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How are employee benefits changing as more workplaces continue to offer hybrid and remote options?

Employee Benefits
by John O’Dell
Hybrid work is becoming more and more popular, but it’s important that employee benefits change as well.
Hybrid work is becoming more and more popular, but it’s important that employee benefits change as well.

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the professional world in nearly every way and employee benefit structures are not immune. With the typical office environment turned on its head in the interest of social distancing and health, many companies have found value in work-from-home schedules and remote work has now become the norm. According to Apollo technical, in 2021, about 4.7 million employees work remotely or in hybrid workplaces — offices that combine remote and in-person work.

Companies were able to meet times of strife with flexibility and ingenuity, however, this new and increasingly popular structure was bound to impact employee benefits as it's embraced on a more permanent basis. Let's take a look at some of the most notable impacts and trends.

Biggest employee benefit changes

While some benefits are expanding, others are shrinking out of necessity. Many employers are trading off one benefit for another that is more important in a hybrid workplace. For example, there might not be as much need for on-site child care or commute compensations. On the other hand, businesses might need to provide their employees with tools to work from home that they might not already have.

Hybrid work benefits

While some offices require employees to be in the office for part of the others, others only ask that employees gather for large group meetings. According to a PwC survey, only one-fifth of executives see a need for their employees to be physically present five days a week. One of the main goals of employee benefits when it comes to hybrid work is to boost productivity. Here are three examples of the newest benefits hybrid workers might see:

  • Technology: Most offices provide their employees with the necessary tools to get the job done, but companies are now sending their at-home workers important technology that may be missing from their home offices. For example, they might send a standing desk or an ergonomic chair.
  • Mental health support: Working from home leads to its own challenges and might even contribute to an increased sense of isolation and loneliness. According to Buzzfeed, this is why 54% of workers who accessed employer-sponsored wellness programs experienced a mental health improvement in the last year.

Health insurance plan networks

Insurance companies have expanded their options for these varying types of employees and are classifying workers based on how often they work from home. According to The Hartford, there are two popular classifications and the codes are:

  • 8871- Someone who works from home more than 50% of the week
  • 8810, 8723, 8743-Someone who works from an office more than 50% of the week

Classifications help employers categorize workers and tailor benefits correctly. Each state may have a differing code or different rates for each code, but these are the general codes for most states, with some amendments.

Overall impact

To completely understand how newly hybrid employees' benefits change, it's important to have some context on what pushed this shift in the first place. During the pandemic, traditionally in-person workplaces were forced to go remote without much planning or premeditation. However, many workflows have been improved and streamlined since early 2020. 

A Harvard Business Review (HBR) survey showed that 98% of business leaders "plan to newly offer or expand at least one employee benefit, prioritizing the ones workers deem most essential, like child and senior care benefits, flexibility around when and where work gets done, and expanded mental health support."

What you'll see less of

With fewer people in the office as frequently, you'll be able to focus on productivity instead of buying muffins every day to momentarily boost staff morale. While companies are not able to take their employees out for activities like lunch or a happy hour, leaders are finding new ways to connect with the workers. Video chatting offers a lot of opportunities to explore different options. Some companies are deprioritizing on-site child care. Instead, employees are seeing more use out of a flexible child care plan. HBR's survey revealed that 61% of people would choose that option over an office daycare.

Employers, staff members, HR professionals, and insurance companies are braving the new hybrid work environment together. Everything is being remodeled and employee benefits are no different. As insurance companies, it is important to guide clients through the process and help them find the best insurance solutions for their hybrid office needs. 

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