How COVID-19 is changing the way HR professionals think about employee benefits

Stack of health insurance application forms with stethoscope on top
A new survey examines how the pandemic is changing the way HR professionals think about employee benefits. (Getty/vinnstock)

COVID-19 is changing the way human resources professionals view employee benefits, a new survey shows.

Artemis Health, a data analytics company, polled 300 benefits leaders at firms with more than 5,000 employees and found that 78% reported employee health and well-being became a significantly higher priority over the course of 2020.

The number of professionals who identified improving employee health as a top goal doubled from 2019 to 2020, the survey found. Sixty-one percent of those surveyed named bettering health and well-being as their top goal in 2020, up from 36% the year prior.

“Employers increasingly recognize the role they play in an employee’s physical and mental well-being. During COVID-19, many benefits leaders are working with Artemis to measure the health impacts of the pandemic, such as stress, delayed care, and increased telemedicine usage,” said Grant Gordon, CEO and co-founder of Artemis Health, in a statement.

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“Benefits analytics is a key tool for leaders looking to address gaps in employee benefits, improve employee well-being, and manage ever-increasing costs," Gordon said.

The surveyed benefits professionals said they expect their focus on the issue to only grow in 2021.

Also as a result of the pandemic, the survey found that these professionals are increasingly motivated by improving the health of employees and less so by controlling costs. In 2020, 52% said improving health was their primary personal motivation, compared to 15% in 2019.

By contrast, just 5% said they were motivated by saving the company money, compared to 15% who said the same in 2019.

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In addition, the survey found more benefits professionals feel they are "ahead of the curve" in planning for employees' needs. Thirty percent of those surveyed said so, and 57% said they are keeping up with trends.

In 2019, 18% said they felt they were ahead of the curve on employee benefits.

Looking ahead, the survey found HR leaders are especially focused on mental well-being and the potential impacts on behavioral health as a result of the pandemic. 

“During this turbulent time, more than ever, I need to figure out how to take care of our employees," a director at a company with more than 50,000 workers said in the survey.