In early August, this year Xexec hosted the latest of its industry webinars examining some of the challenges that our industry faces. Obviously Covid19 is the biggest challenge that we have faced in generations, arguably it is going to have the biggest impact on our lives since the Second World War.
The Harvard Business Review recently referred to the coronavirus pandemic as the “most significant social experiment of the future of work” .Meanwhile Deloitte called the current climate “a time machine to the future”. What we can all agree on is that this is an unprecedented time and whilst no-one saw this coming, we can think and predict how Employee Benefits are going to have to adapt beyond Covid19, in a new working world.
Since early this year we have seen businesses having to adapt to a new way in which we are all working. Entire workforces have been staying at home, working from their bedrooms, kitchens, and home offices where they can. Back in April, new figures published by the Office for National Statistics showed that 86% of people working from home did so as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been incredibly tough for some, being by themselves, trying to look after and home school their kids and or care for those who are not able to care for themselves – all whilst trying to do their day job!
As the lock down restrictions are slowly being lifted, elements of normal life have started to return, but what is clear is that work life may never be the same. Employees are not rushing back to their offices and this “new reality” of working is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.
And with this “new reality” companies are having to adapt. Many companies such as Fujitsu are already reducing their office footprints, and others such as Facebook, Twitter and Google have told their employees not to come back into the office. Recent research by Dale Office Interiors found that nearly three-quarters of business leaders are now planning to adopt flexible and agile working. So as flexible working from home is set to continue, what does this mean for the future of Employee Benefits and how can companies adapt their strategies?
One of the key reasons for implementing and investing in an Employee Benefits strategy is to ensure that all employees are kept motivated, recognised, and rewarded for their hard work as well as being fully engaged with the company and their colleagues. Recent surveys have found 82% of managers are concerned about reduced employee productivity and reduced employee focus whilst working at home.
With very short notice companies had done an amazing job at adapting to the pandemic. We have all experienced and arranged online yoga and fitness classes, drinks, and team quizzes, we have seen from some organisation’s weekly updates from the management etc…. But maintaining this engagement and communication, whilst ensuring that your remote workforce has a sense of belonging is going to be key.
There are many ways to do this, but during a time of heightened financial scrutiny, there is no need to reinvent the wheel or create something new when you have the structure in place already. Existing online benefits and reward and recognition platforms can also be used as a highly effective communication tool. Not only does every member of staff have access to it regardless of their location or role, but is can be centrally managed.
Now you have your communication and engagement platform you need to ensure that your strategy for using it right for your business. In addition how does it set you apart from your competition and ensure you keep and attract the right talent.
One thing we have heard from several our clients is that they had had to be far more flexible and patient with their teams. People are no longer working 9-5 but working more flexible hours that suit their lifestyle and domestic responsibilities. As this continues, organisations will need to do more to support their staff and their families, both in terms of financial benefits as well as wellbeing.
Working Families surveyed over a thousand working parents and found that more than 9 in 10 wanted their workplace to retain flexible working post-COVID-19. With this, companies will need to review and assess the benefits, discounts ad rewards they offer their staff. Now that traditional things such as cool offices, local to office gyms, cinemas, social gatherings such as team drinks are no longer allowed or very attractive, organisations need to start looking at more localised and tailored benefits to help sent them apart.
This could be focusing on lifestyle benefits such as discount codes for Deliveroo and Uber Eats through to great discounts for subscriptions to Peloton. In addition, companies should be looking to help reduce the costs for employees for broadband and technology that is key for them doing their jobs. What schemes can be put in place for thee provision of broadband or buying new computers – like the cycle to work scheme.
These, however, are not just ideas and based on conversations with many of clients we expect to see them become standard Employee Benefits very soon. Focus on family health and mental health will become the norm. Statistics from surveys conducted by mental health charities, found that 59% of people reported their mental health had worsened during lock-down. Schemes to support employees who live on their own, or who have children and other dependants will become more prevalent. And greater access to and support with technology will also become expected – these will no longer be a differentiator unless you done have them in place!
It is not just the financial and physical employee benefits that need to be reviewed but also how you can use the Reward and recognition scheme to bring your scattered workforce back together. Essentially this comes down to communication and how good values can keep employees engaged.
Constant communication is key. Either from the top down putting employees’ minds at rest on the overall performance of the business or the company’s strategy during this tough time, or from immediate managers and peers. The use of team video calls and messages to name check individuals or groups has a huge impact. Emails recognising peoples work during this time – high fives from peers to let you know that they still care. These are just a few ideas that can cost little but have a big impact.
The medium-term strategy to come with pandemic is going to be crucial – it is hard to think further ahead than that as everything is changing so fast and we just do not know what the next 5 years will hold. But there are some quick and easy wins companies can put in place:
- More shopping cards and e-vouchers
- Home technology / office furniture schemes
- Home broadband deals
- Well-being programmes
- Fitness club memberships
- Lifestyle discounts such as Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Netflix and Sky vouchers
This all helps, but as your employees are working hard to adapt their lives to maintain your business, so must you adapt your business to help each and every member of staff maintain their work life balance and enthusiasm and engagement with your brand as we move into a world beyond Covid19.
To find out more about employee benefits download our e-book below.