In December 2019, few could have predicted what 2020 would bring in terms of the coronavirus crisis and how it would affect the workplace. We head into 2021 in a similarly precarious position. There are things that will occur in the next 12 months, things we cannot possibly anticipate. However, it does appear that employee health will be a top priority for companies in 2021.
Employee health has long been a priority – at least to the degree that companies offer their workers health insurance and mental health benefits. But the topic has become much more personal as a result of coronavirus. Employee health is no longer a matter of benefits alone. Employers now find themselves in a position of having to actively participate in maintaining employee health.
In light of this new paradigm, we expect to see employers develop key strategies to help their employees stay healthy over the next year. Here are just a few of them:
1. On-Site Coronavirus Testing
We cannot ignore that much of this new emphasis on employee health is the direct result of the coronavirus crisis. Simply put, people are scared of contracting the virus and either becoming seriously ill or dying from it. They want any peace of mind they can get. On-site coronavirus testing can provide some of that peace.
Expect to see more employers offering on-site testing in the coming year. Healthcare employers are already doing it out of necessity. Many other industries are sure to follow in the coming months.
2. Workplace Mask Mandates
Hand-in-hand with on-site testing are mask mandates. Many states have mandates in place, mandates that apply to workplaces just as they do public gathering spaces. But even in those states without mandates, employers are establishing their own mandates to keep workers safe.
3. More Liberal Sick Policies
Prior to the coronavirus crisis, employers were not necessarily in favor of workers staying home for every sniffle and cough. We expect that this has changed. We expect companies to develop more liberal sick policies that not only allow workers to stay home with minor symptoms, but actually encourage it. Employers do not want the liability that comes with encouraging sick workers to come to work anyway.
Whether this translates into more liberal paid time off policies remains to be seen. Some employers may offer their workers more paid sick days to encourage them to stay home. Others may require sick employees stay away without paying them for the time.
4. More Inclusive Health Insurance Policies
One of the biggest changes we expect to see in 2021 is the widespread adoption of more inclusive health insurance policies. We expect policies to cover coronavirus testing, future vaccinations, and any care directly related to treating a COVID-19 infection.
2021 should be the year that health insurance companies go all-in on telemedicine as well. Telemedicine became a necessity at the height of the coronavirus crisis over the summer. With the second wave now upon us, it is highly unlikely that we will ever roll back the telehealth initiatives that have been established since March 2020. Health insurance companies will have no choice but to cover telehealth services.
As we turn the calendar from 2020 to 2021, businesses are finding themselves in the awkward position of having to be personal health advocates. Most will invest at least some resources in helping their employees stay healthy even as they try to serve their customers. It will be no easy task, that's for sure. Hopefully this will all be a distant memory by the end of 2021.