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Organizations Struggling to Adapt to New Workplace Trends


Employers are struggling to support employees amid several emerging workplace trends.

This is according to research from Standard Insurance Company, which found that remote work, gig workers, family and elder care and drug addiction continue to challenge organizations.

The Standard’s “Absence and Disability Readiness Index” found that less than half of the 501 employers surveyed were confident in their ability to address such challenges, especially in light of changing workplace trends and employee health needs.

Respondents noted they were having the most trouble addressing the following trends:

  • 38% felt ready to support remote workers;
  • 16% felt ready to address part-time employees and gig workers;
  • 27% felt ready to support family and elder care issues; and
  • 25% felt ready to support drug addiction.

“We often consider only the more immediate needs employees have, such as medical care, which are what traditional benefit plans have primarily been designed to address,” said Dan McMillan, vice president of employee benefits at The Standard. “In reality, employee circumstances and needs are far more complex. Our research suggests there’s an unmet need for all partners who support employee health and productivity to work more closely together.”

The Readiness Index also found that fewer than half of employers surveyed are confident in helping accommodate employees with chronic health problems involving mental health and musculoskeletal conditions, even though half of those surveyed receive requests to do so annually.

“HR managers are constantly juggling long-term planning with daily program oversight and responding to urgent requests which can leave little time to assess and respond to employee health trends affecting the leave and disability space,” said Melissa Oliver-Janiak, HR director of benefits at The Standard. “At the same time, understanding and addressing these trends is important for the health of both employees and the organizations they support.”

Having programs in place that support both absence and disability needs can help with accommodations and have a positive effect on employee engagement. Of employers with formal programs, 32% averaged better employee productivity, 36% saw higher workplace morale and 40% reported improved employee retention.

Proactively addressing these employee needs tends to outweigh the costs. Nearly 70% of HR decision-makers at large companies and one-third at small companies said they’ve experienced complaints or lawsuits related to their disability management practices.

Overwhelmingly, 92% of all respondents said that formal employee disability programs had helped control costs and reduced exposure to risk.

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