President Joe Biden gave his State of the Union address on March 1, where he noted the country’s status is strong “because you, the American people, are strong.” Throughout the speech, he identified initiatives aimed at investing in America, like the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and his planned efforts to increase American manufacturing.
For workplace wellness, there were four big takeaways to consider:
1. Steps to continue addressing COVID-19 safely.
While the president reiterated vaccination remains a priority, he introduced the “Test to Treat” initiative, where people can get tested at a pharmacy and receive an antiviral pill, like the Pfizer pill, on the spot at no cost. Additionally, a second round of free home tests will be available starting next week.
These announcements come as many businesses consider their return-to-office plans. More readily available testing and treatment options may provide peace of mind, especially for those reticent to have a vaccination mandate. Having a “treatment” for COVID-19 makes any potential future waves seem more manageable.
2. The cost of child care as a tool to fight inflation.
In his four-step plan to fight inflation, President Biden identified the costs of child care as a financial strain on many families. He also proposed expanding support for home care and long-term care for ill family members, as well as Pre-K for every 3- and 4-year-old.
The stress of finding affordable child care on families during the pandemic has been high. While many organizations have begun tackling this issue with employee benefits such as child care stipends or on-site daycare centers, more assistance for working parents may help those who left the workforce to handle caregiving return sooner.
3. Emphasis on mental health support.
The president also proposed a “Unity Agenda for the Nation” with four items, one of which is taking on mental health. While there were some specific recommendations around getting mental health support for children, President Biden did not say much about what getting “all Americans the mental health services they need” entails.
Employee mental health tools, resources and supports have been a top priority for many organizations. It will be interesting to see what it means for the federal government to flag this as a top issue as well.
4. Moving on from Build Back Better bill.
While President Biden did not specifically mention the stalled Build Back Better bill that has failed to pass the U.S Senate, he did call for lawmakers to take up some of its key initiatives, including paid family leave, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and extending the Child Tax Credit.
More businesses have expanded their paid family leave benefits, and as the need to offer competitive benefits grows in this highly competitive job market, employers should be sure to have inclusive offerings to entice workers. Finances also remain a top cause of employee stress, so having financial wellness offerings that can assist employees with preparations to cover a leave, for example, may be beneficial.