The pandemic has caused an upheaval in the labor pool—with some employers scrambling to retain employees and recruit new ones. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 4 million people quit their jobs in April, the highest level since these rates were first published in December 2000.
Though there's no singular reason for the change, the Washington Post points to health and safety fears during the pandemic and epic disruptions to job and family routines, with economic instability, political and racial unrest, the lack of childcare, and longer working hours further deteriorating employee well-being. "All of it contributed to workers reevaluating, reprioritizing and reflecting on what they do, according to experts who study workplace well-being and organizational behavior," WaPo writes.
An April Conference Board survey of human resources executives from large companies found that 49% of organizations with a mostly blue-collar work force found it hard to retain workers, up from 30% before the pandemic. The New York Times reports that "up and down the wage scale, companies are becoming more willing to pay a little more, to train workers, to take chances on people without traditional qualifications, and to show greater flexibility in where and how people work."
These labor shifts have given employees leverage in negotiating benefits that affect their quality of life. Health-related assistance, particularly mental health resources, can be a competitive differentiator in organizations’ retention and recruitment efforts. An article in SHRM points to research that says "better compensation and benefits (35%) and better work/life balance (25%) are the top two reasons why employees would leave their current job."
With that in mind, here are three ways to begin making health and wellness benefits a priority in your organization:
1. Invest in behavioral health support. Our collective mental health has suffered throughout the pandemic, with record numbers of employees becoming burned out and communicating a lack of work-life balance. Adding behavioral health benefits to employee health plans is paramount to combating common stressors, but also consider strategies such as encouraging employees to use vacation time, promoting "mental health wellness" days, and adding workday flexibility and ensuring its fair distribution.
2. Communicate the services of your employee assistance program (EAP). Whether or not you've established an official EAP, help your employees get access to mental health professionals—via telehealth or in-person visits—and provide such services for free or at a reduced cost. If you do have an EAP, communicate its services often through monthly newsletters and posted flyers, and continually reassure employees that the program is confidential.
3. Continuously monitor and survey your employees on their well-being. Ask how new ways of working, such as hybrid offices, remote work and increased use of technology are affecting your workforce's well-being. Make sure any surveys are de-identified to keep results anonymous.
Employers that focus on the well-being of their workforce will not only increase worker engagement and productivity, but they will also build loyal, happy and healthy employees.
Find more suggestions in Employer Solutions’ ebook “Responding With Confidence: Keeping Pace With Healthcare Benefit Strategies.”