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February 28, 2024

How Employee Benefits Have Changed Since COVID

In the early years of my career, I thought I had won the lottery when the company paid for my health insurance and gave me two whole weeks off with pay. Sometimes the company would even cover a lunch or give us a half-day Friday. Times have certainly changed. 

Now companies are offering unlimited PTO, onsite workout classes, childcare, dog-friendly offices, and because of COVID, more people are working from home today than ever before. 

Looking back, we can see clearly how the unprecedented shifts in the workplace during COVID-19 created the urgent need for companies everywhere to change their approach to employee benefits. Before the pandemic, corporations’ benefits packages centered around a combination of traditional elements including healthcare, retirement, paid time off, training and development, tuition reimbursement, and in some cases more creative employee perks. These programs were built when the majority of a corporation’s staff worked on-site every day.

Then in 2020, when office-based employees were forced to work from home, companies had no choice but to re-evaluate their approach to benefits. The change in employees’ work location has resulted in different priorities and needs, and companies have had to react to the new circumstances of remote and hybrid environments. Benefits now take into account a more disparate, mobile workforce and further prioritize employee well-being. They accommodate for flexible schedules and support emerging healthcare practices, such as telehealth and virtual patient visits. Also, as the pandemic brought heightened stress for employees, many organizations have now increased their Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to meet growing needs for counseling and other mental health services. Some employers have even introduced financial wellness programs to help employees navigate the economic uncertainties of the time. 

The trickle-down effect of the new HR benefits means that companies need to support employees in other ways too. For example, during the pandemic, organizations bridged the physical distance between employees with new technology and tools that made it easier to continue to work together from disparate locations. Today, company-owned digital workspaces, applications, collaboration tools, conferencing solutions, and mobile phones are priorities. Teams that once worked together in the office daily, now gather online in their company’s project management platform, messaging applications, and, of course, through video conferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. And nearly everyone relies on a cell phone for business purposes. 

Further evidence that businesses recognize the evolution of the workplace, a 2023 report by Zappia, shows that today, 84% of companies have a bring your own device (BYOD) policy, and 87% now expect their teams to use their personal devices. The study found that when employees use cell phones for work purposes, managers and executives see a 34% increase in productivity. 

As many believe that hybrid work is here to stay, it is no surprise that companies are looking to embrace mobile devices and other indispensable collaborative technology as a means to improve productivity and employee experience. 

While we are just now starting to see data points such as these that equate benefits and policies to productivity, these insights will likely help organizations understand how best to move forward in meeting employees’ needs while balancing the demands for increased efficiencies and cost savings. It is important to  keep the focus on workforce mobility and employee well being, as these factors will continue to shape the future for employers. The lessons learned at the start of this decade will help companies support their employees as dynamics change and technology evolves. 

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