And despite the trend toward remote work brought on by the pandemic, transportation benefits may be particularly valuable to certain segments of the workforce. A February report by the Northeast Business Group on Health found that employers can aid low-income workers with diabetes, for example, by providing transportation services or reimbursement for public transit or rideshares used to travel to appointments.
Fever screening and self-assessments are effective only when accompanied by social distancing, mask wearing and adequate workplace ventilation, said Dr. Saul Helman, a partner at consulting firm Guidehouse, which has been advising employers.
“Temperature checks and risk-assessment-type surveys have become very helpful in the first levels of screening of people before they come into an office building,” Helman said. “It’s not an ultimate layer. It’s not going to prevent every infected person from walking in.”
Dr. Mark Cunningham-Hill, medical director at the Northeast Business Group on Health, agreed.
Temperature screening is “probably more reassuring than effective,” Cunningham-Hill said.
The Northeast Business Group on Health and One Mind PsyberGuide released an employer guide that provides HR and benefits leaders with information to assess and select digital mental health solutions for their employees. The guide includes two dozen mental health digital solutions and their key features, including what conditions each tool targets (stress, depression and anxiety, for example) and the types of interventions it offers (like coaching, mindfulness meditation or clinical therapy).
Consistent with a recent CDC report, fewer caregivers report their health status as excellent or very good and a greater proportion report being in fair or poor health. And according to a recent report from the Northeast Business Group on Health, employers report caregivers abandoning self-care.
Leaders cannot think of caregiver benefits as a cost center with no measurable ROI. Look at the big picture. Providing meaningful benefits impacts the health of your employees and the health care costs of the organization.
Validating Savage’s prediction, a survey from the Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH) found that 28% of employers who weren’t previously offering paid caregiver leave are considering doing so in 2021/2022.
The survey also found that caregiving and implementing flexible work arrangements were “at the top of benefit managers’ caregiving wish lists.”
Flexibility goes hand in hand with caregiving benefits by helping women stay in the workforce, instead of sacrificing their careers to start a family. According to a recent LinkedIn poll, more than a third of working mothers who went back to work after having kids agreed that they struggled to get hired, and 61% said it was challenging to re-enter the workforce, demonstrating just how incompatible with caregiving it is.
Employers surveyed by the Northeast Business Group on Health in late 2019 and early 2020 said they were increasingly prioritizing caregiving benefits, with 78% saying that caregiving would be an increasingly important issue over the next five years. Some employers have responded to the pandemic with new offerings targeted to caregivers, including Verizon and online education company Chegg, which announced in April that it would reward a childcare reimbursement of $500 per family for parents struggling to balance work and life.
For employers looking to add digital resources to their mental health strategy, the Northeast Business Group, working with One Mind PsyberGuide, has created a new resource, “Digital Tools and Solutions for Mental Health.” The guide includes more than two dozen digital health resources employers can employ to meet the needs of their workforce, wherever they’re currently working.
“Digital technologies have the potential to revolutionize treatment for mental health conditions,” said Dr. Mark Cunningham-Hill, Medical Director at NEBGH. “We developed this resource guide to arm employers with the information they need to make the right decision for their organization and employees. With the country now in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic, the value of these tools that provide virtual solutions has increased exponentially.”
The new tool from NEBGH and One Mind PsyberGuide helps employers sort through dozens of digital mental health solutions to choose which works best for them.
Digital technologies have the potential to revolutionize treatment for mental health conditions, says Dr. Mark Cunningham-Hill, medical director at NEBGH. But with so many solutions and tools in the marketplace, it’s hard for employers to know which technology is best for them and their employees. “We developed this resource guide to arm employers with the information they need to make the right decision for their organization and employees,” he says. “With the country now in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic, the value of these tools that provide virtual solutions has increased exponentially.”
Based on the 2019/2020 Caregiving and the Workplace: Employer Benchmarking Survey, from the Northeast Business Group of Health and AARP, employers have a way to go in recognizing the needs of their caregiving employees.
Only 9% of employers surveyed for that study said caregiving was among their Top 5 priorities for employee health and benefit issues. And although 78% of firms said their workplace culture supports employees who are caregivers, only 58% of employees said they think their top management is supportive of caregiving policies.
"The challenges for employee caregivers have increased exponentially as a result of the risk for COVID-19 among older and vulnerable people, social distancing requirements, and 24/7 child care responsibilities," said Candice Sherman, CEO of the Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH), an employer-led coalition. "Employers are trying to increase support for caregiving employees by providing more backup help, flexible working hours and access to expert resources, and some are providing relief funds to help with expenses."
In late 2019 and early 2020, NEBGH and AARP surveyed benefit managers at 119 mostly large U.S. employers. The survey, a follow-up to one conducted in 2017, found that more employers now provide paid leave specifically for caregiving—23 percent of respondents do so, up from 11 percent in 2017.
But while 61 percent of benefit managers said caregiving is a top priority for them, and 45 percent believe they are on par with similar organizations in developing caregiving-friendly benefits, almost a quarter (22 percent) see themselves as below or well below average, "a clear sign there is much room for improvement," Sherman said.