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Developing a strong emphasis on employee wellbeing strategies has been accelerated by the pandemic – with many HR professionals having to think creatively to cover remote workforces or trying to tackle the impact of the sustained effect of the pandemic on employees’ mental health.

An organisation’s approach to wellbeing is a key facet of its employer brand to drive attraction and retention, but also has a practical impact, reducing staff sickness and absenteeism when effectively implemented. As we emerge from the pandemic and define the ‘new normal’, here are five key recommendations you can implement to ensure employees feel heard and supported over the year ahead.

Young woman working from home

1. Take pay off the table

With rising inflation and the recruitment challenges facing organisations, employers’ payroll budgets may well have reached their limits. As the consumer price index is 5.1 per cent and the average pay budget anticipated by respondents to our latest pulse survey is three per cent (data collected 27.01.22-09.02.22), this increases the pressure on companies to bridge the gap. Some are doing this through out of cycle pay increases, which skews the ‘official’ pay figures released by companies who are given no choice but to use these to retain talent in some circumstances.

As companies strive to balance affordability with competitive market pay, many are ensuring that they are accessing the latest pay figures and salary benchmarking to ensure their pay strategy keeps pace with competitor activity – both in the immediate sector and in the wider market based on specific roles. Many firms will focus greater awards on roles where the candidate supply is in shorter supply, with respondents to our UK Reward Management Survey reporting that 39 per cent will focus their pay increases on the scarcest resources. Low pay can actively demotivate and undermine employee wellbeing, but ensuring pay is fair and competitive can focus employees on the wider benefits employers are investing in on their behalf.

2. Highlight work perks

Employers are increasingly reviewing their full pay and benefits offering in its entirety. Our UK Reward Management Survey showed that 77 per cent operate a bonus scheme and levels are stable for 2022. Equally, employers are analysing the benefits they offer and the providers they have selected to ensure they are delivering value for money. Benefits can be used to reflect organisational values, such as reinforcing wider company commitments to play their part in the journey to net zero with electric vehicle salary sacrifices.

Whatever package defined by the company, wellbeing initiatives can be underlined as part of the people investment that the company makes. Total Reward Statements are an under-utilised method of helping employees quantify the advantages of their full reward strategy. By methodically setting out the traditional benefits alongside additional benefits that bolster their financial, mental and physical wellbeing, this provides staff with the transparency to appreciate this wider support. This is especially valued when there is constrained pay so companies strive to offer benefits and show recognition of their people in creative ways, such as time to do volunteering days or additional personal leave.

3. Map out employee journeys

The spotlight on gender pay, alongside wider diversity and inclusion initiatives, has encouraged more candid conversations around barriers that people face at work. From childcare responsibilities that have contributed to gender pay inequality and making senior positions harder to reach, to the menopause that can hamper career progression without the right support, to the loss of a loved one – milestone life moments are a key consideration to factor into how best to support employee wellbeing. Employers are identifying the key stages of the employee journey where targeted policies may be required to provide additional wellbeing support.

Employers are being more creative to help employee balance work with their personal life, the differentiation of which has been blurred by the pandemic. Milestones along the employee journey can be met with specific policies to support wellbeing in different contexts. For instance, Saga has introduced paid leave for becoming a grandparent in reflection of their own values and their focus on serving the needs of those aged 50 and over, while online retailer Asos has introduced policies to support employees going through the menopause or experiencing pregnancy loss. For those harnessing digital technology to deliver hybrid working and avoid the fatigue of remote working, Accenture has built a ‘virtual floor’ to support mixed reality working; this reimagines hybrid working to facilitate greater collaboration when working with international colleagues.

4. Ensure benefits benefit everyone

Businesses must understand what the workforce really wants in order to successfully refresh their benefits package and make the biggest impact on their operation. Work perks provide the opportunity to bolster commercial performance – but only if employers are sure that they have taken the time to define and incorporate what truly matters to their employees. Before redesigning the benefits package, which might be at considerable cost and time if employees have to be trained on new platforms and new initiatives, organisations should consult with employees to identify what will deliver the best value.

Employee consultation could be done on a team basis or by wider employee listening programmes. Effective communication strategies will also determine the success of new schemes and to what extent they truly support wellbeing. Awareness needs to be built around the package itself and what employees have access to. Others are trialling a four-day working week, with flexible working arrangements being formally tested in terms of their effectiveness and impact. According to Ernst & Young, 47 per cent of workers reported that they would consider changing jobs if flexible working arrangements were not an option. Therefore, testing new ideas and initiatives can also ensure that there is something to support everyone’s wellbeing.

5. Look at wellbeing holistically

Finally, ensure that wellbeing is looked at in its entirety. Beyond the pure physical benefits that traditional benefits target such as gym memberships, bike schemes and private medical insurance; financial and mental wellbeing are also key elements of employee wellbeing. After the sustained uncertainty and restrictions introduced by the pandemic, and recent reports that two thirds of employees are experiencing stress and anxiety, which is reducing productivity, mental health needs to be actively supported.

Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD said employers should focus on prevention, saying “crucial to this proactive approach is training line managers to identify potential causes of stress and ensuring they are effective at managing people and workloads.” Line managers are crucial to how effective wellbeing strategies are when they are rolled out across an organisation. They should be equipped to deal with queries facing employees that directly affect their financial, mental and physical wellbeing.

Get in touch

In a recruitment market where there is a significant shortage of skilled candidates, employers that fail to provide wellbeing support may struggle with higher employee turnover rates. We will help you cultivate a strategy that delivers real value and underlines the vision you have for your organisation. Get in touch today to discuss your approach to supporting the wellbeing of your colleagues and teams.

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