- The COVID-19 pandemic pushed employers to offer more benefits supporting employees’ physical and emotional well-being, according to the findings of an annual benefits survey released by the Society for Human Resource Management Sept. 11. The results encompassed responses from 2,504 HR professionals based in the U.S. collected in the fall of 2020. Supplemental data was collected the following spring.
- Unsurprisingly, more respondents reported an increase in telework than any other benefit. Seventy-eight percent of participants said their organization boosted remote work options, while 43% said the same of telemedicine services.
- Organizations also expanded access to caregiver leave and mental health services, the survey said. The share of organizations offering paid family leave was up 7 points from 2019, SHRM reported, attributing the increase to the impact of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, in addition to state and local legislation requiring employers to provide paid family and medical leave.
The pandemic put pressure on employers to respond to employee needs, said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM's president and chief executive officer, in a press release.
"During the pandemic, employers were more compelled than ever to consider the diverse home environments of their employees," Taylor said. "Virtual interactions created a new level of transparency and empathy at work, prompting business leaders to reconsider which types of benefits were most useful to their employees in this 'new normal.'"
The shift led employers to increase or create benefits that addressed the challenges the pandemic highlighted, pushing a boost in benefits that addressed mental health concerns, caregiving needs and other areas.
This change is reflected in research pre-dating SHRM’s report. A February Care.com report, for example, said that half of employers surveyed said they plan to offer new or expanded child care benefits "in the near future." An August Gallagher report found that employers are offering more voluntary benefits like accidental death and dismemberment and employee discount programs.
Employers demonstrated "ingenuity in their approach to serve others," Alonso said. Many visible employers made headlines as they adjusted their benefits to address employee needs. Target, Starbucks and Postmates, for example, all began offering employees virtual mental health resources.