The pandemic laid bare the fact that we have a broken care infrastructure, support for mental health is insufficient, and many of us are entangled in demanding and inflexible and workplace cultures that create burnout. Organizations are responding. They’ve recognized that employee benefits can be life-changing for their workforce, especially those centered around care, flexibility, and mental health. In order to better support their employees and their business, they plan to revise their benefit strategies in the upcoming year. A new report on the future of benefits shows that 98% of human resource leaders and C-suite decision-makers from across the U.S. plan to newly offer or expand at least one benefit due to lessons learned during this crisis. Check this Employee Benefits Chicago for more information.
In mid-February 2020, I became the CEO of Care.com. I expected a lot would change, but I didn’t expect — nor could I have predicted — that everything would. A global pandemic completely upended the way we work and clouded even the most well-thought-out strategic plans.
One thing became very clear, very quickly — the undeniable interconnectedness of work and life. We all felt it acutely. Aspects of society and business that were long overdue for a change were now laid bare. We have a broken care infrastructure. Support for mental health is insufficient. And so many of us are entangled in demanding and inflexible workplace cultures that create burnout. Just to name a few.
But one of the most dire consequences we face is the alarming amount of working mothers who face an untenable choice: their children or their paycheck. And as any parent will tell you, that’s not really a choice. This problem has surged over the last year: nearly 3 million women — especially Black and Latina women — have been pushed out of the U.S. labor force. A year-long pandemic has erased decades of progress, underscoring just how fragile and inept our old care system was. Our post-pandemic economy won’t fully recover — or reach its full potential — unless and until women get the caregiving support they and their families need.
I’m encouraged to see that companies are responding. They’ve recognized that employee benefits can be life-changing for their workforce, especially those centered around care, flexibility, and mental health. In conversations I’ve had with business leaders, many have told me that, in order to better support their employees and the business, they plan to revise their benefit strategies.
To better understand exactly how these changes will manifest, Care.com developed “The Future of Benefits” report, in which we asked 500 human resource leaders and C-suite decision-makers from across the U.S. what employee benefits they plan to keep, get rid of, add, and expand as a result of lessons learned during this crisis. Here’s what they told us.
Key Benefits are Expanding and Shifting
Those we spoke to confirmed the toll the pandemic has had on their employees and their business: decreased productivity and retention, increased absenteeism, and declining mental health. That’s why almost all (98%) of the leaders we surveyed plan to newly offer or expand at least one employee benefit, prioritizing the ones workers deem most essential, like child and senior care benefits, flexibility around when and where work gets done, and expanded mental health support.
In exchange for these essential benefits, 89% also said that they are deprioritizing at least one type of employee benefit because of Covid-19 — most frequently on-site child care, paid vacation days, commuter benefits, tuition reimbursement, and food or meals.
Without Care, People Can’t Work
Work-life “balance” has always been a lie. Work and life are not independent entities fighting for 50/50 equilibrium. They’re interconnected, and one affects the other. But people — especially women — have been conditioned to design life around the demands of work, and rarely to design work around the demands of life. Between February and September 2020 alone, there were 1.2 million parents — disproportionately women — of children 5 to 17 out of the labor force. Employers can’t afford this massive hit to their workforce.
The pandemic has forced employers to act. They realize that care benefits are essential to employees’ productivity and success at work. In fact, 57% of senior leaders told us that their organizations are assigning higher priority to care benefits to better support their employees in both work and life. And 63% said they plan to increase their company’s already existing child care benefits. These may include paid access to online platforms to find care, subsidized backup care, new parent support, cash subsidies to parents, among others. As one survey respondent told us, “Employees cannot leave their home life at the door. They bring their worries to work, and it impacts their productivity.”
Employers have also opened their eyes to the challenges of employees who care for the elderly. Our research on senior care found that 83% of adult children have sought new care options for their senior loved ones during the pandemic and 89% were considering switching from a nursing home to in-home care. Indeed, about 17% of the U.S. workforce care for a senior relative or loved one, and nearly half of them are sandwiched, also caring for children under the age of 18. And family caregivers are not solely Gen X and Boomers. Of the 41 million Americans who are unpaid caregivers to the elderly, 10 million are Millennials.