How to Support Employees Returning to Work During COVID-19

Nick Severino

As states reopen, many employees are returning to their physical workplace for the first time in months. The workplace can offer a welcome break from the distractions of home, but it comes with its own dangers and stressors. 

Employers are heeding advice from the Centers for Disease Control and the White House, but what else can they do to support employees? Evolve their employee benefits. 

Here are four employee benefits that can support employees as they return to work in the wake of COVID-19. 

Caretaker Benefits

Many parents, particularly working moms, have been carrying the heavy burden of balancing work and life during the pandemic. Prior to this, mothers already spent about twice as much time as fathers did caring for children fathers, according to Pew Research

Today — without school, summer camp or other activities to occupy children — working moms are spending 65 hours a week on childcare. As a result, 57% of mothers say their mental health has suffered.

When employees worked from home, they juggled homeschooling and Zoom meetings. But as your employees return to work, they still need reliable, affordable childcare. 

Caretaker benefits can ease this transition by providing assistance with childcare. Some EAPs may already have services to help working parents find affordable childcare near them; however, EAPs are typically under-utilized. That’s why some employers are providing free or discounted memberships to babysitting platforms like Sittercity.  

Caretaker benefits can also include assistance with finding and paying for elder care, especially as COVID-19 cases rise in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. 

Wellness Benefits

Nearly half of adults report that their mental health was negatively affected by COVID-19. Wellness benefits can help mitigate stress both in and out of the office. 

Many wellness programs emphasize exercise, but with many gyms and fitness studios closed or limiting capacity, access to facilities becomes difficult. To compensate, employers might create at-home programs, such as a daily step challenge or 5K training. 

Employers should also renew their emphasis on holistic wellbeing. This includes not just exercise but also self-care activities, yoga, meditation and mindfulness. Raise awareness of wellness programs through regular employee communications — such as emails and flyers — both in and out of the workplace. 

Flexible Scheduling

With the pandemic upsetting many routines, a fixed 9-to-5 schedule isn’t always possible, especially for parents. Offering flexible schedules can help alleviate stress without impeding productivity. 

Flexible scheduling can also help with retention. In fact, 80% of workers said they would be more loyal to their company if their employer offered flexible schedules. And 1 in 4 workers said they would take a 10-20% pay cut in exchange for flexible scheduling. 

Flexibility might mean allowing employees to work from home part of the time — which can also help with social distancing — or allowing for different hours that better accommodate  an employee’s life, such as 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Telemedicine

Until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, employers must first and foremost prioritize employees’ safety as they return to the workplace. And employers know it’s more important than ever to encourage employees to stay home if they feel sick. 

Thanks to the CARES Act, more doctors and healthcare practitioners than ever before have been able to offer remote visits. But many insurers are scaling back their telemedicine coverage as states reopen, and other insurers don’t cover telemedicine at all. Even insurance plans that include telemedicine may still require a copay, discouraging use. 

Offering no-cost telemedicine is a simple and effective way to keep employees healthy and out of doctor’s offices, urgent care centers and ERs. Telemedicine gives them the care they need — whether it’s treatment for a UTI or evaluation for potential  COVID-19 symptoms — via mobile app, website or phone. It’s an employee benefit available when and where they need care, helping them feel better, faster.

Download the Buyer's Guide to Telemedicine