- Steve McEwan
3 Employee Benefit Trends for 2021
For many, there is hope we get back to somewhat normal this year. With a vaccine, the rumor is herd immunity by the fall – hopefully!
What do we think this year looks like for trends in our space?
1. Digital or bust:
COVID forced the use of technology for all and arguably accelerated the tech adoption rate ten years ahead of schedule. Everyone was forced to embrace technology – whether it was video conferencing, ordering food, working out in front of a screen, or purchasing and onboarding a new benefit plan. Those who were not digital were left scrambling, and those who were ready saw a big bump in 2020. Fortunately, we were in the “ready” category.
Even if 2021 may see a somewhat return to normal, this technology adoption is likely here to stay. The big question in our industry – how do company rewards programs look if there is a new work from home or a blended option of going into the office? We expect to see many digital solutions like telemedicine, mental health services, and myFlexplans gain even more traction and growth this year.
2. Shake up on Plan Design.
I think 2021 might be the year we see this finally change. Even though every employee survey over the years seems to ask for more flexibility, the options are painfully limited – especially for small to mid-size groups. This year may be the year with more action and potential changes in plan design. The pandemic has forced companies to rethink their rewards offerings, as everything they offer has to be outside of the office or a potential blend. This seems to have caused a reset on rewards offering, and employers are finally looking at how they can personalize their benefits. It has made employers step back and think, what do their employees want?
Finally, many are embracing flexible workplaces and this flexibility is creeping into their benefits offering and looking outside of traditional plans to meet employees' needs. The huge uptick in 2020 with our myFlexplan option is likely because it truly delivers the flexible offering employees want so badly. The offering can include all items outside of the office, so it is especially valued if WFH continues. WSA accounts also rose dramatically in 2020 and will continue to rise, and the allowable expenses will expand. A corporate gym membership doesn’t work if you have people in 15 different cities – but everyone wants to stay active.
3. Mental Health Concerns Continue.
The longer this pandemic drags on, the harder it is for everyone. I am feeling this myself, and I miss not being around more people – whether at work, sports, or social settings. Adding to this stress, employers do not physically see their employees as much, so many non-verbal cues are not picked-up on if issues are present. We have seen an uptick in exploration into offerings to support mental health.
Employers may be feeling a bit out of touch with employees and may want to provide self-serve services. I am starting to see products other than traditional EAPs brought into the conversation. Many products (including EAP) that use cognitive behavioral therapies to help with mental health are starting to see real traction and can be used in a self-serve setting, which we think will continue to rise in use.
Beyond these three ideas, I think a real interesting area to watch is in the HR area in general: how work is done after COVID. I am huge believer that as our company grows, culture is king. How people work within a company has a huge impact on culture, since this is setting the stage on how interactions happen at all levels of the organization.
Are people not in the office at all after this? Is it blended? Are people on zooms all day long? How are sales happening now? Can your team be as creative if they are all virtual? Will a big factor be in recruiting if the employee is in the office or virtual? Do we hire worldwide?
I think this is going to be a huge area in HR, and will prove to be a big challenge or an immense opportunity depending on the company.
COO, & Co-Founder, myHSA