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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.

The Near Future of Work: What’s Next for the Office?

More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic first upended work and life, business owners, HR leaders, and workers are continuing to adjust to an ever-evolving situation.

Now, as offices reopen and vaccinated workers are brought back into a centralized workplace, the big question is:

What can we expect from the near future of work?

Is it “back to normal?”

Some organizations, such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, are steadfastly going back to their pre-2020 normal.

Other companies are bringing employees back to the office on a part-time basis, while some are going full-time remote. One example is Quora, which announced early during the pandemic that it was switching to a remote-first culture for good.

What’s the best way forward?

The clear answer is that it depends on the individual company. More importantly, it depends on the individuals within your company.

Think about it this way:

We have lived alongside coronavirus for more than 18 months. Employees have been expected to upend their daily routines and find a way to work from home productively while adapting to the terrifying enormity of the health crisis.

It took a great deal of coping, adjusting, and compromising.

As a result, our perception of “normal” has shifted. And the expectations and needs of workers have changed, too.

Unsurprisingly, many people aren’t happy to go “back to normal.”

“The great resignation”

One study found that nearly three in 10 employees (29 percent) would quit their jobs if they were told they were no longer allowed to work remotely.

That’s why the current situation is being dubbed “the great resignation” or “the resignation boom.

Even now, amid continuing uncertainty, people are willing to leave their place of employment in favor of greater flexibility.

Ignoring employees’ needs will only risk demotivating staff, eroding company culture, and increasing turnover.

Is WFH here to stay?

Although working from home is far from perfect, it’s impossible to ignore the benefits of remote work.

Trusting employees to work remotely is empowering.

This leads to motivation, loyalty, and productivity. In fact, studies show that people who worked from home during the pandemic maintained, or exceeded, productivity levels.

The real question is, do your people actually want to work from home?

One study found that 89 percent of people want to work from home at least some of the time after the crisis ends.

However, the same research found that it is actually flexibility that most workers are interested in, not a wholesale rejection of the traditional office model.

Only a relatively small proportion of workers–one in four–would switch to a completely remote work model if they could.

Remember that these are general studies. What happens in your company depends on your own research.

As noted in a recent TalentCulture blog by HR specialist Cheryl Halverson: “It’s imperative to understand employees’ needs and hopes for this new world of work. You can achieve this through active listening via focus groups, ongoing employee pulse surveys, employee advisory groups, and honest discussions between managers and direct reports.”

Armed with these insights, Halverson recommends using them to co-create “an envisioned future.”

This is a future where employees are involved in the development, understanding, and communication of that future so they can adopt, advocate for, and believe in it.

Moving forward, flexibly

For those companies that choose a flexible future, this can manifest itself in various ways.

Hybrid work

Considered the best of both worlds, a hybrid model combines two or three days each week working from home with the rest of the time in the office. This provides plenty of in-person collaboration with the benefits of a reduced commute and home-based flexibility. Some studies show that the sweet spot is two days of remote work each week.

Hub and spoke

Rather than bringing workers back to a central office, employers can utilize coworking spaces or other branch offices to provide a workplace that’s near their employees’ homes. By decentralizing, workers can still enjoy a reduced commute but are free from any home-based distractions.

Full-time remote work

Some companies have shifted to a full-time remote work policy. It’s an extreme move, but after more than a year of working from home, these employers have had plenty of time to fine-tune their strategy.

Alternative options

Some companies that continue to work remotely may want to keep a central office, mainly as a collaboration hub for team meetings or simply to “keep up appearances.”

However, retaining an office lease for the primary reason of keeping a physical presence is an expensive option.

As an alternative, some companies are now switching to a virtual office solution.

A virtual office provides companies with a head office address, a place to receive mail, and access to on-site meeting rooms and private offices when required.

However, the cost is considerably lower because the company doesn’t rent physical office space full-time. Instead, they only rent the address.

When physical space is required, it’s available on a pay-as-you-go basis.

This way, companies can keep an active presence in a specific location without the cost of maintaining a physical office.

The virtual office model has been around for decades, but in response to the pandemic, the popularity of virtual office centers has grown considerably.

The near future of work

Going forward, we can expect to see a medley of workplace models and trends.

Rather than a dominating trend, the future of work is a sliding scale.

At one end is the full-time corporate office, at the other is home-based remote work, and somewhere in the middle is the hybrid work option: the happy medium.

Various strategies accompany this sliding scale, including the use of virtual offices and on-demand meeting room rentals.

What’s absolutely clear is that, following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the future of work is being influenced by those who really matter: your people.

