The COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to change not only how they work, but how they think about work.

New efficiencies, platforms, and processes sprang from necessity, and many employers – and their employees – permanently reshaped some roles.

One example: According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 in 10 U.S. workers who say they can mostly do their jobs from home were choosing to do so as of February 2022. That’s more than a 150% leap from the 23% who say they frequently worked remotely before COVID.

Those shifting mindsets and workflows are spurring a reevaluation of employer benefits plans and packages. Even before the pandemic, according to a Willis Towers Watson survey, 37% of employees were willing to take better benefits in exchange for lower pay, and only 40% said their health and well-being needs were met by their company’s benefits plans.

So if rethinking benefits plans was warranted pre-COVID, it’s even more justified now.

“Employees want to see cost effectiveness and value in their benefits,” said Jodi Woleslagle, Capital Blue Cross senior vice president of Human Resources. “This is something employers are weighing heavily as they consider their benefits plans moving forward.”

Businesses have a unique ability to help, both by openly encouraging employees to discuss and treat mental health issues and by offering benefits that help them do that.

Three considerations

1. Preventive care: Emphasizing to employees the vital role of preventive care, which many may have postponed or skipped during the pandemic, can help achieve better health that helps lower employers’ long-term healthcare costs. Routine exams and screenings, which dipped dramatically in the pandemic, are primary parts of preventive care.

Quality healthcare coverage that emphasizes preventive care is critical. Capital Blue Cross covers a variety of preventive services – from annual checkups to necessary vaccinations and screenings – for many of its employer group customers.

2. Behavioral health: Behavioral health issues soared during the pandemic, so it makes sense that concern for employees’ mental health has soared alongside it.

According to a recent Blue Cross Blue Shield Health of America Report, 6 of millennials’ top 10 health conditions are connected to behavioral health. Given Gallup’s finding that millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) comprised roughly half the work force in 2020 and are expected to account for 75% of it by 2025, that’s a big deal for employers.

So is the fact that about a fifth of the workforce has a diagnosable behavioral health condition, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

It all takes a toll on the bottom line: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that depression leads to 200 million lost workdays a year, costing U.S. employers a whopping $17 billion to $44 billion.

But businesses have a unique ability to help, both by openly encouraging employees to discuss and treat mental health issues and by offering benefits that help them do that. Capital Blue Cross is among such employers. Capital unveiled a behavioral health toolkit for employer group customers in the past year, and also offers Neuroflow, a mobile app that helps users improve their mental wellness, to many members.

3. Telehealth: Most employer-provided health plans now include some sort of telehealth coverage. If your employees didn’t use or want telehealth options before, they probably do now.

Available telehealth benefits help both the employer and employee, making certain sorts of visits more convenient, reducing absenteeism, and improving long-term health while reducing costs.

Capital Blue Cross’ VirtualCare app, included with most of its coverage plans, offers everything from well visits to prescriptions to child sick visits at the member’s convenience.

“The pandemic and the economy has redefined many households,” Woleslagle said. “To move with those shifts, employers are reviewing their benefits offerings.”