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The topic of discussion for our webinar is the ever-evolving workforce and how the pandemic has impacted employee health benefits. We have come to understand that a one-size-fits-all approach to health care is not effective, as each employee has unique needs based on factors such as lifestyle, medical history, and support systems. To address this, we need to shift from traditional benefits plans to a digital-first approach that offers greater flexibility and accessibility to employees, regardless of their location. The goal of this shift is to not only improve the company's revenue but also retain its most valuable asset: its employees.
Given the past three years of the pandemic, it's important to reflect on how life was before the pandemic, how health benefits were structured, and how they have changed over time.
Amar Salvi (SVP HR & Training, Anunta Tech) shares his opinion:
My journey has been personal, as I myself have gone through and witnessed the effects of COVID-19. Two years ago, when COVID first hit, there was widespread panic and disbelief about the virus - that it could happen to anyone in India. However, as the virus spread, it became clear that it was affecting everyone, including our company's workforce, spread across different locations. Some employees had to relocate and work from remote villages.
During this time, it was important to assure employees that the company was there for them and doing everything within its means to support them. A medical response team was created to help employees with guidance, support, and access to healthcare services. Anunta Tech also partnered with ekincare to provide 24/7 support through a helpline.
Over the past two years, health and wellness have become more mainstream and a key part of what employees expect from their employers. Anunta Tech has taken steps to promote health and wellness, such as offering vaccinations and Annual Health Checkups. I believe that this trend is not just a passing fad, but is here to stay and become a part of daily conversations in the corporate world.
Rishu Garg (Chief People Officer, Zivame) shares her thoughts:
I completely agree with what Amar said. Health has taken the forefront in recent times and it's a strategic decision that all organizations are making. A lot has changed, especially with the rise of a distributed hybrid workforce. People now expect organizations to meet them where they are, not just in location but in time too. Organizations are now thinking about making health good, flexible, and personalized for everyone. There is a basic plan for everyone, but there are also options for people to choose based on their needs. Every organization, big or small, is making employee health a strategic priority and set goals for it.
As for me, I was not a big fan of telehealth back in 2019, but the pandemic changed everything. I remember having to work on a laptop for 20 hours a day, and my eyes gave up, but I couldn't go to a doctor. That's when telehealth came in handy. Now, I not only use it for small ailments but also for second opinions and clarifying health issues that I may not have gone to a hospital for. These small services have made life much easier. A lot has changed in the last 20 years and organizations now see investing in health care as a long-term goal, something they want to achieve small milestones in every year.
Rishu Garg says:
How do I plan for long-term health goals for my diverse workforce, considering yearly plans and five-year plans based on benefits to be given? It's a mix of both. I have a long-term goal, a five-year plan for health & overall people strategy, and then I focus on what I can do this quarter and this year.
My goals are co-created with my employees by considering what they value the most. As the business returns to normal, I plan on investing more in this area, and the final goal is to prioritize what my employees value and where I see the organization in the next few years for our healthcare plan.
Amar Salvi adds:
I would like to expand on what was mentioned earlier. We all went through various experiences during the pandemic, whether it was with our immediate family or someone else. We realized the toll it took not just physically, but mentally on our employees. To tackle this, we started with creating a platform where employees could come together online and share their experiences, support each other, and focus on mental wellness.
To further improve our employees' mental wellness, we started the "Clubs" initiative, where employees with similar hobbies can come together and interact with each other. For example, I lead the Parent Club, and there are others who lead the Carom Club or the Chess Club. This has helped remote workers connect now that they are back in the office. We recently launched the second season of our "Get Fit Challenge," where cross-functional teams come together and set their fitness goals based on their health checkup.
Our goal is to take it one year at a time, rather than planning for three to five years ahead. This has helped us tremendously.
Rishu Garg adds to Amar Salvi's point:
I fully agree. I realized that having a supportive community is crucial, as it's not just about having a lot of resources or money. When you have clear priorities and goals, such as prioritizing a healthy workforce and taking care of both your physical and mental health, then you can find ways to achieve them.
This is a major focus area for me as well.
Amar Salvi's perspective:
As a company, we are approaching things differently for those employees who work remotely and those who work in the office. Our goal is to provide the same services and opportunities for both groups. For example, in terms of engagement activities, if there is something happening in the office, it will be streamed live so that remote employees can participate as well.
