By Claire Gibson, Employee Benefits Consultant
The definition of wellbeing is ‘the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy’.
In the employee benefits arena this used to mean ‘Does an employee have access to a gym discount or EAP programme?’, and often nothing more.
Since 2020, this has moved on dramatically. The world of work is no longer 9-5 in an office. It would be fair to say that for most of us, work is now woven into the fabric of our lives, often having an overlap with our home life. Most of us spent 2020, and much of 2021, sat at our make-shift office at home doing the best we could with the tools and technology available. This led to increased working hours, musculoskeletal issues (due to lack of movement or rather uncomfortable dining room chairs), and concerns about how Coronavirus would affect our business, and ultimately our job.
This leads us to today…
We have a workplace and a workforce that has seen a massive change in the last two years, and now faces increasing costs and mental and physical fatigue. We shouldn’t underestimate how stress in the workplace affects the rest of our lives.
Business costs are rising, as well as employees’ costs of living.
The 2022 recruitment market conditions mean that if employees are unhappy, stressed and feeling unsupported they are likely to be able to gain another job far quicker than in previous years.
Look at what you can do to balance these needs for you and your business
I am encouraging my clients to look at this as a priority. What can they do that can help their employees’ wellbeing, and that of their families?
First look at your employees, their stages in life, their roles and what drives them. If you want to know what works for them, try an employee opinion survey, focussed around wellbeing, to float some of the ideas you are considering.
A sample of ideas for you to consider
Looking at working set-ups at home and in the office
Are they fit for purpose? Could you help employees with an equipment fund if they are working from home more regularly? Or perhaps focus on the musculoskeletal offerings from your current insurers?
Getting away from your desk
Look at encouraging employees to take breaks, offer yoga sessions or walking challenges, or even implement a ‘no-email hour’ once a week. If you can, how about a company-wide ‘thank you day’ where everyone gets a few extra hours off to spend with their loved ones?
It has been a stressful couple of years. Employees are now starting to show this and are appearing fatigued. Advertise your Employee Assistance Programme, upskill your managers to spot the signs of mental health issues, and consider celebrating Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May) by having a mindfulness week.
If you have benefits that include mental health support, contact the provider and see what services they can offer for you and your employees. Also consider bereavement support - many of us have lost loved ones due to the Coronavirus and may still be struggling with grief.
The cost of living has increased dramatically this year, and salaries have not increased at the same rate. Your first thought is probably that company-wide salary increases are out of the picture, but have you considered helping your employees understand their spending and do it wisely? Why not give them access to services that help them manage their budget or get a better mortgage deal (such as a webinar) or provide access to a discount site to offer cheaper everyday purchases and services such as broadband or utilities. These do come at a cost, but it will be far cheaper than giving all employees a pay rise!
Many employees may be preoccupied by the various issues facing the world at the moment. Do you have community initiatives or charity days to encourage employees to both take a break and take positive action for charities at the same time?
So many social events have passed that we have been unable to enjoy due to Covid. Why not set up a social committee to create events throughout the year to engage different parties? I remember in one of my first roles, all employees with children were invited to a Christmas party, fully-funded by the organisation, where the kids met Santa and received a little gift. It was a great social event for the employees and gave the children a new experience!
Craft your long-term employee wellbeing journey
Once you have some feedback, start to craft a journey of wellbeing. It is not a one-off tick box exercise, and I believe will become a bigger and bigger focus for employees as we move forward.
Plan at least one activity or initiative a month. Involve your employees and try and appoint champions for wellbeing - even better, have one of your Exec team champion it!
To find out more about how to review, re-align and rebalance your employee benefits strategy to meet the expectations of today’s employees and job seekers, download Johnson Fleming’s new interactive guide, ‘How to re-align your employee benefits strategy for a changing workforce’.