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Rethinking Employee Benefits to Address a Remote Workforce

June 30th, 2021

We’re finally starting to ease out of the pandemic as an increasing percentage of the population becomes vaccinated. While some employers are on the verge of bringing employees back into the office, others are contemplating a more permanent remote work scenario.

According to a survey conducted by the staffing firm LaSalle Network, 77% of the 350 corporate executives interviewed expected their company to implement a hybrid model within the next year, where some staff members work in the office and others work remotely. There are a variety of reasons why employers may want to move forward with some form of a remote work model on a permanent basis:

  • Some employees have moved to other parts of the country during the pandemic and no longer live close enough to work from the office
  • Remote work allows for a wider pool of employees, giving companies the ability to recruit the top talent from across the country
  • Eliminating a physical office space can significantly reduce the costs associated with running a business
  • Many employees have expressed a preference to continue working from home, and accommodating employee preferences allows companies to provide a better experience and retain top talent longer

Regardless of your reasons for choosing to adopt a permanent remote work environment for your team, it’s important to understand the ways in which this decision will impact the employee benefits you offer. The following items must be considered when creating a benefit package for your remote workforce.

More Flexible Health Plan Networks May Be Needed

health insurance policy on a clipboardWhen all employees live in the same area, it is a common practice to select health plan options that focus on providers located in your local region. However, many of these packages may not work for employees living in other parts of the country. These individuals may find that they are no longer able to access in-network coverage, and this will force them to pay the increased costs associated with out-of-network healthcare providers.

Depending on the regions where your employees now live, you may need to choose specific health plan networks that will work in all of these locations. There are several ways this can be accomplished:

  • You may need to choose insurance carriers that provide national coverage
  • You may need to establish multiple provider contracts to ensure your team has coverage in each state or local region where employees now live
  • If only a small number of employees live out of state, you may be able to find specific packages for these employees while keeping the rest of your team on a plan that is ideally suited to your local region

The right option for your company will depend on the number of employees working in other regions as well as the areas of the country in which they reside. In addition, it’s crucial that your employees inform you as soon as they relocate to a different part of the country. This will allow you to make the necessary adjustments to your healthcare benefits to ensure the employee is still able to access coverage.

Offer Telemedicine Options

If you have employees who have relocated to remote rural areas, it’s possible that their access to doctors may be limited. In these situations, offering telemedicine options can help these employees maintain access to the important healthcare services they need. Many primary care services can easily be administered virtually, and these options are often a relatively affordable addition to your healthcare benefits package.

Keep in mind that some state laws may limit the ability to administer telemedicine services to out-of-state patients. If this is the case in areas where your employees live, you’ll need to ensure that they have access to telemedicine providers in the state where they reside.

Mental Health Benefits May Become More Important

While many employees have thrived in a remote environment, this work model has also created significant challenges for others. Some employees have struggled with the social isolation associated with working from home, while others face challenges associated with the blurring of professional and family life. The stressors that occur when working remotely are different than those found in an office environment, but they are equally powerful. Offering mental health benefits can be an important way for your employees to more effectively cope with these new challenges and stressors.

Local Leave Laws May Vary for Different Employees

Paid and unpaid leave laws often vary from state to state. If your team is spread across the country, it may be impossible to adopt a single policy that applies to all employees. In many instances, your paid and unpaid leave policy may have to be customized for each employee to ensure they adhere to state and local laws in the area where each person lives.

Adopt Benefits that Support the Needs of a Remote Work Culture

The needs of remote workers are different than the needs of employees who commute to the office every day. Friday morning breakfast, catered working lunches, team-building happy hours, and other in-person perks that fostered a positive work culture when everyone was in the office may no longer make sense when your team is working at home. You may want to consider replacing these benefits with others that promote a better quality of life in a remote work environment.

Stipends for Home Office Equipment

home office equipment provided to remote workerWhen your team is in the office, you provide all employees with a fully functional work station. These funds can be transitioned into a stipend that allows employees to set up a home office that is optimally suited for their needs. Some important items to provide for remote employees include:

  • Ergonomic equipment
  • Sit-stand desks
  • Computer and other IT equipment
  • Licenses for any software products your team needs
  • Zoom accounts for meetings
  • Noise-canceling headphones to block out distractions in the home

Flexible Schedules

For many employees, one of the most popular aspects of working remotely is the ability to design a flexible schedule. The ability to take breaks during the day to address the needs of children or to work out when the gym is less crowded can significantly improve your employee experience.

If your team is spread out across different time zones, flexible schedules may be a necessity. There will be certain times where employees are expected to be available for meetings and to address questions from coworkers, but it will be virtually impossible to ensure all team members are working the exact same hours of the day. An employee in New York may start the day at a time when an employee in California is still sleeping. Team members will inevitably end up working different hours of the day based on where they live.

Creating a clearly defined flexible schedule policy will help your employees understand what is expected of them and ensure that all team members are set up for success.

Premier Employer Services Can Help You Create the Right Benefits Package for Your Remote Workforce

At Premier Employer Services, we’re here to help you navigate the process selecting employee benefits for your remote workforce. Our team is always evaluating a wide range of benefits solutions to ensure we recommend the right options to address the unique needs of your work environment. This not only includes the benefits options you offer, but the way the enrollment process is managed.

We’ve designed a unique Elevated Engagement Plus Approach™ focused on helping you create a more successful and inspired organization. Our team will work closely with you to understand your company’s workforce dynamic and the specific needs of your employees. We’ll recommend a customized benefits plan that helps your team thrive in a remote work environment. At Premier Employer Services, we understand that every company will have different employee benefits needs based on the type of remote work model they adopt. We can help you plan ahead so that your team is set up for success every step of the way.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We provide employee engagement and HR consulting services to businesses in Denver and the surrounding areas of Colorado.