Navigating Benefits

How to Retool Employee Benefits for Your Remote Workforce

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has helped transform remote work from a fringe benefit to a necessary way of life

  • As such, employers need to reassess their employee benefit plans to ensure they're attractive and fair to everyone

  • Considerations should go beyond expanding health benefits though, as remote workers may need unique forms of assistance

Posted by September 23, 2020

For organizations that have pivoted to virtual operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, offering the best employee benefits for remote workers has become their latest challenge. Once thought to be a temporary arrangement, remote work is evolving into a potentially permanent situation for many businesses.

Now that your organization has the tools and processes in place to support remote work, your attention needs to shift to adjusting your benefits offerings. These tips can help you create a benefits package that meets the needs of a home-based workforce.

Considerations When Building Benefits Packages for Remote Workers

Building strong employee benefits packages requires reviewing the costs, usage and overall return on investment of previous annual benefits. It also takes looking at how your employees’ needs have evolved, then addressing those needs with new or updated benefits. Today, that means considering how remote work impacts the way employees choose benefits.

Certain benefits may no longer deliver value to your remote workers, such as discounts on local gym memberships or public transportation passes, so you’ll want to swap them out with more appropriate offerings—at least temporarily. And if your workforce is spread across the country, you should also consider the rules around multi-state benefits plans.

To create a benefits package that’s attractive, fair and attuned to the unique needs of a remote workforce, you’ll need to begin by assessing your health offerings.

Elements of a Successful Remote Worker Health Benefits Package

The foundation of a great employee benefits package is an affordable health insurance program. Consider options for individual workers plus those with dependents. You’ll also want to continue to assess the merits of high-deductible vs. low-deductible plans.

If your insurance provider only serves a region or handful of states, it may still be a beneficial option for your workforce. Some of your employees may now be in states outside coverage range, but those who stayed near the office can still take full advantage of these benefits. Survey your workforce to assess whether this option still works for them. If they’d like to switch things up or aren’t using your current benefits, consider another vendor. It’s also worthwhile considering adding PPO options to your current benefits, which would enable employees to get out-of-network care without paying entirely out of pocket.

Mental health benefits are also becoming increasingly important due to the shift to remote work. Remote workers could need additional emotional support as this way of life can become isolating. Mental health benefits can take the form of an employee assistance program or teletherapy coverage so workers can meet with counselors virtually.

Health reimbursement accounts, too, are at the heart of every exceptional employee benefits package. These serve as very flexible tools for managing health, as they can be used to cover pharmacy expenses, medical bills and even upgrades to eyeglasses.

Other Benefits Remote Workers May Need to Succeed

With your employees working from home indefinitely, you need to ensure they have the resources and technology required to get their jobs done. Provide financial support for purchasing equipment, internet service and even cell phones as part of your employee benefits plans. If possible, consider issuing stipends to cover the cost of day care and home care services.

Perhaps most importantly, recognize that remote work is inevitably shifting from a fringe benefit to an employee expectation. Chris Bedi, chief information officer for ServiceNow, believes the distinction between office work and remote work will disappear. “There’s just work, and it’s work from anywhere,” he says in an interview with CNBC. Additionally, PulseSecure’s 2020 Remote Work From Home Cybersecurity Report reveals that “33% of U.S. companies anticipate some positions moving to permanent remote work.”

So what’s the best way to craft an employee benefits package for 2021? It starts with being mindful that this could be a permanent change—for at least some of your workforce. By ensuring your health and fringe benefits are suited to a remote workforce, you’re more likely to land on offerings that work for everyone.

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