significant challenge for our four-legged friends.

Chances are, you’ve noticed the shift. Pets are needier than usual, constantly underfoot, constantly nosing us to pet them, or (in the case of dogs) barking incessantly to go outside. Once we upend their routines, pets have no clue what to expect, and so they look for our attention to relieve their own anxiety.

How to Manage Separation Anxiety When Returning to Work

The good news? Pets have had a year to get used to the new normal.

The bad news? Pets will have their routines upended all over again as re-opening picks up speed. The adjustment will be even worse for animals adopted during quarantine, who have no concept of what pre-pandemic life was like.

Here are a few ways to ease the adjustment as you prepare to go back to work.

Create a Routine

Pets thrive on a routine in much the same way kids do. The difference is that you can’t sit your dog down and explain to them that lockdown is lifting. You can’t rationalize the need to go back to work.

Instead, you have to ease them gradually into the new routine.

Think about what your routine will look like when you return to work. Then, implement the same schedule with your pet as you prepare to go back to work. That doesn’t mean you have to leave them alone for eight hours a day, but gradually easing them into the same mealtimes, playtimes, and bedtime each day will help them understand the new normal.

Practice Being Alone

A vital component of this process is to help your pet practice being alone.

This won’t be your favorite part of the process. But it’s the only way your pet will acclimate to being alone – and the idea that when you leave, you’re always going to come back. Start small. Even a trip to the grocery store for an hour is an excellent place to start. So, at least as you make this transition to post-pandemic pet care, view errands as an opportunity for pets to practice being away from you.

When you’re not around, make sure your pet has a safe haven. This is a spot in the room where your pet is most comfortable. Keep in mind that this spot may have changed in the course of the pandemic. A dog that adjusted to spending all day in the office with you, for example, will likely want to stay there while you’re gone.

Make Your Return Special

Pets – especially dogs – tend to celebrate the return of their humans. And not just because they now get to go outside or enjoy a meal. Take a few extra minutes with your pet. Let them know you’re as happy to see them as they are you. Your inbox and your cell phone will wait.

The extra time you give your pets once you’re home from work tells your pet you will return safely home each day. It also shows them that the bond established during the pandemic is real. Sure,  you are no longer spending all day with them. But they’ll understand that you need them as much as they need you.

Navigating the New World of Work and Post-Pandemic Pet Care

Navigating the world of work has been challenging – and not just for humans. We didn’t know how we’d adjust to lockdowns, and we made it work. We can do the same once the COVID crisis is finally behind us – with a little help from our pets, of course.

In anticipation of a return to the office, start planning your post-pandemic pet care plan today.

Image by AlohaFlaminggo

Financial Literacy: Current State and Impact on Post-Pandemic Workplaces

The pandemic has altered almost every aspect of our lives. It has exposed fault lines in our country, workplaces, and at home. Many of us didn’t realize one area would significantly impact us as it has: financial well-being. This is why it is more important than ever to talk about financial literacy: 

According to a survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education:

  • 88 percent of Americans say the COVID-19 crisis has caused stress on their personal finances
  • 89% believe that lack of financial education contributes to larger-scale social problems in America
  • And 83 percent of HR professionals report that personal finance worries had an enormous impact on overall employee performance

So, as we look ahead to what a post-pandemic workplace looks and feels — and because we know business leaders and HR professionals want to do everything possible to keep employees focused and productive — we at TalentCulture must ask a tough question:

What role should employers play in the financial literacy of their employees?

Our Guest: Personal Finance Expert and Mentor, Danny Kofke

Danny Kofke, a Motivational Mentor for Mentoro — a financial education company that provides a turn-key financial awareness solution — joined me on this week’s episode of #WorkTrends Conversations to help answer our question. Danny began our conversation by telling us what aspects of financial literacy have changed most since the pandemic started:

“Unfortunately, even before the pandemic hit, a lot of people weren’t doing well with their money. But the pandemic has definitely had a detrimental effect on many people’s finances. Many are not aware of their options; they are relying much more on debt.” After Danny, a former school teacher, explained that financial literacy is never taught in school, he emphasized that the sense of urgency for many employees is real; people are hurting now. He then answered our question about how employers can help:

“The pandemic is almost over. But for many, the next crisis a financial crisis is coming. That’s where a financial wellness program can definitely play a part.” 

