How to use employee benefits to engage workers (wherever they are) | Connor Broadley

News & Insights | 24th July 2020

How to use employee benefits to engage workers (wherever they are)

By David Taylor

Employee Wellbeing

6 Min Read

Almost three in 10 (29%) UK employed adults are now working exclusively from home, with a further 8% splitting their week between home and their place of work, according to the latest ONS data. For some, remote work has shifted from a necessary knock-on effect of lockdown to the status quo, with employers like Google and Facebook extending work-from-home policies until at least the end of 2020.

For those leading majority-remote teams, working out how to engage people from afar has quickly become a priority given disengaged workers are known to be less productive, more likely to be absent, and at higher risk of leaving (Gallup). By contrast, companies with the most engaged workers enjoy higher sales, profitability and customer ratings, as well as lower staff turnover, fewer safety incidents and lower shrinkage.

One recent study based on historic data found worker positivity may be key to businesses doing well under challenging economic conditions, after finding the link between favourable employee job attitudes and business success to be substantially stronger during recession years. In short, achieving more in troubled times rests heavily on people doing more than the bare minimum.

Yet, long before coronavirus and the resulting explosion in remote work, employees were overwhelmingly “just showing up” for their jobs. In 2018, Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace revealed that only 11% of British employees were psychologically engaged in their work. This means engagement ought to be a priority for all, not just leaders of remote teams.

What many continue to overlook is the strong link between employee engagement and benefits. Well-matched benefits can add real value to people’s lives, as well as signalling to workers that they are truly valued. But, to be effective, these must be relevant to individuals who are increasingly free to choose where they work from.  

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Here are five things to consider when designing benefits for today’s workforce:

  1. While it’s more conduit than benefit, self-service employee benefits technology performs a really important function: it removes barriers to entry, letting employees explore what’s available to them and manage their own benefits. Making perks hard to access will significantly reduce engagement and take up, and create unnecessary work for busy managers that must handle individual requests and grapple with easily-automated processes. Such platforms also let leaders communicate to staff, send alerts about new benefits and changes, and create some all-important hype.
  2. Especially pre-vaccine, fitness apps could prove to be a more popular, and cheaper, alternative to gyms. While the latter might cost £40 per month, a subscription to Fiit – the number one rated home fitness app on iOS – costs £120 per year. Given that only 27% of UK employees ‘strongly agree’ their company cares about their overall wellbeing (down from 41% in 2019), according to new data from Gallup, this benefit is a declaration that employers care about the physical and mental health of their workers. To boost usage, encourage your teams to recommend their favourite classes and sessions within your benefits platform.
  3. Another way to show you’re committed to staff health and wellbeing is to offer a cycle to work scheme. This is an especially useful benefit for workers that work partly from home, partly from a workplace, now there are legitimate fears around commuting on public transport. The scheme’s upper limit of £1,000 has recently been lifted, meaning pricier electric bicycles (that make commuting longer distances a breeze) can now be had tax-free via the scheme. Best of all, there is no cost to businesses that offer it. In fact, employers may save a little money through reduced NICs.
  4. Online learning platform Udemy saw a 425% spike in course enrollments between February and March 2020. Without a commute to eat up hours of each day, and to focus minds usefully (and away from the news headlines), you may find employees see huge value in learning and training benefits. While some businesses offer training budgets, others prefer to give access to e-learning platforms with a massive range of online courses, from soft skills like communication to hard skills like Photoshop or Excel training, and even piano lessons. This signals to employees you care about their personal and career development. Businesses that actively foster a culture of learning – encouraging individuals to share what they’ve learnt for example – tend to see higher course take up.
  5. Regular virtual social activities will keep team bonds strong, and lockdown has seen companies get truly creative. We’ve spotted competitive video gaming sessions, competitions involving recreating famous works of art using items from around the home, and expert-led workshops to suit a wide range of interests, such as wine tasting, bread-making, and drawing, with equipment or ingredients posted to employees in advance. Ask your teams to pitch their best ideas and add them to the line-up so there is always something in the diary to look forward to.  

Have your working practices changed during the pandemic? Talk to us today about how you can make your employee benefits more relevant:

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