We make sure that everyone is involved, regardless of their location. In terms of healthcare, we have annual health checkups, and since 35% of our workforce is still working remotely, we have partnered with local providers to conduct tests at their homes, unless it requires them to come to a center. On the other hand, in cities where we have offices, such as Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai, health checkups are conducted at our offices by our partners.
Our focus as a team is to ensure that there is no discrimination between employees who work remotely and those who work in the office.
Rishu Garg shares her views:
As for Zivame's healthcare plan, we divide it into two parts - preventive and reactive. For preventive care, we prioritize things like health checkups and regular health assessments to stay ahead of any health issues. To make sure everyone has access to this care, we reach out to all employees regardless of their location and offer opportunities for virtual or physical engagement activities.
In terms of reactive care, we carefully choose partners who can provide the best care and support to employees in case of emergencies. This has become even more important due to the increased frequency of unplanned hospitalizations. We want employees to focus on getting better without worrying about the cost of care. The availability and quality of healthcare access are critical factors to consider during these moments.
Amar Salvi shares his thoughts:
I don't think so. I believe it has become a part of our daily routine now. The groups that have formed and the WhatsApp groups, such as our medical response teams, have become a permanent fixture in each of our locations. Now, when someone falls sick, it is posted in real-time on the group and all the leaders are marked. This way, everybody jumps in to offer their help.
This has become a regular routine and employees not only appreciate but expect this kind of support from their employers. It's no longer just about being the best place to work, but rather an expectation that every employer should fulfill by taking care of their colleagues. It goes beyond just a salary and is now an integral part of the employer's responsibilities.
Rishu Garg opines:
I think it is very, very important.
I believe that having a comprehensive health insurance plan is crucial. From my personal experience, I remember increasing my personal insurance policy at the start of the pandemic in September, as my husband and I were caring for our bedridden loved one. At that time, we had two non-COVID-related incidents in our family and we were not worried about the financial aspect, thanks to our insurance coverage. I want employees to have the same peace of mind and not have to worry about financial burdens in case of emergencies.
I think it's important for organizations to understand the life cycles of their employees and offer them a basic insurance plan, but also give them the flexibility to increase it based on their changing circumstances, like getting married, having children, or taking care of aging parents.
The ability to have a flexible insurance plan, with options to extend coverage or access health check-ups and preventive care at the employees' preferred location, adds to the comfort and peace of mind that an insurance plan can provide. In my opinion, flexibility is a huge consideration for many organizations today.
Amar Salvi shares his views on the matter:
As I mentioned earlier, we are providing a lot of services on-site as well as making sure they are available to remote locations through our partners. We have started ergonomic sessions, including those for people who are working from home. These sessions help people become more aware of their posture and habits while working, since working from home can often result in prolonged periods of sitting without breaks. We have also organized sessions with dieticians, which have been well-received by those on-site.
One change I've noticed is that when people are being hired, they are now more concerned about their insurance plans and medical insurance. They are inquiring about the possibility of adding family members to their insurance plans and are willing to pay extra for this flexibility. I believe this change has come about as a result of the pandemic, and people have become more motivated to be healthy.
I personally have seen a major shift in lifestyle changes, with people becoming more aware of their health and fitness. I have friends who are now running marathons, and many are adopting a healthier lifestyle. This shift towards health and wellness is a paradigm shift, and I think it's great to see people becoming more conscious of their well-being for themselves and their families.
Rishu Garg shares her perspective:
There are 3 things I would suggest.
Employers are now taking health seriously, with larger communities seeking impact beyond just the employees themselves. By including everyone in the planning process, we can create a supportive community that motivates each other to achieve our goals.
Amar Salvi shares his thoughts:
I completely agree with what Rishu said. One thing that has really helped us is focusing on communication. We started by making sure that employees are informed about the latest in health awareness, and it expanded to cover other topics as well. This has really helped employees connect with the CEO and the company.
It's important to involve employees in initiatives, but also to continuously communicate with them about what the organization is doing and why. It's not just about the organization, it's about all of us being on this journey together, working for our families and making them our priority.
The pre-pandemic corporate world doesn't exist anymore, the paradigm has shifted permanently and companies are adjusting to this new world. This is good news for employees and colleagues.
That brings us to the end of the conversation, with many key takeaways to think about the need for flexible health plans for evolving workforces and companies across the world.
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