Workplace Wellbeing in the COVID Era

What benefits can employers provide to support their team’s wellbeing as furloughed staff return to the workplace? Read on to find out.

Few employers would dispute that workplace wellbeing is critical.

Most organisations understand that as the driving force of any business, employees are the undisputable line between profitability and loss.

Should any illness befall them, companies can expect their bottom line to rapidly decline.

As many staff return to the workplace after a long period of working from home, employers now also have the added threat of infection from COVID-19 to contend with.

This threat, coupled with the need for to support their team’s physical and mental wellbeing, means employers have an even greater duty of care to their staff.

Interestingly, the pandemic has ramped up already established trends around what employees are looking for from a role.

Last year, One Medical discovered that 69% of employees would choose one job over another based on its benefits package, while AFLAC Workforce found that 6 in 10 employees would accept a job with a lower salary but with better benefits.

In the COVID era, many staff now value their health and safety above all else, and while organisations on cost-cutting missions may view employee wellbeing as an expense, rather than an investment, quite the opposite is true.

Worker wellbeing programmes can be an extremely cost-effective way to maintain engagement and productivity, and can often be offset by a growth in these areas and through National Insurance savings with a good level of uptake.

Here are some examples of the employee benefits that can have a significant impact on staff engagement, productivity and job satisfaction:

 

#1. FLEXIBLE WORKING OPTIONS

We looked at why employers should offer flexible working options in a recent blog post. We also explored at a number of surveys conducted during the pandemic, including one by Direct Line which found that almost half of employees feel that working from home – at least part of the time – should be a permanent option.

Given the fact that many people have been homeworking for the past five months and have fully adapted to the task, that figure is likely to be much higher now. And there are numerous benefits to providing this sort of flexibility; a competitive edge, reduced absence and better profit margins.

 

#2. CYCLE TO WORK SCHEMES

In June, Cycling Weekly reported a huge uptake in biking, with half of all employees in cities now considering cycling to work following the coronavirus outbreak.

It makes sense. Cycling is a socially distanced option that carries less risks than schlepping around on crowded public transport, and supports physical wellbeing at the same time. Plus, it’s free; commuters can expect to save almost £2,000 in travel costs over three years.

Employer uptake of the government’s Cycle to Work scheme is still relatively low, which is surprising given this trend – coupled with the fact that they can save money through reduced employers’ National Insurance contributions. Find out more about the scheme here.

 

#3. CHILDCARE SUPPORT

As schools prepare to reopen and staff find themselves facing added childcare costs, support with childcare could be a critical benefit.

Research from Bright Horizons found that 70% of working parents feel they’d benefit from more employer-led support with long-term childcare, while a separate survey by Caterpillr found that three-quarters of working parents feel their employer ‘could do more to help with childcare costs’.

Since the government closed its Childcare Voucher scheme to new entrants in October 2018, support options have been limited, although many new parents have since signed up for tax-free childcare as an alternative. Find out more here.

 

#4. MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT

The World Health Organisation estimates that 1 in 6 employees experience mental health problems at work.

Daily job stress, coupled with the added pressures brought about by the pandemic, can quickly lead to low productivity due to sick leave, absenteeism or simply lethargy and burnout.

Many employers are now providing mental health benefits, referrals to psychiatrists and confidential support lines which can help to reduce incidences of burnout and job abandonment. 

Apps like Unmind, Headspace and Calm can be helpful, and you can find out more about how to support mental health at work here.

#5. MEDICAL INSURANCE 

Research shows that health insurance schemes and job satisfaction go hand in hand. Health insurance schemes offer your employees added peace of mind, as well as greater flexibility and control over their overall mental and physical health – which is sure to have a positive effect on your business as a whole.

Health insurance schemes can bring other benefits too, such as free advice lines, faster access to diagnosis and treatment, specialised scans, discounted gym membership and discounted health assessments. Lots of companies including BUPA, Cigna and Vitality offer schemes such as these.

 

#6. UPSKILLING OPPORTUNITIES

Although upskilling doesn’t traditionally fit into the employee wellbeing model, staff who are given training and development opportunities are happier in their roles and have a brighter outlook on their future with the company.

With many employees concerned about job security, the opportunity to upskill or reskill can help them to feel more equipped and confident for their future. Find out more about courses here.


#7. READY-MADE BENEFITS PACKAGES

Finally, it’s also worth exploring the vast range of Workplace Wellbeing apps and platforms available to suit all types of businesses and budgets; take a look at Perkbox, Reward Gateway (which is targeted at smaller businesses), Staff Treats and Welbot.

Perkbox, for example, is a pre-packaged employee wellbeing platform which offers exclusive gym offers, a free online GP, same-day prescriptions and stress-reducing discounts, as well as other corporate perks like shopping discounts, holidays and learning opportunities.

There are also pre-packaged solutions to cover everything from productivity and engagement to remote working.

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