Pandemic Reshapes Benefits Offered Employees This Year

In time for open enrollment, companies expand telehealth, for starters
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 15, 2020 11:30 AM CST
Pandemic Reshapes Benefits Offered Employees This Year
Nurse practitioner Sadie Paez adjusts a screen to set up a telehealth session for William Merry, who is recovering from pneumonia at his home in Ipswich, Mass., in July.   (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Employees making their open enrollment choices this fall often are seeing company offerings reshaped by the coronavirus pandemic. Telehealth options and greater access to mental health are among the changes, the Washington Post reports, as are perks that recognize employees and their children are working from home now. A survey by a company that advocates for large employers found that more than half of its members plan to offer more choices for virtual care next year, and 36% expect to provide more access to mental health services. Target is offering employees free online doctor visits through 2020. "The big realization a lot of these companies have had during the pandemic is that there’s so much that happens in your personal life that affects your work," an adviser said. The lockdown also has more companies looking into pet insurance. "There’s a lot of pandemic puppies," a MetLife executive said.

The telehealth boom has the advantage for companies of helping to keep their employees from venturing out in places where the virus is spreading, an Aflac executive said. An Aflac survey this summer found 43% of employers offer telemedicine, as opposed to 29% last year, per CNBC. Couples therapy coverage acknowledges the lockdown difficulty. "When everyone is stuck at home, there’s more natural conflict," a corporate adviser said. Divorce is included in more legal plans, as are wills. They're still a minority, but some companies are helping with child care costs and tutoring in recognition of parents' dwindling options. "There are indications that child care may not recover," a human resources expert said. For employees' children who are home, Okta is repurposing company laptops and distributing them through a lottery. With fewer people in the office needing help, Expedia opened its IT help desk to calls from children who have computer problems during remote learning. (Facebook employees called pandemic help for parents unfair.)

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