You have the opportunity to co-create a new, positive culture and a stronger future for your company.

What comes next depends on your individual organization and the individuals you employ within your organization. Finally, the choice is where it belongs: in the hands of the people.

 

This post is sponsored by Alliance Virtual.

From One HR Leader to Another: How to Survive the ‘Great Resignation’

Just as HR leaders were ready to take a breath and celebrate the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, Anthony Klotz, a Texas A&M University professor, sat down with Bloomberg BusinessWeek and blew up the remainder of our 2021 recruitment strategy. From that interview, the term “Great Resignation” was born. This is the phenomenon where workers consider a job change as pandemic restrictions ease and employees go back to the office. As a result, 30 percent of the workforce (and that’s likely a conservative estimate) is predicted to leave their current jobs for greater flexibility. In addition to that, more than 75 million Baby Boomers are planning to retire sooner than previously expected. With this in mind, you’re likely wondering how you’ll bring stability to your company. It’s the perfect HR storm.

Significant turnover translates to an incredible workload for HR teams. It’s also costly to businesses and company culture. As HR leaders, what can we do to ensure our companies don’t fall prey to excessive retirement parties and exit interviews?

Take care of your HR team first.

It’s been a tough year for everyone, but HR teams have been hit especially hard with pandemic-related stresses. HR professionals are concerned about their own personal health and well-being in addition to that of employees. They also have the added responsibility of helping employees through COVID-related issues. It can become a lot to bear.

There’s a reason why parents are told to secure their own oxygen masks on a plane before helping children. We can’t be of help to other teams if our HR departments are struggling. The remainder of 2021 is likely going to be a bumpy ride. Taking the time to check in with your team throughout the year shows them that you’re committed to their well-being. It means a lot for a manager to acknowledge that someone’s contributions are meaningful and appreciated. Continue this throughout any hard season. Ensure your team has what they need to perform at their best. And when they don’t, step up to help them in whatever way you can. Getting ahead of HR burnout will be key to your success, and will help your organization avoid the fallout of the “Great Resignation.”

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

As pandemic restrictions ease, business leaders must now decide how and where their teams work best. These decisions are vital to keeping your team happy, thriving, and on your payroll.

As of December 2020, 71 percent of employees that could do their jobs remotely were choosing to work from home. More than half of those employees said they would like to continue to work from home post-pandemic. But there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. It’s all about personalization.

Personalizing the employee experience means understanding the broader culture and sub-cultures within teams to accommodate employees, whenever possible. Consider surveying your team regularly to take a pulse on work preferences. You’ll likely find the needs of your employees will change. Some employees want to remain remote. Others need the structured collaboration that an office provides. And finally, some will want a hybrid work option. You may also have a subset of employees considering retirement, and that group may benefit from a part-time transitional schedule. This would allow your team to fill in gaps while giving your future retirees the chance to ease into retirement life. Give people less of a reason to join the “Great Resignation.” Have an open mind and consider working options you may not have previously allowed.

Work as a leadership team to provide the flexibility needed for employees to be successful, in whatever way is meaningful to them. Embracing agility and allowing your employees to personalize their work experience will set you apart from the competition. A study by KPMG showed companies that invest in the employee experience are four times more profitable than those that don’t. There are now far too many companies that are willing to personalize and offer flexible work solutions. If your business isn’t doing it, your team will find one that is.

Allow your managers the chance to shine.

Too often, we blame work culture when employees leave organizations. But in my experience, people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Because of this, you must spend a significant amount of time choosing, mentoring, and empowering your managers. These are your front-line leaders who have the most access to and time with your team. Managers are responsible for creating, bridging, and communicating your company’s culture. They are your lifeline to your organization. You must work to cultivate empathetic and understanding managers and give them the power to make decisions for employees that support flexibility and the needs of the business. When they fail to do these things, people leave, contributing to the “Great Resignation.”

Leaders who are focused on supporting and empathizing with their employees can form better connections and understand their needs. The pandemic had a huge impact on workplaces and we’re now seeing employee burnout. Uncertainty, transitioning to new ways of working, and changing expectations all factor into burnout. Proactive, empathetic managers can make all the difference in ensuring that employees want to stay with a company. When assessing leaders, measure emotional intelligence. Look at their ability to listen actively, understand employee needs, and engage in an empathetic way.

We all know the grass is not always greener. But with job openings reaching a new high of 9.2 million across the country, it’s easy to see why employees are eager to update their resumes. By taking care of your employees and empowering your managers, you’ll deal less with the “Great Resignation” and more with the great service anniversaries you’ll be celebrating.