In troubled times, thoughtful employee benefits can offer peace of mind | Connor Broadley

News & Insights | 11th February 2021

In troubled times, thoughtful employee benefits can offer peace of mind

By Charlie Pitt

Employee Wellbeing

5 Min Read

New research has revealed a lack of support for housebound workers during the pandemic, with around two thirds (65%) saying they’ve paid for their own home office equipment, spending an average £1,300 each, finds Fellowes Brands.

Around half (49%) of the 1,000 employees surveyed – who’ve been working from home for at least four months – report inadequately set-up workstations, while 45% have never been sent a home-working assessment to complete by their employer, putting people’s muscular-skeletal health at risk.

The survey also found that almost one in five (19%) believe their employers don’t care about their wellbeing or mental health and are putting productivity, results and making money above their welfare.

In their defence, leaders are being tested by their ability to adapt fast to new and changing circumstances and, while many of their employees have been rendered home workers, that’s where the similarities end.

Some employees have home offices furnished with ergonomic desks and chairs (perhaps even the luxury of a door to shut out distractions) and no children to homeschool. Others are working from bedrooms or utility rooms for the peace and quiet, or using the sofa because their housemate has a bad back and needs the only good chair.

Some are parents of young children, possibly with complex learning needs, or are part-time carers to elderly parents. Some are single parents. Some are battling with anxiety or depression every day, or trying to help their children stay positive and busy. The rest are bored, demotivated and scared.

The point is that the support people need during this time is not ‘one size fits all’. Leaders and managers have their work cut out to find new ways to motivate and steer individuals through this long crisis, and they must do it from afar, through a screen or phone.

Designing a thoughtful package of employee benefits, relevant for today and focused around helping employees do their best work, will do two important things: 1. Send a message that you care and 2. Actually improve people’s working lives and, in doing so, help them to be more efficient and engaged.

Some financial benefits can even be life changing, like critical illness cover, death in service, or a more generous pension, as well as offering peace of mind.

Benefits also speak volumes about what it’s like to work for your company. To someone scanning through hundreds of job ads, what’s omitted – which may be any mention of mental health provision or work-life balance or the entire section on ‘why we’re great to work for’ – is far more telling than what is included.

What employee benefits would help in today’s climate?

1. Home office help

A good home office set up is a one-off cost that is well worth the investment – and part of your duty of care to your employees – but note that everyone’s requirements will be slightly different. For example, those who can’t shut out noise may benefit from a quality noise cancelling headset, and those with back pain may need a special chair, or a sit-to-stand desk or standing desk converter. Most could benefit from an extra keyboard so they can raise their laptop higher, or a desktop monitor.

Work with a physiotherapist to educate your deskbound staff on how to work so their muscular-skeletal health is never compromised, perhaps via video workshops or a series of emails, and to help them understand what equipment they need so there are no wasted purchases.

2. Learning opportunities

To offer welcome distraction and a sense of purpose, provide your employees with a range of ways to develop themselves, both personally and professionally. A 2020 survey by Talentlms revealed that 78% of remote workers want to receive training in both hard and soft skills, and many already do some sort of learning outside of working hours.

A popular option is to offer an annual training budget that people can access, either for specific courses relevant to their jobs or to platforms that offer unlimited courses in all sorts of different areas, such as Masterclass or LinkedIn Learning.

3. Flexible hours

To be our most efficient selves, we need to be allowed to prioritise life and work accordingly. Some companies have had success with introducing “core hours” when everyone needs to be available and online e.g. Tuesday to Thursday 10-2, leaving their employees to fit in the remainder of their hours as suits them.

This works especially well for non-client facing tasks that suit deep concentration, and that are best done without the usual interruptions, perhaps in the late evenings.

Others are trialling ‘meeting free’ days, to reduce interruptions and enable ‘deep work’.

4. Sickness cover

People are understandably concerned about their health and ability to work and provide for their dependents. Insurance policies like critical illness, life cover and income protection vary significantly from provider to provider and are regularly being updated. Do you know your current provider’s policy on both COVID-19 and Long COVID, where post-viral symptoms can last for weeks or months? Make sure you have the best policy for the current situation, and keep your employees updated on what’s included.

If you think your employee benefits could be due an overhaul, or even a few tweaks, get in touch for a chat:

Watch our latest video on how to adapt your employee benefits strategy for a post-lockdown world >