How workplace benefits evolve during the pandemic

Health and wellness supports have become key benefits offered by employers as employees face a variety of stresses at home and at work, especially during the pandemic.

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Health and wellness supports have become key benefits offered by employers as employees face a variety of stresses at home and at work, especially during the pandemic.

The people of Kudos have been busy lately.

The Calgary-based technology company helps clients solve culture issues at the heart of organizations – a particular challenge amid a larger and ongoing hub in the world of work.

“We are moving towards a digitally-driven or hybrid work environment,” said Muni Boga, CEO of the company.


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This raises questions about how a thriving culture – something employers tend to brag about – can be built alongside a reorganization in the COVID era where millions of people do their jobs.

“[It’s] getting people to be like, “Well, how do we create a culture online? Said Boga, whose company doubled its workforce this year as demand for its services increased.

Employers and experts alike say the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted businesses to focus on the challenges this changing landscape poses to them and what they need to do to retain their workforce.

For some, this effort is about delivering key benefits to their employees – including mental health and wellness supports and enabling more flexible work arrangements – as they navigate this difficult time.

A change in progress

Steve Knox, a Toronto executive at human resources firm Ceridian, says employers are taking a different direction when it comes to benefits than they were in the recent past.

“A few years ago the perks were the ping-pong table, the foosball table and the free lunch,” said Knox, vice president of global talent acquisition at Ceridian.

“There has been a big shift from that towards more care for employees, their mental well-being. [and] how you take care of them, ”he said.

Examples of this trend include employers offering workers extra time off or health and wellness advisory seminars, Knox said.

Jing Wang, associate professor at York University’s School of Human Resources Management in Toronto, said these issues have been of interest to both employees and employers for some time, but the pandemic has underscored their relevance.

“Even before the pandemic, I think the trends had started,” Wang said, referring to the increased emphasis employers are placing on health and wellness benefits.

Knox agrees: “They were there before, [but] they’ve been sped up. “

Hayden Woodley, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Ivey Business School at Western University in London, Ont., Considers the pandemic to have highlighted “how many people were barely hanging on” before COVID arrived. 19.

And while that may have put the consideration of health – and in particular mental health – in the spotlight right now, “it’s not something we didn’t already know.”

Salaries, of course, remain a key component of employee compensation, regardless of the benefits offered to them.

A recent online survey – conducted for recruiting firm Robert Half over a one-month period – spoke to 500 randomly selected senior executives with at least 20 Canadian employees and found that 90 percent of companies surveyed would offer salary increases to employees within the next six months to tackle various factors including the increased cost of living.

It is difficult to accurately calculate a margin of error for methodologies with online surveys. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of the same size would give a margin of error of plus or minus four percent, 19 times out of 20.

Make adjustments

Like all businesses, mobile game developer Square Enix Montreal has had to adapt to the circumstances of the pandemic.

This included offering its workers various forms of support, such as money to set up their home office, increased insurance coverage for mental health services, and an extra day off every two weeks.

“We call it Magic Mondays,” Nedjma Belbahri, the company’s communications director, said in an interview last month, explaining the story behind the extra leave.

“It was started during the pandemic, and it just became a permanent benefit.”

Five provinces away, Burnaby, B.C.-based Traction on Demand, a Salesforce consulting partner and application development company, has made its own changes in the pandemic era.

Part of that has been a shift towards greater flexibility over where its employees do their jobs.

“We had a lot of people asking that they could… go and work somewhere else for a month at a time or whatever, so we kind of opened that up,” said Megumi Mizuno, head of the company. Staff.

The no. 1 advantage?

Companies like Traction on Demand recognize that they need to hang on to their talent, especially at a time when their staff might be doing their jobs outside the office for someone else.

“What we are finding is that the only thing people seem to be able to control during this pandemic is where they work,” Mizuno said.

Ceridian’s Knox said it is likely to be a lasting demand from workers and possibly “benefit # 1” offered by employers.

“Employees are really expecting it now,” he said, noting that employers are now scrambling to make this happen in the long term.

More generally, Woodley of Western University says he’s wondering if employers could face consequences from their employees if the benefits offered during the pandemic are then withdrawn.

“What happens when the pandemic finally ends? Are you removing those benefits then, or are you going to maintain them? ” he said.

Stress, support and burnout

When employees don’t have the support they need, they can choose to change course.

For Alicia Hartt, a registered practical nurse in Saint John, a combination of stress and a need for more support prompted her to quit a job she otherwise loved.

When the pandemic was declared in March 2020, Hartt was working in a hospital, treating various patients.

The work was rewarding but also taxing, as was the pressure to say yes to frequent calls for extra shifts.

Then there were the challenges of finding childcare while working a job with variable hours.

In the end, it all added up.

“My doctor told me I had burned out,” said Hartt, who quit her job and now works alone, helping provide foot care to clients outside of a hospital setting.

Burnout is something employers pay attention to, but it’s not necessarily an easy problem to solve.

Ceridian’s Knox said it was a long-term problem that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

“Everyone feels like they need to be connected to work 24/7,” he said, noting that people also face family obligations on top of that.

“It’s just the perfect storm where everyone feels completely overwhelmed,” Knox said.

That’s why people are looking for supports to help them get through this, he said.

Maria D. Ervin