As the pandemic continues to evolve, new trends and insights into healthcare benefits are emerging. Employees are grappling with unprecedented stress and continued uncertainty. Faced with difficult choices in business continuity planning, employers are focusing on the cost-benefit of support for employees. Here’s a closer look at what advisers and employers need to know.
Support for employees matters—a lot
Research is confirming what employers and employees already know: support for employees matters now more than ever.
While an always-on work culture and chronic stress have been affecting employees for some time, the pandemic has changed the nature of stress. According to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 84% of adults say their lives have been disrupted by the pandemic.  During this period, stressors have shifted from the workplace to home as employees face constant distractions and increased worry over childcare, remote learning, job security and more.
The case for support for employees
Certainly, there is a clear connection between perceived employer support, employee engagement and employee well-being. Said another way, employees who feel supported by their employers report higher levels of engagement—and feel more valued. 
Recent research reveals that employees register a lack of support: over 60% of US workers report that their employer could do more to support their emotional and mental health.
Meeting these emerging needs requires benefit flexibility to create the right support for employees. One-size-fits-all primary healthcare plans can’t fulfill these needs in this evolving normal. Taking a holistic approach to benefits and employee well-being can help employers meet changing needs, and it can ultimately help employees feel more valued and engaged. 
Trend: Increasing support for employees
As they recognize the need for support for employees, savvy employers are stepping up, a trend that began pre-pandemic, with nearly 75% of employers prioritizing workplace mental health and well-being. Since the onset of the pandemic, findings from a recent study show that: 
- 77% of surveyed employers are offering or expanding access to virtual mental health support
- 60% have put easy-to-use virtual benefits like workouts in place to support employees working at home
- Nearly half are enhancing healthcare benefits
- 45% are expanding well-being programs
There is another emerging trend the pandemic has further exacerbated: the financial strain employees face when it comes to rising healthcare costs. Healthcare costs top the list of household expenses that workers worry about being able to afford:  
- Two-thirds of insured adults report concerns about paying for unexpected medical bills
- Half worry about being able to afford their deductibles
- 45% fret about paying for the cost of prescription drugs
- 40% are concerned about paying healthcare insurance premiums
Facing financial strain from healthcare costs many employees may be questioning the value they get from their healthcare coverage and benefits. As the effects of the pandemic continue to be felt, employers may move away from plans with a high level of cost-sharing, reversing the trend of the last 10 to 15 years. 
The need for benefit flexibility
Emerging trends from recent research provide insight into current employee stress and the need for support. As forward-thinking employers and advisers enter primary healthcare plan renewal season, benefit flexibility should be top of mind. Expanding support for employees is essential and robust supplemental health insurance benefits can be a way to provide it while managing health plan costs.
Targeted, regular benefit communications to employees can help to encourage greater awareness and understanding of available benefits, which according to research  can help to strengthen perceived support as well as holistic employee well-being.
Of course, business continuity planning remains essential during and after this period of uncertainty. Benefit flexibility can help employers make mental health support a critical part of their continuity planning; without such support, according to research,  businesses risk negatively impacting employee health, engagement and loyalty.
Looking for benefit flexibility? ArmadaCare’s array of supplemental health insurance benefits includes plans for a range of needs like closing coverage gaps, as well as targeted needs like support for mental health and well-being. Coverage is determined by the employer. In addition, ArmadaCare’s plans provide valuable timing flexibility: they can be put in place the first of any month all year—meaning there is no reason to not meet emerging and high-priority employee needs now and into early 2021.
Learn more about our wide range of supplemental health insurance plans.