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Perks of Telework: Virus Stokes Employee Interest in Benefits

May 15, 2020, 10:00 AM

Time for Perks of Telework, our revamped recap of intriguing data, surveys, and trends about how the 21st century workplace is weathering the new coronavirus. Check this space every Friday to keep up with the latest coping with Covid-19 chatter.

Inquiring Minds

The pandemic is sowing uncertainty about everything.

Who’s in charge? Can it be stopped? Will things ever get back to normal?

It also has staff wondering about making the most of their work-related benefits.

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans polled nearly 800 benefits professionals about the questions they’re fielding from freaked out workers.

During quarantine HR departments have, understandably, spent more time discussing health-related issues.

Over half of the respondents (54%) said staff have asked about paid leave, inquiring specifically about policy changes included in the string of virus relief bills Congress has cranked out in recent weeks. Fifty-three percent reported heightened interest in health-care coverage in general.

Over a quarter of respondents (27%) said they’ve filled in some blanks about dealing with mental health.

And one in five (22%) said employees have posed questions about prescription drugs.

Lesser ranking concerns included access to medical advice lines (8%), 401(k) contributions (7.3%), and professional development opportunities (6.4%).

Breaking Sad

The Society for Human Resource Management surveyed 1,100 employees about how things are going with telework.

Quarantine nation desperately needs a pick-me-up.

Forty-five percent of respondents reported feeling emotionally drained by work. Forty-four percent said they’re “used up” at the end of each day. And 41% said they’re “burned out” from the daily grind.

That exhaustion, coupled with mounting depression, is destroying everything from dietary habits—38% of respondents said they’ve been eating more salty snacks, while 40% reported binging on sugary treats—to self-confidence. Nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) said they feel like “a failure who has let themselves or their family down.”

Less than one in 10 (7%) said they’ve contacted a mental health professional to help them through these trying times.

Private Eyes

The return-to-work movement is still feeling its way.

But there seems to be consensus among employers that recalling quarantined staff will require significant changes around the office.

Advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers quizzed nearly 1,200 employees about reopening workplaces while the health-care crisis continues.

While they generally support routine testing and the use of protective gear, respondents remain wary of giving Big Brother too much power.

When it comes to contact tracing, nearly a third (31%) pushed back against having to download a mobile app that “tracks my location and proximity to people who’ve been infected.” Another 31% opposed donning any wearable tech that collects virus-related data.

Nearly a quarter (23%) expressed concern about going about their 9-to-5 under the watchful eye of workplace cameras recording potential breaches of health and safety protocols. And 23% had a problem with submitting to mandatory temperature checks before being allowed inside.

“Workers want to be safe. They don’t want to get sick. But they have reservations about tracing tools,” PwC analysts wrote.

Hungry for more? Send any tips, polls, or story pitches to wrojas@bloomberglaw.com.

To contact the reporter on this story: Warren Rojas in Washington at wrojas@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com; Brent Bierman at bbierman@bloomberglaw.com

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