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Forget Working From Home: 2020 Is The Year That Reimagined Benefits

Widespread experience with caregiving and remote schooling this year may lead to updates to corporate benefits packages.

Looking ahead to next year and the much-anticipated return to some sort of normal workplace routine, many companies expect to have evolved policies around working from home, as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.

But in looking back at how office policy shifts in response to the unorthodox year, it appears other benefits may also be rethought and reconfigured, including telemedicine and teletherapy options. 

The strain and stress of the year have caused many to rethink what it means to support their staff, especially those in a caregiving role (think stressed-out parents juggling work and home schooling). A number of major corporations have rolled out or expanded benefits with this insight in mind. Danone North America recently extended its parental leave policy — 18 weeks of paid time off within the first year of the birth or adoption of a child — to all manufacturing employees. The policy shift is also gender-neutral, providing all parents with the same opportunities and caregiving support. 

study and survey by Mercer released in November found that, in response to the ongoing coronavirus surge in the U.S., leading companies will extend flexible paid leave policies and well-being benefits. The emergency Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed in April, provided 80 hours of emergency leave, but it is set to expire soon unless action is taken by the Senate. Mercer’s study suggested many companies will fill in the gap, and it is not far-fetched to imagine these policies will become permanent in the year to come, due to a new shared realization of the challenge and burden of caregiving. 

Another new benefit introduced this year by Old Navy may instigate a new social responsibility move by employers. The clothing chain not only let employees take Election Day off to vote, but offered to pay for a full day’s work if employees volunteered as election workers. As companies search for more ways to give back and increase their community impact, this benefit might be an easy way to fill an important need.