An Employee Benefit and Engagement Model – A Paradigm Shift Post-Pandemic
Neel and Robina had to deal with a lot over the last 20 months since the outbreak of the pandemic. They suffered job disruption, Covid losses, health-related complications, and childcare issues, all life-changing experiences for them and their family. As the world tries to imagine life after the virus, Neel and Robina have made up their minds on life priorities. While the pandemic may be a once-in-a-lifetime event, from here on, they desire a life with a greater degree of control over their physical and mental well-being, spending quality time with family and not burdened with the demands of an ambitious lifestyle.
Many others across the globe are thinking like Neel and Robina about their post-pandemic lives. These new priorities will drive how organizations prepare to support their workforces as they look to restore normalcy in operations. Organizations are trying to adapt to these changing priorities, and for many, their survival may be linked to how quickly they can adjust.
The Art of Balance
The pandemic has shown two completely different dynamics of the working population. On one hand, even high-profile professionals have seen their jobs vanish in the blink of an eye. On the other hand, new opportunities have emerged, leading to the creation of additional jobs in the marketplace. As the initial impact and shock of the pandemic subsided and businesses started to recover, many who lost their jobs during the first wave re-entered the job market. Over the next few months, a significant portion of the workforce who left jobs well before the pandemic due to parental and family responsibilities started coming back to work. It was due to need for many, as the primary breadwinner in their families may have either lost their job or had to accept a pay cut. But for a significant population, it was possibly because organizations started to allow remote work and more flexible hours. This has allowed families to reevaluate their work-life balance, share the burden, and best organize their daily needs. Families have switched to a lifestyle where they support each other more financially, as well as share household responsibilities. The sharing, caring, and togetherness improved their collective morale and revitalized social bonding. As organizations look at returning to normal schedules post-pandemic, they must avoid disrupting this balance, to minimize employee churn.
Flexibility As a Perk
The other significant shift in employee priorities post-pandemic includes having the maximum possible flexibility in daily schedules, work locations, and personal time off. To extend this even further, employees are looking at options to work at will. The ability to have control over their own schedules is becoming paramount, and many are even ready to take pay cuts or accept lower total packages in exchange. Within the younger workforce of Gen Z, quality of life is more critical than accumulating wealth. For this generation, being able to work from anywhere and flextime are perks the pandemic provided early in their career. Many would like to see the flextime model continue even after the pandemic is over. Hence, organizations will have to pay close attention when defining their future strategies, as forcing employees to give up these perks may result in involuntary separations.
For the elder generations of the workforce, while living expenses and lifestyle management are top considerations, remote work came as a boon especially for people working away from home. They may consider switching jobs to continue working from home even at a lower rate, as saving on their commuting expenses will compensate for the reduction. Familiarity with workplace and camaraderie with colleagues, which both played a major role in employees remaining in positions over the long term, are now being replaced by the flexibility of remote work as a key factor in switching jobs.
Wellness Over Recovery
An important lesson from the pandemic is for people to remain healthy. People with comorbidities have been severely affected by Covid. Moreover, the resulting illnesses faced by people even in so-called developed countries have revealed inadequacies in healthcare systems across the globe. As a result, more emphasis has been placed on employee fitness. Organizations are also investing more to make sure they have a healthy workforce and are not being exposed to too much risk due to the sedentary lifestyles of their employees.
Mental wellness is also a critical component in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Trauma and anxiety faced by employees in seeing their nearest and dearest suffer may have lasting effects on their productivity and work habits. Hence, aiding and monitoring mental health and wellness will be at the center of employee benefit programs in days to come.
Extending the Workplace
The pandemic has forced many jobs historically performed from the office to move to remote settings. Rapid advancements in remote working facilities, virtualization, artificial intelligence and machine language, augmented reality, cybersecurity, and increased awareness have helped to circumvent regulatory and security requirements and deliver highly sensitive work remotely. By adopting work-from-home models, workplace boundaries were stretched. In a recent case in Germany, a man who slipped on the stairs in his house and injured his spine received insurance coverage after winning a court battle. The court ruled that the journey from his bed to his home office is a work route, and therefore insured as a service in the interest of the employer.
The redistributed workforce and diverse demographics will require insurers to look at more customized employee benefit plans. Taking into consideration employees’ local and social surroundings and tailoring benefits appropriately will take precedence over standard group employee benefits plans.
Covid has permanently shifted how employees and organizations look at their engagement models. Many positive changes resulted from this pandemic, which provided flexibility, financial advantages, and opened many new possibilities for both employees and employers. For many like Neel and Robina, life priorities and lifestyles have also been irreversibly changed. Preventive care and wellness will be as important as remedial benefits. However, employee loyalties have taken a serious beating due to preferences for remote work models and fewer in-person interactions. Hence, organizations need to look at a completely new set of parameters based on changing work dynamics to ensure they remain engaged and remodel employee benefit programs in the post-pandemic world.