Which is precisely the role employers can play as we co-create the post-pandemic workplace with our employees.

The Key to Financial Literacy: Employer-Driven Education

“The annual cost of financial stress to the employer,” Danny went on to say, “in lost productivity and absenteeism is over $2,000 a year per employee. An employer-driven financial wellness program not only help minimize that stress, but it also increases company loyalty.” Danny added that employees see this benefit as an example of their employer going above and beyond, providing education designed to help them with their finances and overall well-being.

During our conversation, Danny convinced me that employers are uniquely positioned to help their employees become financially literate — today and in the long-term. For employees struggling with their post-pandemic financial situations, employers can help right away by saying:

“I’m never going to allow my employees to face this alone again. We can help take this burden off them.”

To learn more about Danny and how he can help you help your employees, reach out to him on LinkedIn.

And, of course, as you consider a financial wellness program as part of your comprehensive employee benefits package, check out Mentoro and be sure to thank them for sponsoring this episode of #WorkTrends Conversations!

Image by Flynt

[#WorkTrends] How to Provide Better Long-term Flexibility for Employees

According to people operations platform Zenefits, and global provider of human capital management solutions, ADP, there are many solutions to choose from when creating a long-term flexibility strategy for employees. Among them: Job sharing, more-permanent remote work, 4-day work weeks, freelancing opportunities, and much more. 

So how do employers and HR teams know which options might work best for their workforce? 

Especially as we look ahead to a post-pandemic world, how do we best provide the best possible flexible work environment for our employees?

Our Guest: Suzanne Brown, Work-Life Balance Expert

On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, Suzanne Brown a strategic marketing and business consultant, award-winning author, and work-life balance expert — joined us to discuss how employers can learn to value the importance of flexible working conditions. And perhaps more critical to companies today, why flexible work schedules are a must-offer benefit for nearly everyone in the workforce today.

I started our conversation by asking what it means when employees say they want more flexibility. Suzanne’s answer showed us there are two sides to the flexibility coin:

“Employees talk about an informal side maybe you have a sick child, and you want to stay home that day. And they talk about a more formal side, where companies include flexibility in actual company policy. That’s where working from home happens even when you’re not dealing with a pandemic. It is when you have part-time opportunities, a job share, or perhaps a split-shift. Or maybe it is where you can shift your schedule to accommodate life’s other demands — and start earlier and end earlier or start later and end later.” Regardless of the structure, Suzanne said, employers must build flexibility into a company’s culture: 

“Flexibility is more than just taking an afternoon off once in a while. Flexibility is how you treat employees in the long-term.”

Long-Term Flexibility: Co-creating a Culture-Driven Solution

Suzanne went on to say that most companies are now facing post-pandemic realities: “We now realize that we aren’t going back to a formalized structure where everyone is in the office. Companies have to start thinking this through and make critical decisions. They must be able to say:  ‘Okay, this is the strategic, long-term approach we’re taking on flexible work conditions in our workplace.’”

And in what has become a prevailing trend here at TalentCulture, Suzanne says the best way to learn what works best for your company is to ask employees what they need and then actively listen to the answer.

“You need to ask the questions. Maybe the input will be based on anonymous feedback or a conversation employees have with a manager or mentor. Maybe it’s through an ERG, an Employee Resource Group, where senior leadership talks to employees. Regardless of how we ask, we have to ask.” Suzanne then quickly advised, “Then you have to take the next step; you must act. And you can’t just say, ‘That was great, we heard you… but we’re going to do this instead.’” Suzanne added, “That is absolutely not what you want.”

“Because people will stick around now. But as soon as the economy starts to strengthen, and if you haven’t already built flexibility into your culture, you’ll start to lose people quickly.”

