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Total Rewards Through the Lens of COVID-19

The pandemic has forced the adoption of new ways of working. Organizations must reimagine their work and the role of offices in creating safe, productive, and enjoyable jobs and lives for employees. In addition to the physical and mental stress the Coronavirus has caused, many workers are experiencing a financial strain as well. As such, employers should continue to consider how their total rewards packages resonate with the current employment market.

According to a recent study from Gartner, a majority (68%) of organizations have added or increased at least one reward to help employees during the pandemic.

Employee retention and recruitment continue to be the most common workplace challenges for employers and HR professionals. This article explores factors to consider when planning salary and total rewards to help attract and retain a skilled workforce post-coronavirus.

New Considerations

The COVID-19 pandemic has offered an opportunity to rethink and revamp compensation practices. Competitive pay and employee well-being continue to be top priorities. Despite tight budgets, a majority of total rewards leaders have improved at least one reward to help employees through this difficult time. The most popular rewards changes center around mental well-being and hazard pay to reduce employee stress and compensate employees for increased levels of risk. Especially during a pandemic, workplace benefits should fully support employees—taking total financial, mental and physical health into consideration.

Consider the following benefits that may evolve as a result of the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Remote work—Working from home has been the biggest and most immediate workplace shift that resulted from the pandemic. As Americans had to shelter in place, many organizations shifted to fully remote working. As the threat of the coronavirus shifts and workplaces reopen, there may still be a place for remote work and formally incorporating it into a benefits package. Both financial and non-financial benefits draw employees to remote work options as they try to achieve a better work-life balance. By working from the comfort of their home, employees can benefit from shorter commutes, lower transportation costs and, in many cases, a more focused work environment. Consider the overall workplace and employees’ job duties to understand how flexible options could work for both you and your employees.
  • Expense reimbursement—Employees may be challenged as they balance remote work and other activities at home, such as childcare, education or caregiving for elderly family members. If remote work is required, employers could consider reimbursing office expenses (e.g., cellphone, computer equipment, software and internet costs) that are essential or enhance employees’ remote work environments. Providing additional company-issued hardware upon request is another option.
  • Sick or family leave—If employees are unable to work through remote access or other means, consider offering paid or unpaid family leave. Employees could also use leave to care for a family member who has contracted the coronavirus.
  • Health care coverage—Review your benefit programs and consider enhancements that will ensure health care access includes first-dollar coverage of telehealth visits, waived COVID-19 testing copays and more wellbeing benefit options.
  • On-site health care—It’s important to provide options for COVID-19 testing to minimize the risk of infection. If onsite testing is not feasible, consider establishing a partnership with a local healthcare organization to make it more convenient for employees to access. Employers should also consider increasing resource options for mental health concerns due to the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Paid time off–Consider making changes to your paid time off programs that provide more flexibility in the usage guidelines and address the surplus of banked hours that many employees anticipate they will have at year’s end. Whatever can be done to avoid having employees lose time under a “use it or lose it” provision or stop accruing due to a bank max is going to go a long way! Continuing to have all employees work fully remote may not be ideal for all organizations—especially if you still have an active building lease or your day-to-day work involves hands on-site responsibilities. However, there may still be a way to offer other flexible options or benefits that support work-life balance.
  • Financial wellbeing–While not all companies are in a position right now to enhance financial benefits, there is a strong connection between financial wellbeing and employee stress and wellbeing. If you are able, consider enhancing financial benefits such as 401K match or tuition reimbursement.

When planning salaries and benefits, it’s important to consider economic recovery and unemployment levels, as both factors have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moving Forward

Regardless of whether total rewards packages change at an organization, employers should regularly communicate with employees about programs that are in place that will support them. Remember to express empathy and concern for employees’ situations. Employees are looking for such support now more than ever, both in and out of the workplace. After all, employees want to work at an organization where they feel safe and supported.

For additional insights on how to develop a competitive total rewards package for a reimagined workplace, contact your local OneDigital strategist.