What’s in Your Benefits Pantry?

Tips for being resourceful with the benefits you already have

By Danielle Foley
Senior Communication Consultant 

As you consider ways to help your employees through this challenging time, remember the valuable benefits and resources you already have in place. Like using items from the kitchen pantry to cook a family meal, employees can use their current “pantry” of benefits for much-needed support.

But communication is the vital ingredient.

Mental health benefits and well-being
If there was ever a time to make sure employees know how to receive mental health care, it’s now. We are all experiencing stress and anxiety, and those with a history of mental health conditions may suffer even greater symptoms. Ensure employees are aware of and know how to access:

Employee Assistance Program (EAP): First, check in with your EAP provider to understand what additional resources they may be offering.

Virtual counseling: Encourage employees to take advantage of any tele-mental health services covered under your plan (e.g., TalkSpace, BetterHelp). You can also include national hotline numbers.

Self-care support: Publicize company or vendor resources like meditation apps, online fitness classes, parenting resources, tips for better sleep, etc. Let employees know it’s ok to feel a certain amount of grief over the loss of routine and things that make us happy. This New York Times article has some great perspective.

Telemedicine/condition management
While most non-essential doctor visits have been postponed, employees may still need physicians during this time, especially if managing a chronic condition.

If you offer telehealth services through your medical plan, communicate how to access them. If you can reduce or remove copays (which many health plans are already doing), even better.

Urge those managing chronic conditions to continue to follow any protocols they already have in place, or contact their health plan for information on available programs.

Time off and leaves
Do you have generous leave benefits like caregiver leave, sick leave, or personal/family time off? If so, lessen the stress employees may be feeling about having to take time off to care for themselves or a loved one by letting them know they’re covered. Provide clear instructions for how to apply for leave or enter time off in a timekeeping system. Also, if you can, accrue the paid time off that employees may not be able to use in the near future due to travel restrictions.

Health plan benefits
Make sure employees know what the health plans are doing to remove the obstacles to getting necessary care. Most plans are waiving copays and pre-authorization requirements for coronavirus testing and related services (e.g., ER visits), as well as instituting other measures like removing prescription refill limits on maintenance medications. AHIP has compiled a good summary of new health plan provisions.

Financial well-being
Even before the coronavirus hit, many Americans were stressed about finances. And now? Well, it’s hard to find the right words to convey the stress. If you have a financial wellness program in place, it’s time to make sure employees are using it. Also, federal requirements on 401(k) withdrawals and loans are more flexible. Make sure your employees aware of the guidelines your plan is following for coronavirus hardship withdrawals and loans.

Communication Insight
Now more than ever, clear and open communication with employees is critical. We’ve been helping clients communicate with their employees in both good and bad times for over two decades. If you need an extra set of hands to make sure your employees know about the resources in your “benefits pantry,” let us know. We’re here to help. Contact us.