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The new year always offers a time of reflection – to take stock of the previous year and identify goals for the year head. After the prolonged uncertainty and upheaval that Covid-19 wrought on businesses and society, there was a sense of optimism last January as cases of omicron were stabilising.

However, 2022 brought further turmoil with the Ukrainian war, the market turmoil with the pound crashing against the dollar and the cost of living crisis dominating the year end. Here we outline wellbeing strategies that can support your people and equip them with the tools they need to manage sustained worries and alleviate difficult times.

Mental health wellbeing

Employee mental health has been put under sustained pressure over the last few years. However, only one in ten employees say that they would be honest about needing a mental health day, suggesting that stigma around mental health very much persists. The mental health crisis is prevalent, with NHS waiting lists getting longer. The latest Health & Safety Executive report indicates that 914,000 workers suffer from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2021/22.

"Only one in ten employees say that they would be honest about needing a mental health day, suggesting that stigma around mental health very much persists."

Wellbeing programmes are crucial to encourage people to speak up. Uniting employees throughout organisations through an open and transparent culture can also highlight what an organisation truly values and fosters long-term loyalty. Values can provide the framework to equip employees with a sense of purpose and drive, furthering employee engagement.

Various tools, from apps to mental health first aiders to employee assistance programmes, can give employees various options when deciding which tools best support their own wellbeing. However, the greater focus on the individual, their priorities and their needs is welcome as it highlights how wellbeing is multi-dimensional. It encompasses the financial, physical and mental wellbeing of an individual and to what extent their workplace can support a healthy balance of daily demands.

An integrated approach to wellbeing through benefits

During 2023, employees will need greater support to deal with the challenges raised by the cost of living crisis. A regular review of employees and their circumstances should be in-built into every Line Manager’s approach over the next year.

While 72 per cent are offering discounts of high street products and services, some employers are reporting that they are relaunching their benefits package to ensure that employees understand what is on offer to them.

The top three benefits of offering a pension scheme, offering an Employee Assistance Programme and offering life insurance demonstrate how long-term wellbeing is key for many employees. Many employers are increasingly offering benefits that cover financial, physical and mental health – treating wellbeing in its entirety.

For others, culture forms a huge part of how employees can be supported. New ways of working give employees more control over when and where they work. Hybrid and flexible working options can help reduce commuting costs, open up employment opportunities to wider demographics who have to balance home and work life, and provide balance that bolsters wellbeing for employees.

cheering on work colleague

The importance of financial wellbeing during the cost of living crisis

Strikes are widespread as inflation puts meaningful pay under pressure. With inflation reaching 10.7 per cent and the average pay increase being around three per cent, the gap is evident. Where businesses are trying to balance affordability and pay levels that truly address inflation, many are seeking to do everything within their power to reduce the impact on their people, with 11 per cent offering a second pay review in 2022 and one in four offering a ‘cost of living’ lump sum.

"Whatever the measures an organisation decides they can offer, during times of uncertainty, a strong communications plan is crucial."

Whatever the measures an organisation decides they can offer, during times of uncertainty, a strong communications plan is crucial. The pandemic saw an increased frequency of communications from leadership – to reassure employees and drive employee engagement, especially throughout remote workforces. Personalised events and activities are crucial for employees to air any concerns. Taking the time to thank employees for their hard work and to answer any questions is key to ensuring that employees feel seen and heard.

Employee assistance programmes and education workshops are being offered to help employees who have worries over finance, helping them to manage debt and any financial problems. Managers and supervisors play a key role in ensuring that appropriate support is provided. Investing time in ensuring that pay levels are more in line with inflation through open communication and getting to know employees as individuals will help set appropriate pay and targeted support.

Creating an agile organisation

77 per cent of employers reported struggles to retain talent and 86 per cent are facing difficulty recruiting people. The skills and labour shortages facing employers are widespread, with one in three reportedly struggling specifically with worker shortages according to the Office for National Statistics. 95 per cent reported labour shortages and 94 per cent cited lack of suitable candidates in driving employee turnover.

This makes the pipeline of talent within organisations critical. Ensuring that organisations are collaborating and sharing knowledge and skills is vital to future-proofing its operation. Leaders of the future should be given the opportunities and training required to foster an environment which retains the expertise it requires, and this cultural shift can support leaders at all levels. Coaching and mentoring should be vital elements of companies’ people strategies.

Upskilling also enables organisations to retain the existing talent they have. Arming current employees with greater skills can avoid the need to make redundancies for certain roles, while saving the costs associated with recruitment. 71 per cent offered new recruits salaries that conflicted with those paid to existing employees, with 65 per cent offering up to 10 per cent more, illustrating how the war on talent is a costly one.

Get in touch

Financial and operational challenges persist for HR but ensuring staff and their circumstances are understood and supported as far as possible will be crucial to maintaining a strong approach to employee wellbeing. Call us today to discuss how we can help you create a robust reward management framework that supports the individual and bolsters employee wellbeing.

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