As employees feel the pinch from the rising cost-of-living in a post-pandemic era, companies cannot shy away and must play their part.
Almost four in five Britons say the cost-of-living crisis has affected their mental health, according to recent research from mental health charity Mind.
While lockdown may seem like a distant memory, the impact of Covid and its consequences for working life endure and have undoubtedly shifted the way most organisations operate. The way people view work has changed for the long term.
The shift towards hybrid or fully remote working is well documented, but there’s also a change in what people are looking for from an employer.
I believe a shift to hybrid working also means that companies need to reassess the type of benefits they offer.
Look at benefits holistically
Drawing up a new set of benefits is a fine balance between what colleagues want and what’s commercially practical. In truth, it’s also about deciding in what areas you’d like to be market leading and where you’re happy to be middle of the pack.
Most businesses can’t add lots of additional costs so it’s important for companies to understand which benefits have the best reach and positive impact on employees. Engaging with colleagues and managing expectations is equally important.
Support employees with rising living costs
Companies should help employees navigate the rising cost-of-living where they can. There are various ways they can do this.
Providing employees with a pay increase is perhaps one of the more obvious ways to help with bills and escalating financial pressures. Of course, this may be easier said than done, and companies need to have the financial health to be able to do so. But raising salaries by any amount during tough economic times can make a difference and send a powerful message that companies care and are interested in retaining their employees.
Providing financial education is another way to help people in the current climate, supporting them to develop better habits which allow them to save for the future. Making smart choices with your money is key to avoid falling into unnecessary debt.
Taking the time to explain pensions is another example of financial education. Pension provision impacts colleagues in different ways, and often little is understood about the options available and what it all means. Companies should take the time to explain what they offer clearly, as well as detailing any changes they might be making.
Make healthcare more accessible
Offering private healthcare to all employees irrespective of their seniority is one idea that deserves some serious consideration. Many companies offer free private healthcare only at certain grades. Making free private healthcare available to all is only one example of levelling the playing field and this can be applied more broadly to other benefits.
In an increasingly stay-at-home economy, a popular benefit could be a virtual GP service, enabling people to save time and more generally to avoid having to leave the house if they are feeling unwell.
Post-pandemic lifestyle benefits
One thing is clear, employees do not take their work-life balance for granted. Hybrid working post-pandemic has become the norm within a lot of companies, with colleagues often having the option to spend time both in offices and at home, or in other remote locations.
While the pandemic accelerated a shift to hybrid working, it has also brought lifestyle choices into vogue. Providing perks such as fun theme days, free breakfasts, access to events, as well as competitions to win prizes can be valuable to a company’s culture.
If companies even organise lunch for employees a couple of times a week, this can help them budget. It also saves them time on meal prepping, something that is often an underappreciated perk.
Benefits that support life stages
Employees may not need to take time off just for maternity or paternity leave. It is crucial for employers to recognise the importance of all life stages whether that’s fertility, fostering and adoption or menopause.
Lastly, helping employees with writing a will is another unconventional yet highly valued perk. It helps people prepare for uncertain life events and reduce paperwork in the event of adversity.
These are just some of many policies companies can introduce to upgrade benefits. I know that it often involves a trade-off. For example, to provide healthcare for all employees, a company may have to forgo other benefits such as business class travel for more senior employees. But often adopting such measures can help level the playing field on benefits and foster a happier work culture.
Rethinking employee benefits is a perpetually evolving process and I believe there is so much all companies can do. Often knowing where to start is the first crucial challenge. Thinking holistically and using data to review the success of existing benefits is a great place to start.