I’m sure you’ll agree this conversation with Suzanne was timely. And I know you’ll want to listen to the entire episode. Once you do, I’m confident you’ll be ready to start the right conversations with your employees.

To learn more about Suzanne’s work, connect with her on LinkedIn or visit her website.

 

Image by Vitalinko

60 Percent of U.S. Companies Still Don’t Offer Paid Paternity Leave

A recent study revealed that roughly 40% of U.S. companies offer paid parental leave for both parents. Many publications, including the survey itself, highlighted this figure as a positive, citing lower numbers in the past. While any improvement is welcome, these results imply that 60% of organizations in the nation still don’t offer paid paternity leave.

The lack of paid leave for both fathers and mothers can intensify workplace inequality and damage businesses. Here’s a closer look.

Why Companies Don’t Offer Paid Paternity Leave

To understand this issue fully, it helps to look at why so many companies don’t offer paid leave. Perhaps the most significant factor behind this choice is that it’s not a requirement. There is no national legislation that says businesses have to offer paid leave to either parent, much less both.

There are, however, paid parental leave requirements in five states and Washington, D.C., with varying provisions. At least five other states are currently considering paid leave laws, but that leaves most of the U.S. with no such legislation. When businesses don’t have to offer these benefits, many won’t — primarily because of the expense.

At first, paying an employee while they aren’t adding value to the company can seem like a financial risk. While it may seem that not offering paid leave can save a company money, it’s destructive in the long run — both employees and the companies they work for suffer.

How These Policies Impact Different Demographics

Although 40% of U.S. companies offer paid leave to both parents, that doesn’t mean 40% of workers experience those benefits. The businesses that provide these programs don’t employ a proportional amount of the workforce, so surveys show that just 20% of private-sector employees had access to such benefits in 2020.

There is a sharp economic divide between workers who do and do not receive paid parental leave, too. Only 8% of workers in the bottom wage quartile have access to these programs. Low-wage workers, who would suffer tremendously from weeks of unpaid leave, are far less likely to get paid leave.

Years of racial bias and oppression in America mean this divide is a racial one, too. Black and Hispanic workers, coming from historically disenfranchised families and neighborhoods, are less likely to receive paid leave for either parent.

How Businesses Benefit from Paid Paternity Leave

These disparities in paid parental leave programs worsen the economic and racial divides that already plague the nation. The impacts of a lack of paid leave don’t end with creating more division, though; they have economic effects as well. And yet, when businesses offer paid leave for both parents, they often see positive productivity gains.

Caring for a newborn child is stressful, and having to do so without a reliable income exacerbates that stress. Studies show that unexpected absenteeism, which can cost companies $3.5 million a year, is more often than not the result of stress. After all, stressed employees are far more likely to miss work and be less productive in the workplace.

Offering paid leave to only one parent fails to mitigate these issues effectively. The parent at home may feel more stressed from shouldering the burden of childcare alone, potentially harming their productivity when they return. The parent at work may have trouble focusing from spending time away from their newborn, impacting their productivity as well.

Providing both paternity and maternity leave ensures both parents can raise their newborn without economic difficulty. In return, their morale will improve, leading to less stress and higher productivity when they return.

How Paid Paternity Leave Supports Women in the Workforce

It’s impossible to discuss the impacts of parental leave without mentioning gender inequality in the workplace. Lack of paid parental leave for women doesn’t just widen the gender wage gap; it drives women out of the workforce. While it may not seem unrelated at first, paternity leave also impacts women’s work experiences.

When fathers can take time off as well as mothers, it reduces the stress of childcare. Fathers can take over raising children for a time, giving mothers a chance to get back to work. Paid paternity leave means women don’t have to bear the entire burden of raising a newborn, helping them retain their vital place in the workforce.

Past studies have indicated that paid paternity leave also reduces absenteeism among mothers, helping keep women satisfactorily employed. Similarly, countries with mandated paternity leave show higher rates of female employment in private companies. The bottom line: Paid paternity leave improves equality at home, and leads to more equity in the workplace.

