3 ways technology can help employers manage COVID-19 and address the great resignation

How employee experiences with technology can influence the future of work

By | 4 minute read | January 24, 2022

Masked employees in an office sitting at their workstations

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything, including employee engagement. Employers are scrambling to address record-high levels of people quitting for a different work environment, improved work-life balance and remote work opportunities,1 fueling what is known to Americans as “the great resignation.” In fact, resignation rates have been highest for those in technology, science, and healthcare industries.2 Many employers are seeking employee retention strategies to fight burnout and help improve the employee experience.  And existing employees are expecting more from employers now in the recovery phase of the pandemic.

Here are three areas benefits leaders, human resources leaders and COVID-19 task forces can use technology to address the changing needs of the workforce and tackle employee turnover:

1. Provide COVID-19 protocols for safe return to work.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, employers have been wrestling with the best ways to bring American employees back to physical locations. Complicating matters in the U.S. is the Supreme Court’s decision to block a federal mandate that private-sector businesses with 100 or more employees require workers either get the vaccine or get weekly tests.

Other government policies around vaccinations include:

  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requirement that healthcare workers at facilities participating in Medicaid and Medicare are fully vaccinated3
  • A second mandate which is facing legal challenges, which requires federal employees and contractors to be vaccinated4

This leaves vaccination decisions in the hands of employers and can complicate return to workplace plans, posing a challenge to company success. Technology like the IBM Digital Health Pass can serve as a tool for employers looking to verify multiple types of COVID-19 health credentials.

While workers might have varying reactions to vaccine requirements, employee sentiment seemingly leans toward support for vaccines. Findings from several different surveys show:

  • 60% of employees either “approve” or “strongly approve” of workplace policies that ask them to disclose their vaccination status.5
  • 61% of employees respond affirmatively to the statement, “I’d rather work for a company that requires employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 than one that does not.”6
  • 62% of employees believe companies should require workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine before they are permitted to work in the office.7
  • 71% of vaccinated respondents feel comfortable joining a vaccine credentialing system.8

Regardless of the recent Supreme Court ruling, some employers will still require vaccinations. Employers must comply with COVID-19 vaccination rules at the state, local and industry level. They must also maintain individuals’ privacy and comply with related regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Employees will need a compliant, simple, trusted way to share their personal health information with their employers.

Learn more about how employers can create safer workplace health strategies with technology

2. Support mental health in the workplace beyond traditional employee wellness programs.

The pandemic’s upheaval has taken its toll on mental health. A September 2021 IBM Watson Health PULSE® Healthcare Survey found that only 20% of people rate their overall mental well-being as “excellent.” And employers are falling short of employee expectations for wellness programs. For example, an IBM® Institute for Business Value (IBV) report found that fewer than 1 in 5 employees give their employers excellent marks for supporting worker well-being during the pandemic.

Employers can offer an array of programs and services to support well-being and mental health in the workplace by using data and analytics to help design better workplace wellness programs. Online employee surveys can help inform employee engagement and desired company culture.

Learn how Novartis Business Services helped improve efficiencies and delivered better healthcare programs for its employees


Learn how Novartis Business Services helped improve efficiencies and delivered better healthcare programs for its employees

3. Personalize and simplify employee experiences with their health benefits.

In an environment that has become increasingly complex and dynamic, employers can greatly improve employee experiences by making things simpler and more tailored. This is difficult, especially when employers lack demographic tools and sufficient data to understand employee challenges.

Take open enrollment, for example. Emerging from a period of significant change, it’s likely employees will need to re-think their benefit selections during the next open enrollment. For instance, delayed family planning, caring for ill family members or significant medical procedures can affect employees. Giving team members tools to understand their options and incentives to choose benefits that work best for them could increase employee engagement.

Pre-pandemic, Liberty Mutual modernized its benefits experience using IBM Benefits Mentor with Watson® to help inform employees about their options. The company continued to use the tool to help remove ambiguity around benefits education during the pandemic. As a result, they saw an increase in usage from 25% in 2018, to 30% in 2019, and 38% in 2020.

Change is the only constant, especially when it comes to employee expectations during a period of disruption. HR leaders know that improving employee experience is fundamental to business retention efforts. Employers that have a long-term employee engagement strategy to respond to the great resignation and changing trends will be the ones to succeed in the pandemic labor market. Technology can help you achieve that.

See how employee benefits professionals can optimize with data-driven insights

  1. Based on the number of people quitting, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed Nov. 12, 2021 https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.t04.htm
  2. Ian Cook, “Who Is Driving the Great Resignation?” Harvard Business Review. Sept. 15, 2021
  3. https://www.whitehouse.gov
  4. https://www.saferfederalworkforce.gov/faq/vaccinations/
  5. PULSE Health Poll July 2021
  6. Majority of employees want a workplace vaccine mandate: Survey”. Safety and Health Magazine. Dec. 21, 2021
  7. Jillian Smith, “Envoy survey finds employees want companies to embrace hybrid work and mandate COVID vaccines”. March 16, 2021
  8. PULSE Health Poll September 2021