“In times of crisis, everyone has a part to play. You cannot live your life just for you. You are part of a whole. You are part of a community and you must do your part.” Mel Brooks - Actor, Author, Comedian, Producer and Veteran of WWII
On Wednesday afternoon, April 8th, 10 global employers joined Lockton consultants on a virtual WebEx meeting to discuss the unique challenges of managing global benefits during these hectic times.
Several concerns were shared as well as the creative approaches and solutions implemented by these employers in the following areas
Safety and protection of employees, families and communities are paramount to employers. Many were well prepared from a technology standpoint with well thought out and implemented infrastructures, security protocols (Zoom’s issues are of an ongoing concern). The largest challenge surrounds care and education of children with day care and school systems shuttered during the crisis. Employees need to balance the requirements of work with the needs of their families.
“I am now apparently running a daycare center as well as doing a full time job. I have a 2 year old boy, an 8 year old daughter and a 40-something husband with a 50+ hour a week job in software QA. My husband is doing his job remotely as well, so we spend our days switching off for whose turn it is to try to work in the living room while our son plays. I am a WFH veteran, having done full time WFH for my previous employer for 5 years, so I have a good home office set-up, however I have never had the kids home while I was trying to work. There is a lot of logging in after the children go to bed, after 9 PM. I very much miss my 8 AMs in the office as well as the lobby Starbucks at about 2 PM. I do not miss the T, however.”
While virtual meetings and cloud infrastructures help, companies have introduced additional flexible work and leave programs spanning between two weeks to one month with usage in hourly increments. In most cases, these programs are used for managing both illness and the challenges of caring for and educating children while working from home. For employees who cannot work from home (healthcare, manufacturing, distribution, food services and other essential workers), employers have implemented shift rotations, increased as well as decreased shift hours, expanded work weeks. Employees are responding positively to employers who have supplemented their compensation, resources and benefits, including free or low-cost tools that they can access remotely (e.g., online children’s education resources, telehealth, etc.).
This crisis is affording employers the opportunity to increase engagement as well as double down on communications. Of course, some employers are not willing or able to offer these enhanced services. Employers should weigh these risks when the economy opens back up as they may see increased turnover, higher costs and lower productivity.
Business and employees’ personal and work lives have suddenly and deeply been disrupted over the past few weeks. Many employers have ramped up communications across a multitude of channels (email, print, video, text, social media). These stresses are further complicated as many employers have had to implement furloughs, layoffs, reductions in work hours, reductions in compensation and benefits as well as suspensions of business in certain geographies.
To help alleviate some of these stresses, many employers are ramping up their global EAPs which can provide significant value when fully deployed including webinars, counseling and other resources. There exist significant capacity constraints with EAPs who are not currently staffed nor are their business models architected to handle these sudden spikes in demand both at the employee and employer level. Some EAPs are implementing hotlines with limited scope to answer coverage and access questions related to COVID-19 as well as expanded mobile tools and web site blog support. We believe that EAPs will ramp investments in AI and chatbots through and after this crisis.
“I have suddenly found myself implementing 4 global EAPs for clients and many others are considering implementation.” Lockton Global Benefits Associate
Employers are evaluating strategies across the entire total rewards spectrum to meet employee needs and achieve financial objectives. Additional services to enhance the member’s experience and offset member financial responsibility include telehealth and virtual mental health services. Global employers are finding a mixed bag to these services as local availability varies and no single provider offers telehealth to all local groups in multiple countries.
Given increased internet access, aging demographics and rising healthcare costs, our employer panel agreed that pursuit and expansion of global telehealth is on their agendas. According to Optum’s April 2020 on employer sentiment, many employers are offering employees 24/7 mental health support (57% of survey respondents) while clinical services such as telemedicine with 24/7 support are offered at a lower rate (43% of survey respondents).
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, both Bain and BCG weighed in on the expansion of telehealth and global technology usage to bolster healthcare.
As late as February of 2020, Bain illustrated that according to US physicians…
17% were using telemedicine
40% weren’t using telemedicine but were planning to within the next 2 years
20% were using remote patient monitoring
35% weren’t using remote patient monitoring but were planning to within the next 2 years
Given the relaxation of regulations regarding provider licensing and cross border practices / liability, we expect these utilization figures to jump substantially. Lockton is already seeing this increase in our clients’ utilization rates.
In April of 2019, BCG “identified four high-priority opportunity areas in which AI tools could be scaled successfully and impactfully in low-resource contexts:
We are seeing a sudden proliferation of new Coronavirus-related insurance policies. Some of these are designed to supplement gaps in employer-provided private medical insurance plans and others are similar to hospital indemnity cash plans sold in the U.S. The need for such new policies will need to be evaluated in the context of an employer’s existing benefits package, on a country-by-country basis.
We are also seeing the emergence private companies offering Coronavirus testing services. These have not always been approved by local health authorities, and their use by companies raises a number of issues which could have multiple implications. A well-intentioned employer looking to protect the safety of employees as we start to return to work could create unanticipated risk around data privacy, test reliability, and the recommendations of local health authorities.
As employers prepare to return to work we anticipate that
Thank you to everyone who participated in Wednesday’s meet up. We aim to continue these virtual sessions in the coming weeks. Feedback is always welcome.
If you are interested in attending our next session (targeting the week of April 27th) and could spread the word, that would be great. All with a stake in Global Benefits are welcome.