Panel Welcome

Jade Burke
Jade Burke
Online Editor
HR Grapevine

Welcome to HR Grapevine’s 2020/2021 Guide to Employee Benefits and Wellbeing

Remote work has been the way of life for many UK professionals since March this year, after the Prime Minister instructed businesses to close their doors to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. As such, the traditional benefits employees used to swoon over have long been forgotten. No longer is the company’s ‘Bring your dog to work day’ beneficial, while the annual gym membership has started to collect dust since gyms nationwide shut up shop.

Due to this, employee wellbeing has also been placed under the spotlight as employers and HR frantically think up new ways to support their staff and roll out new benefits that can aid this on a virtual and remote basis. And with various studies indicating how wellbeing plays an important role in employee engagement, productivity and morale, focussing on this element is fundamental for the future success of any business.

This is echoed in research shared by Willis Towers Watson; a previous study found that 75% of employees are more likely to stay with their employer because of their employee benefits package. With this in mind, HR Grapevine asked two groups of panellists to answer some of the most burning questions for HR leaders when it comes to wellbeing and benefits…

 

Panel Question One

Why should employers invest in employee wellbeing?

Robert Hicks
Robert Hicks
Group HR Director

Hicks is the Group Human Resources Director at Reward Gateway, an employee engagement platform. Reward Gateway's employee engagement platform brings strategic recognition, communications, employee surveys, and discounts together in one unified solution for 1,800+ companies across the world.

“For many HR leaders, wellbeing has always played an important role in their employee engagement agenda”

The impact of COVID-19 has sharpened the focus on employee wellbeing for businesses. The right employee wellbeing programmes can help businesses support their people, mentally, physically and even financially, during especially challenging times.

For many HR leaders, wellbeing has always played an important role in their employee engagement agenda. They know that effective wellbeing programmes can reduce absenteeism, support productivity, and help build a more engaged workforce. This, in turn, strengthens the overall employee value proposition and employer brand. Today, the right HR solution will help HR leaders find ways to innovate their wellbeing initiatives amidst tightening budgets and uncertainty.


Nick Taylor
Dr Nick Taylor
CEO &
Co-Founder

Before co-founding Unmind, a leading workplace mental health platform, Taylor led a long career as a clinical psychologist in the NHS. He is also a clinical psychologist driven by a lifelong passion for mental health.

“Healthy teams perform better and stay with employers for longer”

The reasons can broadly be categorised into two areas: the human and the economic.

Let’s start with the human.

We devote roughly a third of our lives to work. An impactful wellbeing initiative – mental, financial, or physical – can make significant improvements not just to our working day, but across all areas of life. They also demonstrate that employers value their people’s time beyond the weekly or monthly pay check.

Now the economic: put simply, businesses with best-practice wellbeing programmes outperform those without. Healthy teams perform better and stay with employers for longer.


Jennifer Liston-Smith
Jennifer
Liston-Smith
Head of Thought Leadership

Liston-Smith set-up, and for a decade led, the coaching & consultancy side of what became Bright Horizons Work+Family Solutions advising employers in banking, professional services, STEM and wider sectors on programmes for working parents and carers and evaluating their impact and ROI, as well as developing coaches and coaching capability. She now focuses on identifying overarching trends through research and through advising employers and translating these insights into solutions and practical actions.

“Amid ongoing uncertainty, changed working patterns and redundancies, employers need to rebuild company culture”

The pandemic has been humanising – we’ve seen each other’s lives in an intimate, home-based way. Our research with working parents shows employers attending to the people side and supporting wellbeing has seen loyalty rise. Amid ongoing uncertainty, changed working patterns and redundancies, employers need to rebuild company culture. Honest, inclusive conversations about wellbeing make the employer and culture attractive.

That said, practical support is also needed. Of 1,500 working parents we surveyed, 70% indicated that more support/help with long term childcare would help and 64% indicated that backup care for family care emergencies would help. 44% indicated coaching to enable better planning/management of work/life and family would help.

 

Panel Question Two

How can HR offer employee incentives and benefits remotely?

Nicola Forshaw
Nicola Forshaw
Director of Human Resource

Forshaw is CIPD accredited and the HRD of a leading London destination and has won countless accolades for the firm – including a healthy workplace award, IIP Platinum Employer of the year and a high rank on The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to work for list. She is interested in wellbeing, delivering for staff and ensuring diverse workforces get what they need to succeed.

“We ensured the focus of employee benefits was relevant, including promoting cycle to work for their safe return to the business”

At The Landmark London it is important to us to ensure that we communicate and engage with all our team members. This meant during the pandemic we had to change our traditional face-to-face methods and become more creative. We needed to ensure that all team members within our diverse workforce could receive and understand the information; we used a variety of ways from live Instagram, Facebook, private Instagram groups, Zoom, text, WhatsApp, telephone calls and electronic newsletters, as well as traditional manual post. We ensured the focus of employee benefits was relevant, including promoting cycle to work for their safe return to the business.


Nicki Sahota
Nicki Sahota
Head of People

Prior to joining market-leading Mexican restaurant chain Tortilla, Sahota held a senior resourcing position in The Restaurant Group and transitioned into HR to follow her passion for people. She now holds the position as Head of People at Tortilla, where she has been based for two years.

“I think it's important to just alter what we know works”

I think it's important to just alter what we know works. A member of staff just got to 10 years of service. Normally, when we have something like that to celebrate, we'd do that at an internal conference which we used to do regularly. Obviously, that's not possible right now so instead, I bought him a digital gift card and shouted about all of his fantastic work on the company chat service. It may not be exactly the same, but we found a way and the alternative is to just not celebrate that kind of thing which is just wrong.


Alex Ehmcke
Alex Ehmcke
Operations and People Director

Alex Ehmcke is Operations and People Director at PinkNews, the world's largest LGBT+ digital publisher. Prior to working in the media industry Ehmcke had HR and operations roles in the arts and charity sectors.

“By facilitating team meet ups and gatherings (if safe to do so) HR can ensure company culture does not get lost for a remote working team”

For an SME there are plenty of opportunities for businesses to offer incentives and benefits remotely. If prior to the pandemic your business was not open to flexible working hours this is a great time to offer this opportunity to employees. By taking a more flexible approach to work, your workforce will be able to take a more balanced view to work/life and increase employee satisfaction. If your business is able to offer employees a budget for their home office this will ensure everyone has a healthy workspace and home working environment. Outside of an additional budget, employers should always provide employees with all the basic equipment needed to do their job. Just because a workforce is remote it does not mean that they should not continue any learning and development needs that the business offered prior to going remote. Learning and development is a great benefit for employees, and these can still be run remotely via technology or employees can attend external training. Finally, it is also important for businesses to offer opportunities for a remote team to meet up. By facilitating team meet ups and gatherings (if safe to do so) HR can ensure company culture does not get lost for a remote working team.


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