Recent world events have brought the importance of wellbeing in the workplace to light. Trevor Newman looks at how a flexible employee benefits platform can make your people's health a strategic priority.
The COVID-19 situation has been the catalyst that's fuelled a systemic change throughout the workplace. Overnight, many offices had to completely switch to remote and agile working, while employees had to find a way to balance a full-time workload with childcare; all while watching dramatic events unfold on the news.
It's difficult to overestimate the pressure and stress that this has caused your people. Beyond the impact to their work, we have a moral obligation to protect our people and do everything we can to keep them as happy and healthy as possible.
Traditionally, employee benefits have been just a financial reward, but a new approach can see flexible employee benefits support your people through whatever the world has to throw at them. The key is choosing the right benefits and offering them in the right way.
Employee benefits as a strategic priority
Employee wellbeing, particularly mental health, has been creeping up the corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda for some time now. Yet, progress had been slow and piecemeal, at best.
Some have risen to the challenge and created innovative employee benefits schemes by gamifying employee health. For example, many firms have used pedometers to challenge employees to hit step targets and earn rewards for light exercise.
Nevertheless, HR teams looking to further invest in employee wellbeing have struggled to compete with other business needs and gain board-level buy-in. The events of 2020 changed all of that, with flexible and agile workplaces becoming the norm and firms focusing on supporting their people through events no-one was prepared for.
Now, boards are turning to HR teams to keep their people happy and productive through lockdown, and maintain company culture remotely. HR's role as a strategic advisor and employee benefits, specifically, have never been more important.
Your people's financial wellbeing
We know that the economy will feel the impact of coronavirus for a long time to come. What may be less obvious, however, is the effect on your people's financial resilience.
Before 2020, data showed that 40% of UK employees would struggle to meet an unexpected bill of £500, while almost 70% would struggle to pay £1,500 without warning. A recent Bank of England survey, however, showed that lockdown had drained the savings of 16% of higher-income households, 19% of middle income homes and 24% of low-income. Of furloughed employees, 35% had seen their savings reduced.
All this will fuel greater anxiety and stress, which will harm employee productivity and increase absence and demotivation; not to mention, creating an unhappy workplace.
So what is the solution?
The importance of flexibility in employee benefits
Flexible benefits may seem like a nice-to-have option that offers discounted gym memberships, dining and retail savings but little else. Done correctly, however, a flexible employee benefits platform can offer support to your people when they need it the most.
From childcare vouchers to private medical care, flexible employee benefits can reward your employees on more than just a financial level, supporting them in their daily lives, reducing anxiety and leaving them free to be their most productive at work.
Not to mention, your people's choice of employee benefits can give you real-time data on your team's values and priorities both in work and outside. This lets you prioritise your spending on reward packages that attract and retain top talent.