Leading during the COVID-19 pandemic is new territory for every business leader and Human Resources professional today. Leaders are consuming as much information as possible to help successfully guide their employees through this; however, one important aspect that should not be overlooked are the benefits companies can remind employees to take advantage of.
Benefits are the security net people rely on during uncertain times, and it’s crucial that employers are communicating what employees have access to—whether they are working from home or in an essential role that calls them into the office.
Employers should be assessing short-term disability, paid-time off policies, layoff provisions, and medical coverage. More than anything, right now employers need to make sure their employees are safe and healthy.
Here are four benefits that can be helpful for employees right now:
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
For many, telecommuting and self-isolation is not an easy transition. Couple that with the current state of crisis the world is in, and the anxiety can be overwhelming. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can be an invaluable resource right now to help employees manage stress and anxiety, and assist with mental well-being. EAPs give employees access to confidential conversations online or over the phone with professionals, whether seeking financial guidance, counseling, or other resources. It can be a viable tool to help employees manage emotions, especially for those working in isolation remotely.
Mental and Physical Health Benefits
If organizations offered gym membership reimbursements or wellness programs, those are vital right now to assist with employees’ mental health. It’s important now more than ever that employees stick to the same routine they did before work-from-home mandates were enacted, as is the case for many states, and that includes working out. There are countless studies linking mental and physical health, so being that fitness centers are closed, employers can get creative and find online, free resources to offer their employees that they can access virtually. There are also many countless apps that are offering free subscriptions currently for meditation and other mental health exercises. Put together a resource list to share with your employees. Also, so long as they practice social distancing and stay six feet apart from others, encourage employees to get outside and take a walk during the day. While not a typical “benefit,” this certainly will benefit your employees’ mental well-being.
Telehealth uses e-mail, videoconferencing, or phone calls to help care for sick patients from the comfort of their homes. This benefit is important right now, as both federal and state governments push for people to stay home. Utilizing telehealth will not only curb the spread of disease by encouraging people to only leave their house by medical advisory, but it also offers an outlet for those who are in at-risk populations to seek medical services for their conditions without going to the doctor and potentially being exposed.
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was expanded on March 18 amid COVID-19. The new legislation, known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, applies to organizations that have fewer than 500 employees and to employees who have worked at these covered companies for at least 30 days. It grants employees 12 weeks of partially compensated FMLA leave to care for a child whose school or childcare has been closed to due COVID-19. The other component to this new legislation requires employers to grant 80 hours of paid sick time to employees under specific circumstances listed in the legislature. If you are among those employers with fewer than 500 employees, be sure to communicate these changes to employees. If your organization has more than 500 employees and this modification doesn’t apply, it is still important to communicate the FMLA coverage that is available to your employees.
There are many resources employees can utilize, and it’s crucial employers are over-communicating what employees have access to, and to be ready and available to answer their questions.
Bill Gimbel is founder and CEO of LaSalle Benefits, a national insurance and employee benefits brokerage firm. Gimbel has been in the benefits industry for more than two decades, working with hundreds of business leaders and hiring managers on benefits.