We’ve been living with the COVID-19 pandemic for about a year now. In that time, work and life have changed in many ways that we never could have predicted back in 2019.
The Work-from-Home Shift and Its Unintended Consequences
When states began issuing stay-at-home orders, many offices transitioned to remote work arrangements overnight. A year later, many people are still working from home and have no intention of returning to the office. A LiveCareer survey found that 81% of professionals enjoy working remotely and 29% of professionals will quit if their current employer doesn’t allow them to continue working remotely.
But the remote work transition hasn’t been without problems. Cyberattacks have increased, and the poor cybersecurity found in many home offices may be at least partially to blame.
Ransomware attacks increased 715%, according to ZDNet, and attacks have also evolved to become even more damaging.
Not all remote work issues have been technical in nature. With so many schools relying on remote learning, parents have struggled to balance their work obligations with their family obligations. The New York Times says America’s mothers are in crisis, and nearly 70% of mothers say pandemic stress has damaged their health.
Still, it hasn’t all been bad. Some people have enjoyed the extra time with their family, a more relaxed dress code, and then the end of commutes. Many workers also took advantage of their increased presence at home to get a dog. According to Employee Benefit News, this has resulted in increased interest in pet insurance as an employee benefit.
New Employee Benefit Priorities
COVID-19’s impact on employee benefits goes way beyond an increased demand for pet insurance.
Employee Benefit News says that 50% of employers are planning to expand or begin offering childcare benefits to employees. While HR professionals used to favor on-site childcare options, flexible childcare benefits are now winning favor.
Healthcare benefits have changed as well. Mental health has been put in the spotlight, and telemedicine options have surged in popularity. Health.com says that 20% of medical visits were conducted remotely in 2020, according to a report from Doximity. Although some people will return to the doctor’s office when the pandemic ends, many people may want to hang onto the convenience of telemedicine.
Balancing Worker Safety and Business Interruption
Employers have had to balance worker safety concerns with business interruption issues, and it hasn’t been easy.
Several states have passed laws or issued orders making it easier for workers to file workers’ compensation claims for COVID-19. According to Insurance Journal, insurers have not seen the large aggregate volume of COVID-19 claims that were previously expected, and business shutdowns have led to a drop in non-COVID claims. However, some COVID-related claims for health care workers infected on the job have exceeded $2 million.
Employers have been worried about liability exposures, but they’ve also been worried about business interruption. Restaurants have been especially hard hit. Some restaurants have survived by focusing on takeout and delivery, but not all have managed to make the transition. According to ABC News, Yelp data from over the summer showed that nearly 16,000 restaurants had closed their doors permanently because of the pandemic.
The Road Ahead
With the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, we now have three COVID-19 vaccines. There is hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight. At the same time, it has become increasingly clear that the world will not return to the way it used to be. COVID-19 has changed many aspects of work and life, and its impact will likely outlast the pandemic.