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Adapt your benefits strategy to a post-pandemic world

The "new normal" for benefit planning.

As temporary measures and policies to keep people safe from the COVID-19 virus become the "new normal," it's clear the pandemic has changed the way we think about nearly everything.

That includes how you approach your benefit planning.

Even before the pandemic, 37 percent of employees were willing to exchange higher pay for more generous benefits, according to the 2019/2020 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey External Link from Willis Towers Watson. The survey also showed only 40 percent of employees felt the benefits and resources their employer provided to support their health and well-being met their needs.

Now, with the competition for labor significantly higher External Link, employers are challenged to keep their workforce both happy and healthy.

Finding the right mix of benefits can help you stand out among the competition when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees in a post — or even evolving — pandemic world.

Pandemic benefit plans to consider

While you may have thought about or implemented COVID-specific benefits like paid time off to get the vaccine or sick leave for those with active COVID infections, consider how these three broader shifts in health care will likely impact your benefit planning long after the pandemic ends.

  1. Preventive care

  2. Helping your employees better understand the value of preventive care, which they likely delayed due to the pandemic, will help them avoid poorer health outcomes and you avoid increased health care spending down the road. Preventive care includes everything from routine physical exams to preventive screenings, which saw a significant decrease during the pandemic.

    While the Affordable Care Act External Link requires preventive services be covered with no cost-sharing for your employees, it’s important to make sure your employees know they need to receive preventive care from an in-network doctor to ensure they won’t have to pay for screenings and tests.

  3. Mental health

  4. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the pandemic has raised serious concerns about employee mental health External Link, and employers are in a key position to help. According to a recent survey from Mercer External Link, companies have taken steps to expand access to behavioral health care or encourage employees to seek behavioral health care since the beginning of the pandemic: 

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    How companies are prioritizing behavioral health

    • Introduced webinars on mental health issues (45 percent)
    • Added therapy to covered telemedicine services (37 percent)
    • Trained managers to recognize behavioral health concerns and direct employees to resources (22 percent)
    • Worked to destigmatize behavioral health concerns (21 percent)
    • Expanded the number of sessions available through their Employee Assistance Program (19 percent)
    • Reduced or waived employee cost-sharing for behavioral health services (9.5 percent)
    • Provided education or support for employees with substance use disorders (9 percent) 

    Source: Mercer Global Survey on vaccines, well-being and travel

    Tip: Are you all caught up on our behavioral and mental health content on Blue@Work? If not, check it out today to see how Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield can help you navigate concerns about your employees’ mental health during and after the pandemic.  

  5. Telehealth

  6. If you didn’t have coverage for virtual visits before, you probably do now — the Kaiser Family Foundation External Link reports telemedicine coverage increased to 85 percent in 2020 for employers with 50 or more employees. Though virtual visits were a relatively standard feature of benefit plans before COVID-19, employee utilization skyrocketed External Link during the pandemic thanks to lockdowns and social distancing.

    Offering and encouraging the use of virtual visits for physical and behavioral health conditions is a win-win for both you and your employees. There are benefits for every workforce, especially for employees who have tight schedules. Whether these services are provided virtually through a patient’s personal physician, or through a service like Doctor On Demand, virtual care reduces absenteeism and increases presenteeism, while also leading to better long-term outcomes and costs.

Easily communicate information about benefits and well-being to your employees

Look no further than the Wellmark Marketing Toolkit Secure Site to get access to hundreds of marketing materials that help you start the conversation with your employees. Log in and search the material ID:

  • Preventive Medicine Flyer (P-20152): Help encourage employees to make an appointment for a preventive exam.
  • Adult Health Maintenance Schedule (M-13211): Remind employees when they should be seeking certain types of preventive care based on their gender and age.
  • Feeling Better Should Be Easy Flyer (M-2018439): Explain Wellmark’s Doctor On Demand® External Link virtual visit benefit to employees.
  • Mental Health and Virtual Visits Flyer (M-2020299): Introduce the virtual mental health benefit from Doctor On Demand.
  • COVID-19 Vaccine Member Flyer (M-2021295): Answer common questions your employees may have about the coronavirus vaccine.

Considering which benefits continue to make sense — and which ones don’t

In January 2020, the majority of employers surveyed by Mercer External Linkhad more than 75 percent of their employees working in the office full-time. As of January 2021, 58 percent of respondents had at least half of their employees working remotely full-time. With flexible and hybrid work policies becoming increasingly popular as the pandemic drags on, many companies are rethinking benefits External Link that made sense with an on-site workforce but don’t necessarily matter to a part- or full-time remote workforce.

The Future of Benefits report External Link from® revealed that while 89 percent of employers are deprioritizing at least one type of benefit as a result of the pandemic, 98 percent plan to expand their benefits and invest more heavily in the ones that matter most to their employees. Among the benefits that employers plan to expand are: 

This shift in thinking reflects how more employers are recognizing that a holistic benefits strategy External Link — one that supports employees not just as workers, but as human beings with needs and struggles outside of work — can lead to greater productivity and loyalty. This is especially important as the boundaries between home and work have blurred for remote employees, which can lead to burnout.

Let’s chat about workplace wellness and your benefit planning

Not sure where to start when it comes to addressing the health and well-being of your workforce? We can help. At Wellmark, we know your business, and have insights and data on your employees that you may not have in-house. Our team of employer health and well-being consultants can serve as an extension of your workforce and provide expertise in creating engaging solutions to meet the unique needs of your employee population.

Learn more, get connected and receive a complimentary consultation opens in new window with one of our employer health and well-being experts. Once you complete the form, you’ll receive a copy of our “Well-being that Works” guide. From there, we will be there every step of the way. Our team can be your go-to source for finding the right combination of solutions — because one-size doesn’t fit all.

Interested in learning more about how we can support your organization and employees’ overall health and well-being? Want more insight into adapting your benefit plan for a post-pandemic world? Contact your authorized Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield account representative, or email us at Send Email.