There’s no doubt about it: COVID-19 has changed an immense amount about the way our economy works. Employees are working from home at a never-before-seen rate, and companies are all over the place when it comes to the dates when workers are expected to return to working in offices. Companies know that some of the old assumptions about which benefits are and are not necessary to remain competitive in the labor market have gone all topsy-turvy as a result of the last year. Here are a few things you may see become more common as companies start to adjust to the new normal.
More relaxed sick days are going to become a feature of companies whose employees are used to being productive from home and whose managers don’t want to appear lax about germs spreading through their office. Major companies in the past have enacted controversial policies about sick days, and as more and more positions become ones that can be done from anywhere, you can anticipate more and more companies starting to ease their policies. If your employees can be highly effective remotely, why waste the energy trying to enforce a harsh policy that only earns you bad press?
Child care assistance is something else the last year may be calling attention to as a necessary benefit for a large swath of the population. School closures were a major impediment for many essential workers and plenty of other working professionals, as schools’ unacknowledged function as childcare centers became more obvious and parents had to come up with alternate arrangements on a never-before-seen scale. Of course, at some point schools will be operating on something like a normal schedule, but still, the information gathered by companies during this time may make it look more appealing to subsidize child care on a company-wide basis as a barricade against unpredictable schedules and unforeseen problems.
Preventive health assistance may be my own personal curiosity, but I wonder whether more companies will start to see an advantage to subsidizing things like gym memberships as a means to maintaining a healthy workforce. Quarantines have shown us that mobility and physical health are often taken for granted, and in an environment where workers are commuting less frequently as they continue to work from home, you may see more companies undertake broad health initiatives to keep their employees energetic, motivated, and in high spirits.
Without question, there are a number of steps companies can take to give their employees the benefits they deserve. Instead of a host of new benefits that people have never thought of, it is more likely that things we may have previously seen as status symbols for high-value employees become more universal across industries. Like the concepts mentioned above, we may see more practical initiatives put into place as companies realize that investing in employees' mental and physical well-being is key to their success.