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2021: a year to focus on wellbeing at work

Benefit packages that support employee wellbeing are more important than ever.

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Has there ever been a time when HR professionals were more focused on what they can do for their staff? 

2020 saw a huge shift in the way many of us work, most notably the transition to the home ‘office’. But hours shifted as well and ‘work/life balance’ took on a whole new meaning. 

While there may not be an obvious answer about if/when the majority of us will return to the office, there’s plenty on the plate of HR teams to make sure staff are as engaged and satisfied as they can be.

A recent survey found that benefits are on the minds of employers, with almost 3 in 4 reviewing their employee benefits as a result of Covid-19.¹

We’re all aware of the toll that 2020 had on people, so packages that look at overall wellbeing are going to be the most compelling.

Here are some things to look for when making decisions.

1. A wholistic view

The last few decades have seen the emergence of physical and mental wellbeing programmes in the workplace. It’s common for large businesses to offer good initiatives like:

  • Yoga classes at lunchtime
  • Discounted gym memberships
  • Employee Assistance Programmes
  • Meditation apps

But one area that’s often overlooked is people’s finances. As a leading cause of stress, with 7 in 10 employees facing regular financial shortfalls according to EY², financial wellbeing makes up a significant part of overall wellbeing.

2. Meaningful impact

Catered lunches and coffee machines don’t quite have the same impact they once did. Even if you have quite a comprehensive list of benefits and perks, they may not all be working in the same way they once were. In the current environment, what are the programmes that can really make a difference? Tackling the key concerns of your workforce is obviously key.

Debra Clark, head of specialist for Towergate Health and Protection, recently told the FT Adviser, “Offering health and wellbeing benefits can no longer be a tick-box exercise, it must be front and centre of corporate agendas. Now is the time for employers to act to ensure their benefits are current, relevant and addressing the very real concerns of their employees.

“Some employees will be concerned over future finances. Reports in the media of ongoing furlough, reduced hours and redundancies will only fuel such worries. Consequently, there is increased interest in benefits that protect employees’ finances.”³

3. Flexibility

Fur-ternity and paw-ternity leave (real types of leave) may be a stretch too far, but are you providing benefits that are relevant to everyone?

Across any industry or product, personalisation and flexibility are becoming less of a nice to have and more of an essential part of an offering. So making sure the benefits you offer are applicable to people of any age and income bracket can make all the difference. 

Do the benefits you offer change to fit the differing needs of your staff? Or is the spread of benefits great enough that staff are able to pick and mix? In a 2019 survey 94% of employees said a personalised package where they could pick and choose the perks they’re offered would be ‘very or quite appealing’.⁴

4. A clear picture of success

Time is (always) of the essence. One of the key components of any benefit offering is that it’s quick and easy to set up.If not, it may be 2022 before you’re starting to see any meaningful changes. It’s also worth factoring in how easy a benefits programme will be to offer on an ongoing basis.  

Finally, what do you need to see for the programme to be a success? It could be as simple as the take-up rate. But some benefits also provide measurement of impact on employees as well as business goals. For example, on-demand pay has shown a 19% increase in retention when offered as a benefit, demonstrating it's meaningful in retaining talent and reducing hiring costs.


What next?

For good reason, employee wellbeing will be at the forefront of the HR agenda in 2021. Before rushing in it’s important to consider what it is you want to achieve and how that will help both your business and employees.

Sometimes the two ideas are pitched as mutually exclusive. They aren’t. What’s good for your employees can also be good for your business. So your benefits offering isn’t just an act of goodwill – when done right it’s a way to achieve key business outcomes by making staff happier and differentiating your company from your competitors.

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