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How to ensure your employee benefits programme is fit for purpose post Covid

Four in 10 employees are expected to continue to work from home on a regular basis post Covid-19, according to a recent survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). That’s around twice as many as in pre-pandemic times.

The success of the massive enforced remote working experiment that began in March last year has convinced many companies that a hybrid working model is the way to go.

Thousands of HMRC employees, for example, can now choose to spend up to two days a week working from home, while KPMG staff only need to be in the main office for four days each fortnight.

It’s a level of freedom talented individuals are likely to come to expect; insurer AON’s 2021 Benefits & Trends Survey indicates that more than 90% of UK employers think employees’ expectations of the workplace are changing as a result of Covid.

But for employers, moving to a hybrid working model requires lots of adjustments – including taking steps to ensure their employee benefits programmes reflect the new ways of working.

“In a year dominated by COVID-19, significant numbers say that the pandemic will result in them reviewing their Employee Value Proposition (EVP),” said Richard Morgan, Principle Strategic Consultant on the AON survey.

Here are some easy ways to make sure your company’s EVP fits the “new normal” and enables you to both support your existing employees and attract top new talent.

Focus on wellbeing

According to Mental Health UK research carried out earlier this year, one in five employees feel “unable to manage stress and pressure in the workplace”.

Such issues are harder to manage – and to monitor – when people are working remotely, which is why many employees have experienced burnouts in the last 18 months.

The key is to ensure employees recognise that they can access support when they need it and will not be judged for struggling with their mental wellbeing.

It’s something most employers are aware of; figures from insurance broker Willis Towers Watson show that 75% of UK companies plan to improve their mental health services in the wake of the pandemic.

And with good reason: better mental health support should improve your EVP and help to avoid employee absences caused by workplace stress, as well as other personal issues such as addiction and bereavement.

Invest in digital solutions

With lots more people working off site, the best way to ensure everyone has access to employee benefits is to offer them – and communicate what’s on offer – via a well-resourced digital channel, such as a Total Reward platform that provides everything from wellbeing apps to discount schemes.

That might sound expensive, but with figures from Accenture suggesting a typical employer can expect to save $11,000 (£8,000) per year for every person who works remotely 50% of the time, it could be a good place to invest some of the savings you make by having smaller offices.

It’s also important to encourage line managers to stay in regular contact with those working remotely via a range of online tools, including video meetings and more informal chat services.

Take a flexible approach

One of the downsides of remote work is that it’s harder to feel part of the team. By offering employee benefits that suit remote workers’ lifestyles, you can demonstrate that they remain valued members of the workforce.

Certain benefits, commuter ticket loan and cycle to work schemes for example, are less likely to appeal to home workers. So why not offer alternatives such as help with home insurance and utility bills, which will probably rise due to employees spending more time and having more expensive equipment in their homes?

Employer-sponsored broadband contracts that offer the bandwidth home workers need to do their jobs effectively are also a good idea, while regular in-person team-building exercises can help people feel connected to their colleagues, wherever they work.

Listen to your employees

While it’s easy to see why discounted utility bills are more likely to interest someone who works from home than a cycle to work scheme, the best way to ensure your employee benefits scheme meets your workforce’s needs is to ask them.

CIPD statistics show that 25% of employees rarely or never have the opportunity to raise concerns or share ideas to improve the organisation.

“There are considerable gaps in employees’ ability to have a voice at work,” the organisation said.

But by failing to get your employees’ opinions on everything from performance targets to benefits and workplace culture, you are missing out on a hugely valuable source of information.

Engagement statistics tell part of the story – and can help you to avoid wasting money on benefits your workforce does not want.

But surveys, questionnaires, and informal conversations are also great ways to get a better picture of the benefits that will really add value for your staff.

In summary

Steps companies can take to create a supportive workplace environment post Covid include:

  • Take a holistic approach to employee wellbeing that goes beyond isolated initiatives
  • Offer a flexible programme that allows people to choose the right benefits for their needs
  • Invest in digital tools that can be used anywhere
  • Encourage two-way communication with your workforce via surveys, workshops and one-to-one sessions

Further reading

The content team are the owners of AAT Comment.

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