Gender Equality: U.S. Companies Still Have a Way to Go

This Women’s History Month, companies should consider how their policies affect their female workers. Even paternity leave can impact women’s involvement in the workplace. Businesses that don’t provide equitable policies hinder gender equality among their employees and in their communities.

For years, women have had to bear most of the burden of child-rearing, limiting their professional careers. Equitable policies like paid leave for all parents lighten this burden, enabling women to achieve their full professional potential. The U.S. has made some tremendous strides in the pursuit of workplace gender equality, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

Image by BirthBrand

2021 Workplace Healthcare Trends: What Employers Must Know [Podcast]

The tsunami of turmoil that started in 2020 has continued wreaking havoc in 2021. Over the past year, the accompanying stress and uncertainty have taken a toll on employees. As a result, those employees now expect their employers to step up and be supportive in ways unfamiliar to them. This demand has forced entire organizations to take a fresh look at 2021 workplace healthcare trends and re-evaluate their current wellness benefits.

How do employers keep up with those trends? What must they know to help employees better deal with physical and mental wellness issues?

Our Guest: Richa Gupta, Veteran HR Executive

Joining me on this week’s episode of #WorkTrends is a well-respected HR executive, Richa Gupta. Richa has had a front-row seat as 2021 workplace healthcare trends have developed, so I have been looking forward to this critical conversation. First, I asked Richa how the pandemic has forced companies to shift their healthcare and wellness priorities this year. Her answer showcased three distinct elements of this worldwide conversation:

  • The different ways employees work today; how and where we get our work done
  • The evolution of leadership; specifically, how we lead our workforce out of the pandemic
  • Health and wellbeing strategies; how employers are helping care for employees

“Employers play a very vital role in employee health in 2021,” Richa said. “Specifically, given their extensive reach into the workforce, midsize and large employers play a critical leadership role in health advocacy.” 

“Employers are a trusted resource for healthcare, so they must realize they are at the core of today’s wellness issues.”

An Insider Look at Understanding 2021 Workplace Healthcare Trends

In large part because of the pandemic, Richa said the most significant workplace trend is that as the pandemic maintains its grip on the workplace and presents ongoing health and wellbeing challenges, many companies are changing their wellness-related priorities. And that starts with personalizing the benefits offered to employees.

“CHROs in particular need to more deeply understand their employee population. So they’re starting to ask questions that we didn’t before. How do we serve them differently? How do we cater to their specific healthcare and well-being needs?”

Richa added: “How we ensure a healthier, productive workforce starts with understanding who you have — and then catering to them by offering benefits in a very personalized way.”

I couldn’t agree more; the reality is one-size-fits-all healthcare plans just don’t work now. Maybe they never have.

I gained valuable insight from Richa during this conversation — and I know you will too. Enjoy the listen, then incorporate Richa’s sage advice into your company’s inevitable transformation.

To learn more about Richa and her work, connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

Image by StunningArt

2021 HR Best Practices: What Business Needs Most from HR This Year

In January 2021, Tiger Recruitment hosted a webinar for HR professionals looking for guidance on 2021 HR best practices. Tiger’s Managing Director, Rebecca Siciliano, was joined by four expert speakers:

  • Mark Stelzner from IA
  • Robert Hicks from Reward Gateway
  • Marcus Thornley from Play Consulting
  • Saskia Donald, an HR professional with over 20 years experience

Together, they shared some critical insights to help human resources specialists in 2021. Over the course of the hour, the expert panel covered everything from rewards and benefits, to building remote business cultures.

Below, we highlight their 2021 HR best practices…

Take Stock

As a first priority, HR should take stock of each individuals’ circumstances. Whether through surveys or other data collection tools, the aim is to learn what the team is experiencing. Suppose a business expects to someday return to the office. In that case, HR should find out how this might work for individual workers’ changed circumstances. For example, would they prefer to come into the office every day or on an ad-hoc basis?

