As we continue to transition through the current pandemic uncertainty,-“why” is arguably more important than the “what” or “how” when it comes to workplace benefits and reward.
Employee Benefits

Increasingly, employees are looking for employers to set a positive example in areas such as sustainability, mental health and equality. With The unrelenting stream of negative news and growing anxiety over what information to trust, mental health is becoming a growing concern.

The saying goes “money can’t make you happy”. And there is a lot of truth in that statement… Money can’t buy you out of lockdown isolation. Charity, kindness and human connection are the things that are going to see us through the foreseeable future as we look to each other for the energy and motivation.

We spend approximately a third of our lives at work. It therefore stands to reason that in order for us to thrive and flourish, both professionally and personally, the concepts of humanity and empathy in the workplace need to be more deeply explored. So how can employers do this?

Destigmatising mental health is one of the most effective ways organisations can encourage a human-centric culture

Nothing gives us more reassurance and confidence than the knowledge that we aren’t alone. A sense of belonging and community is one a basic and fundamental human need. One of the most encouraging and rewarding things we can do in the workplace is to introduce programmes and strategies which completely destigmatise issues such as anxiety, fear, imposter syndrome, depression and any other mental health issues.

But it’s not just about leaders fronting up about their struggles. It’s about proactive signposting, supportive policies and robust processes that demonstrate to our people that they won’t be labelled, judged or professionally impacted by opening up about the issues they are facing.

Setting up discussion groups and forums, having a wellbeing-led approach to people management and prioritising spend on mental wellbeing resources are just some of the ways for organisations to set a more human-centric culture.

Broader communities and networks must be kept alive in order to retain human connection amongst colleagues.

Team coffee breaks are a fantastic option to lighten the tone for team interactions. For those who work in isolation such as external consultants or project support professionals, and teams operating virtually across multiple time zones, it’s important to create access to group events at work to close the proximity gap.

While the netball club, choir, running club or lunch club may have been temporarily put on hold, are you doing enough to ensure your internal networks and communities are still connecting? Faith, activity, minority group and shared interest networks are an invaluable way of connecting people across your organisation outside of their day-to-day team interactions. Pay extra attention to these groups and ensure you include them in your communications and engagement strategies.

A focus on sustainability and the environment could soon be the predominant talent driver

According to the Gallagher 2020 Benefits Strategy and Benchmarking Survey, organisations across the world are stepping up their efforts in reducing the impact that their business operations have on the environment and we are seeing an increasing number of organisations implementing environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies which touch the full range of business policies.

Whether it be the default company pension scheme, ESG guidelines being applied to supply chains or encouraging employees to participate in commuter clubs, bikes or eco-friendly car offerings – all of these are being keenly observed by the UK workforce population. A positive note is the proportion of employers funding company cars having decreased from 61% to 47%.

Not only has the lockdown reduced pollution levels, a deeper interest and commitment to environmental sustainability is a clearly defined trait of millennials and generation Z who will form the workforce of the future. It is to be expected that organisations who do not openly commit to these causes, in actions as well as words, will suffer when it comes to both attracting, and retaining talent.

Benefits are no longer just “benefits”

Our report shows a number of different ways that employers are responding to the COVID situation

  • More emphasis on health and wellbeing benefits – 1 in 3 of those planning changes are looking at a virtual doctors service, PMI is being extended to more employee groups. These benefits are seen as a solid investment in employees wellbeing
  • Thinking differently about how holiday can be carried forward as employees have been unable to have their usual annual breaks

Additionally, we strongly encourage organisations to look beyond the “traditional” benefits of healthcare, holiday and pensions.

Consider the wider definition of what constitutes an employee ‘benefit’, and redefine what this means for your people including how benefits are packaged together. In recent years we’ve seen the intersection between benefits and the employee value proposition become blurred. Organisations now want to show their employees ’how working here will improve your life at work and at home, and help you to thrive, grow and achieve”. Putting together a more holistic benefits and rewards package requires out of the box thinking, and deeper thought about what your organisation considers “benefits” to be.

Flexible working – how will it work in the longer term in terms of keeping people connected

There has been a lot of innovation, both technology and human-centred design led, to keep colleagues connected during a prolonged period of remote working, and communication channels have adapted to support this. Our survey reports that 1 in 2 organisations are looking to improve their digital communication channels in response to COVID, despite the fact that 81% either don’t have a communications budget or don’t know if one exists.

Much has been written about flexible working practices – our report shows that this remains high on the people agenda, along with broader agile working policies. Businesses who want to futureproof themselves against the effects of fatigue, stress and loss of talent will need to prioritise building out their working policies to ensure that people feel supported to achieve the home/work balance that they need to thrive.

However it is achieved, there is mounting evidence to indicate that people are increasingly responding to initiatives that drive and celebrate human-centric values and behaviours. One thing our economy needs now is stability. The businesses that will survive and thrive going forward will be the ones that recognise and embrace this within their people agenda and supporting rewards & benefits strategy.