While we may have struggled initially, we eventually found our work-from-home stride. However, as bans are lifted and the workforce starts to trickle back into the office, we find ourselves once again needing to evaluate previous office procedures in order to implement a return-to-work plan that accounts for both the physical and mental health of returning employees.
Whether your return-to-work plan is already in place or you are still working to refine your procedures, it is particularly important to remember that the return to the office will need to be assessed from a health care vantage:
- What steps should employees take if they experience symptoms or have other health concerns?
- What should employees do if they aren’t feeling well but do not want to risk exposure by going to a doctor’s office or emergency room?
- What options are available to employees experiencing mental health challenges as a result of the pandemic or the return to work?
EMBRACING VIRTUAL CARE
Available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, virtual care is a convenient way for employers to provide their workforce with a benefit that connects them with health care experts who can respond to health care concerns and symptoms.
Implementing virtual care as a part of your return-to-work plan can help address the day-to-day health concerns of your employees and arm them with the ability to meet health care concerns head on. However, making virtual care a successful part of your plan requires more than simply investing in the benefit — embracing this benefit as an integral part of sustaining a healthy workforce requires action.
1. Increase awareness. While COVID-19 certainly increased overall awareness of virtual care, a recent J.D. Power pulse survey reported that 54% of consumers indicated that they were not sure whether they had access to a telehealth (virtual care) benefit. That number is a good reminder that while investing in a virtual care benefit for your employees is important, making sure your employees are aware that the benefit is available is paramount.
With that in mind, consider how you communicate with your employees and how you can integrate education about this benefit into your communications ― promoting it is the key. Reach out to your broker or virtual care provider for materials to help elevate awareness of the benefit.
2. Empower employees. Part of the beauty of implementing a virtual care benefit is the ability to empower employees to take control of their health, both physical and mental. Day or night, virtual care allows an individual to get in contact with a health care professional who can respond to symptoms and provide guidance for next steps. Knowing that a doctor is just a phone call or online chat away allows an employee to take care of mild symptoms as they arise rather than waiting until those symptoms become serious problems.
In addition to physical concerns caused by COVID-19, nearly half (47%) of U.S. respondents reported to a recent Teladoc Health study that their mental health had been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While we’ve made great strides over the last few years in our cultural response to mental health treatment, some individuals still feel a stigma regarding mental health needs/visits. Unfortunately, this keeps them from reaching out and receiving needed help. Virtual care provides individuals another option for proactively and privately connecting with the help they need.
3. Remove barriers. Finally, as you embrace the benefits of virtual care for your employees, you may also want to consider eliminating hurdles such as copays and deductibles. When these barriers are removed from a virtual care plan, employees are more apt to utilize the benefit as they notice symptoms or as health care questions arise.