It’s likely the office won’t play the same role it once did for many businesses. So it’s a good idea for HR to broach this topic with leaders and begin to work out where the office will fit in future business plans.

Go Back to Basics

Start by looking at three key elements: communication, recognition, and rewards. These basic culture elements likely evolved in response to the first lockdown in March 2020, and perhaps we haven’t examined them since.

If this is the case, analyze what is and isn’t working. Use snap polls/surveys of employees and conversations with management, for example. Then develop a solution that better fits the way the business is planning to operate, post-pandemic. If the company is likely to move towards a hybrid-working model, ask:

  • How will communication work between employees working from home and those in the office?

If the business continues working remotely by default, ask:

  • How will employee recognition and rewards change to reflect that?

According to our experts, businesses should also get back to the basics of looking to their workers’ unique skills and expertise to unlock hidden talent. Mark asked the question: “Have we really created a space in this moment to ask everyone about the skills that they have?” Perhaps it’s identifying someone who has fantastic sales skills and can present a seminar on creating leads, for example. Or maybe it is an individual with great project management who can organize a task force to tackle an internal issue. In either case, HR can facilitate these sessions to help management teams better manage the challenges they’re facing.

Be Honest When Dealing with Uncertainty

In 2020, HR was relied upon to know the answers to a number of unprecedented questions, even when they may have been uncertain themselves. In looking at 2021 HR best practices, however, the experts believe HR should own their uncertainty! During the webinar, Robert said that he believes that “leaders [who] embrace [vulnerability] by saying ‘I don’t know, I’ll get back to you,’ [are] so empowering.” This transparency will contribute to a positive learning environment (as HR can work with the team to find the answer together). It will also better alleviate feelings of unease or doubt from employees.

Digital Platforms are Key to Remotely Building Business Cultures

While an effective digital platform is essential to rebuilding a remote business culture, HR needs to ensure it is inclusive, non-hierarchical, and places workers front and center. This is important as employees need to feel invested in the technology to truly harness its potential as a culture tool.

By taking the culture of the business online, an opportunity to rebuild in a much more inclusive way presents itself. For example, taking away the office and using an online platform will mean everyone has an equal opportunity to contact and be visible to managers and their teams.

HR tech is key to solving many challenges moving forward, but, the data needs to be interpreted through a human lens, and issues of accessibility also should be taken into account.

HR Needs to Facilitate Communication While Working Remotely

Internal communication must be consistent, timely, and easily accessible. If HR is unsure whether their current methods are effective, liaise with staff directly for feedback.

While video meeting software has become absolutely integral to business operations as we work remotely, as Marcus put it: “[It] isn’t the only way to communicate.” While video meetings are largely scheduled, they don’t allow much scope or flexibility for those working more ad-hoc hours. Instead, consider adopting methods of unscheduled or asynchronous communication that will work for the business. This will allow employees to continue ‘water cooler’ style conversations with colleagues.

Benefits in a Post-flexible Working Era

Many of us see flexible work as an expectation rather than a benefit, so businesses should look to other options when attracting and retaining talent. According to the experts, the most popular benefits in 2021 will center around wellbeing, learning and development, and remote working. Offering a competitive benefits package is essential to attracting top talent, as candidates may be hesitant to leave their current role if they’re concerned about job security or loyal to their current employer.

The Biggest of 2021 HR Best Practices: Look After Our Wellbeing

In our webinar, Saskia explained: “HR must put on their own life mask before helping others.” This is the perfect encapsulation of the feeling of extreme stress HR professionals have faced over the past 12 months as they’ve helped their teams through perplexing times. As 2021 is likely to be another challenging year, they may need time to rest and recover. If you’re working in HR, check on your team members and give one another space to share anxieties and decompress. If the business doesn’t provide HR these opportunities, they can’t help those around them – and may ultimately suffer from burnout.

The resilience of exceptional HR professionals will play a key role in helping businesses in 2021. From tailoring employee benefits to supporting on with strategic, people-led decisions, one thing’s for sure…

Human resources professionals have never been more crucial to business success.