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The Employee Benefits Outlook Post COVID-19

How the pandemic has affected employee benefit trends and expectations in the hospitality industry.

To say that the last year has been a tough time for restaurants would be a massive understatement. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit no industry harder than the hospitality space, which has been on a grueling rollercoaster of lockdowns, reopenings, and more lockdowns.

Due to spikes in cases over the 2020 holiday season, many states across the U.S. were forced to reduce capacity yet again. From November 2020 to January 2021, the restaurant industry lost nearly 450,000 jobs, representing about 10 percent of the total jobs recovered during the first six months after the initial spring shutdowns, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Despite these hardships, there are many signs of the industry’s long-standing resiliency. In fact, the Annual 2020 Yelp Economic Average report shows that 18,207 new restaurants and food businesses opened nationwide in Q4 2020, down only 4 percent from Q4 2019. These encouraging signs show that it’s not a question of if the restaurant and hospitality sector will recover, but rather when.

Restaurant owners and employees are working incredibly hard to maintain operations while the industry waits for much-needed help from the federal government and for things to eventually get back to normal. In the meantime, it’s important for owners and operators to do right by their employees in order to retain them — that means safe work environments, compassionate management, and enticing employee benefits. In this article, we’ll look at a few of the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has affected employee benefit trends and expectations so hospitality businesses can stay competitive in this tough environment and thrive when businesses finally resume regular operations.

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1. Support Employees Getting COVID-19 Vaccinations

Unlike much of America’s workforce, hospitality workers haven’t had the luxury of remote work during the pandemic. But with COVID-19 vaccinations finally available and starting to be distributed to the public, it will be vital for restaurant owners and operators to encourage and support employees getting vaccinated. As of March 2020, restaurant workers are eligible to be vaccinated in some but not all states. Owners and upper management should keep track of their respective states’ vaccine distribution guidelines so that hourly workers can register for vaccinations as soon as they become available.

Restaurant and hospitality workers have been and remain on the front lines of this pandemic, regularly coming into contact with patrons who may or may not be exercising the proper amount of caution. Your team is your business’s most important asset, and their safety should be paramount. Therefore, think about what steps you’ll take to convince and help employees get their vaccinations when they’re eligible.

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2. Mental Health Will Be an Ongoing Concern

If you have a pulse, you probably have pandemic fatigue. This has been a stressful time for everyone — but it’s been particularly stressful for hospitality workers. In addition to the constant uncertainty around whether they’ll be able to make a living, these hourly employees are also regularly at risk of exposure to the virus during work hours. Mask requirements, distanced tables, and decreased capacity do make the workplace safer, but that doesn’t necessarily make the work less stressful.

Employees have admitted to regularly holding their breath when serving tables, and that’s even when customers are behaving themselves. Too often, hospitality workers have to deal with customers getting upset about the mask requirements, and while many can laugh off these interactions, they still take their toll. Employee mental health has been a growing concern over the course of the pandemic, and owners can expect it to remain a concern in the months to come.

Research shows that during the pandemic, more than 40 percent of adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, up from 11 percent of adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019. Furthermore, a survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans showed that 63 percent of participating organizations reported an increase in mental health care insurance claims. Your employees are the lifeblood of your business and need to be supported throughout these very difficult times. For this reason, you should evaluate your benefits offerings and consider adding mental health resources if employees need them.

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3. Consider Affordable Health Care Options

In addition to safety and support considerations, the availability of affordable employee health insurance could be a huge factor for both retention and recruitment in a post-pandemic world. Employee expectations are bound to shift after this unprecedented period in our history, and health care options will set your business apart from the competition when it comes time to recruiting new talent — and hanging onto your existing team. Fortunately, with a human resources and employee benefits partner like Fourth, it’s possible for hospitality businesses of all sizes to access affordable group health plans within their budgets.

Competitive Employee Benefits that Will Lower Costs

It’s been a tumultuous time for hospitality workers, but signs of hope are beginning to appear. People are getting vaccinated, states are starting to open, and relief is on the way. So, what does the future of hospitality work look like post-COVID-19? It will require businesses to be compassionate, supportive, innovative, and flexible. The industry is rearing to get back to work, and with a partner like Fourth, owners and operators can rest assured that their employees will be taken care of.

Our benefits programs are affordable and specially designed for hospitality businesses. We take the time to understand your needs and the types of plans that would be most beneficial for your workforce. From group medical insurance to comprehensive benefits administration, we’ll handle the wellbeing of your team while you direct all of your focus to revenue-generating opportunities.

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