One year ago, our team at BenefitMall looked ahead to 2020 and predicted it would be the year of technology adoption in terms of online benefits enrollments and employee onboarding due to the desire to reduce paperwork and implement a more efficient process for this common and recurring need in business. In addition, we believed companies would begin exploring more flexible workforce options and look to expand mental health benefits for employees.
Reflecting back on the sum of 2020, we found our predictions didn’t just come true, they exceeded our expectations for being accurate and were widely adopted across many industries in the face of the pandemic. Almost every company pivoted to virtual onboarding and online enrollments and implemented many strategies to accommodate a remote workforce.
So, what are we predicting will happen in 2021? We believe the use of technology will continue to grow significantly. Technology will increasingly be used by brokers, carriers, employers and even employees to eliminate paper, improve quality and increase productivity.
Flexibility Can Save Everyone Money
The accelerated adoption of modern technology in 2020 demonstrated that businesses can continue to be successful when allowing employees to choose when and where they work. While lockdowns and office closures made this shift a ‘must,’ we agree with a recent study that found more talent will work remotely on a regular basis in 2021 and beyond due to factors such as career options, work-life balance and expense savings.
More important from an engagement standpoint, we now have a workforce that has become more accustomed to balancing the demands of work and life. It will be difficult for employers to maintain morale and retain talent if they fully transition back to a rigid structure of a 9 to 5, in-office work schedule. Employee surveys have shown that 80% of workers would choose a job that offers a flexible work schedule and the majority would also take more flex-time over a pay raise.
For employers, the cost versus benefit analysis has a number of angles, including increased productivity, reduced employee turnover and a reduction in fixed costs such as real estate and relocation expenses. The key to making it all work will continue to be the application of technology, which can fluidly connect colleagues with no barrier to their actual physical location.
Technology Adoption Will Lead to Transformation
We project that we will also continue to see a transformation in the benefits, HR and broker industries as digital options become the new norm. Now that we are passed many of the hurdles of adoption, the new challenge for business will be to keep pace with improved technologies that help users access and inventory their benefits. The upside of technology enhancements, besides easy-to-use mobile applications and paperless coverage enrollment, is that it can help employers become more efficient by saving on both time and money.
In particular, online enrollment tools allow employees to make informed choices about their coverage with side-by-side plan comparisons and online tools to manage benefits and personal profiles. Online tools have also allowed brokers to foster relationships with clients as well as provide faster and more personalized advice through streamlined communications systems that are personalized to the recipient.
Comprehensive Benefits Plans Are Necessary
Finally, mental health benefits are going to be a significant priority for employees when evaluating their company’s or prospective company’s benefits. Employers can help by providing employees with mental health benefits. The first and most obvious step is to ensure employees’ medical insurance includes mental health coverage, as well as comprehensive telehealth services. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are also important components of corporate wellness that allow for confidential, immediate access to resources that can assist in times of crisis.
Benefit plans are only part of the answer. Now that everyone has the shared experience of the pandemic, it has become incumbent on each of us to consider the health and wellbeing of our co-workers, as well as ourselves and our families. Companies that show leadership and empathy in this area will play a key role in overcoming the growing mental health crisis.