If the last year has been all about limits, the future is shaping up to be about reimagination. Millions of employees are planning for a post-COVID future—and it might look really different than the present.
They’re considering big moves, rethinking how they pursue professional opportunities or reflecting on what they’ve learned from work-from-home experiences. With remote work here to stay, many are considering new flexibility to relocate, early in their careers, in their prime or in retirement. Move to the mountains? Relocate to the coast? When home is the office, it’s suddenly possible.
Despite these rosy outlooks, this period has revealed there’s work to be done as well. During the ongoing pandemic mental health crisis, many have confronted sobering revelations about mental health. The pressure of always-on workplace cultures and the mounting toll of work-from-home fatigue have made mental health and well-being newly important priorities.
Of course, after a year of upheaval, employers are keen to hold onto their best talent and protect productivity during recovery. Examining and tweaking benefit strategy is going to be essential in holding onto talent through recovery. New benefit strategies can help employers offer what employees want and need, now and into the coming months. And right now, they can help employers focus on supporting happy employees during the tender period of this transition.
What trends should advisers and employers be tracking for happy employees? What tweaks to benefit strategies should they consider? These are four to watch in the months to come.
Employee mental health and well-being
The last year has taken a heavy toll on employee mental health and well-being. Nearly 90% of employees rate emotional health as a top-three driver of well-being, with nearly as many seeing the employer as playing a key role in supporting employee emotional health. 
HR is in many ways on the front lines of this unfolding employee mental health crisis—and will remain at the forefront after the pandemic ends. Over the last year, many employers have expanded employee benefits and support  for mental health and well-being in response, realizing the strength of the connection between holistic health, productivity, loyalty and the bottom line.
It’s important to remember, too, that expanded coverage and support for well-being benefits all employees, not just those coping with stress during and after this period. Investing in expanded benefits that include support for the full spectrum of mental health and well-being needs can help companies position themselves as employers of choice, now and in the future. 
Incentives and compensation
After a year of flat wages and hiring freezes, many employees are eyeing the coming months as an opportunity to address compensation. Many organizations will need to think creatively, especially where revenue recovery is yet to come.
This is where an integrated approach to compensation and benefits can help employers think outside the box. Tax-advantaged benefits* can help employers find new ways to address compensation, especially for valued talent, while also managing health plan budgets.
Tailored and optimized benefits
With as many as five generations in the workforce today, benefit expectations differ widely. Employees aged 55 to 64 tend to prioritize physical health, while younger employees emphasize social and mental health, according to a recent study. 
As a result, employers’ benefit strategies should take into account where employees are in their lifecycles. Tailoring or optimizing benefits can help employers meet newly emerging needs or ongoing employee benefit priorities cost-effectively. Flexible complementary insurance plans can layer over existing primary plans to expand or enhance benefits, even for select roles or employee classes as defined by the employer. This can help employers boost recruitment or retention for key leadership or positions that are challenging to recruit or retain.
Employee financial strain
Rising healthcare costs have pushed many employers to move to high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) or to make other changes to primary care plans. These open up coverage gaps in healthcare and increase both premiums and out-of-pocket costs. The financial strain is real: three in 10 workers say financial stress affects their job performance. 
Medical debt can also drastically affect employees’ financial health. According to recent research, employees with health insurance who still carry medical debt are nine percent less happy and 42 percent less financially fit than their counterparts without debt.  Closing coverage gaps and reducing out-of-pocket spending for routine and unexpected healthcare expenses can help employers protect talent and strengthen employee loyalty during and after this time.
New benefits strategies can help employers meet evolving needs in a changing world—and help give them the edge they need to retain, recruit and reward talent at any level.
ArmadaCare’s wide range of plans fill voids in coverage for routine and unexpected healthcare expenses, offer valuable health and productivity support services and invite usage with modern conveniences, education touchpoints and people-first service. Plans offer robust coverage and support for employee mental health and well-being, age-and-stage needs and more. Learn more about our uncommon insurance solutions, designed to enhance ordinary health benefits.
 Aon, 2019
 HR Executive, 2020
 Willis Towers Watson, 2020
* *This is not local, state or federal tax advice as each person and each company is unique. It is recommended that you seek the independent counsel of a professional tax adviser.
 Optum/NGBH Consumer Engagement Survey, 2020
 Prudential, 2019
 HR Dive, 2019