The future of work for many employers and employees is somewhat unknown – Covid-19 has fundamentally changed how we work, but nobody yet knows which changes will be permanent, nor what other changes might come.
Many people are returning to work, but work that has changed – perhaps working from home rather than the office, or an in an environment with social distancing replacing human contact.
Our offices and ways of working are in flux and there is of course much change to come – longer term changes could see companies make decisions about whether they require the same office space; any new building is likely to be designed very differently from one planned pre-Covid-19 pandemic.
This uncertainty also extends to workplace benefits. If you have the certainty that most staff will be in the office every day it is easy to imagine the office culture and ways of working. Workplace benefits can be enabled to tie in with this way of working and culture.
Now, though, that culture has disappeared and it will vary greatly as to whether it returns. Workplace benefits therefore need to adapt to – there is little point a company having benefits designed around a certain way or working and lifestyle when neither of those exist any more.
How, though, will these benefits change? What patterns will we see?
One key will simply be for any employer to offer a wide suite of benefits.
All too often, we see businesses whereby there is a narrow suite of employee benefits on offer, often these only benefiting one type of employee. For instance, there are workplaces where the benefits are all health related – cycle to work and gym membership being examples. At others, the benefits seem much more suited to those with families, perhaps with health and dental insurance and also a Workplace Nursery Scheme.
The companies best able to adapt will be those who already offer a range of benefits that truly has something for everyone – discounted parking, Diners Club membership, discounts on ,holiday purchasing and the buying of goods, car leasing and then also lifestyle benefits. More on those in a moment.
Inclusiveness is key, finding out what employees would value as benefits – this could be by running a survey for instance – rather than having one member of staff simply choosing a range of benefits to offer.
Every worker is likely to re-evaluate workalike balance and practices such as working from home – once frowned upon by many organisations – is likely to be commonplace for a large number of workplaces.
The office, many commentators believe, will cease to be a regular destination for employees, instead being reserved for team catch-ups, meetings with clients and other irregular occurrences. It might be that a day or two per week in the office becomes the norm for many.
However, working from home brings its own challenges and benefits could be crucial to helping employees make the transition.
A benefit such ads the Holiday Exchange Scheme could grow in importance. With this benefit, any employee has the right to either buy or sell a week’s holiday – those that don’t require the full quote can work more and increase their earnings, others can get extra holiday by forfeiting a week’s holiday.
For the employer, this benefit has advantages too – it makes staff members think about their allocation in advance and more carefully plan their holidays – it greatly reduces the annoyance of having people take holiday at the same time simply to use up their annual allowance.
An Employee Assistance Programme could also be vital – this is a support structure to help employees with any personal issues, in a confidential way.
With employees increasingly working from home, this may only grow in importance, it creates a resource that helps to stop people feel cut off – it is a pastoral service that exists at the end of a phone line.
The EAP gives employees and their dependents access to 24/ confidential counselling – it helps them cope with any issues and get advice, while, for an employer it can also reduce the risk of issues ending up in an employee tribunal.
EAP can also boost productivity, any employee struggling with depression, or debt problems or another issue will naturally become less productive; helping them to overcome these issues can aid their mental health and renew their focus too.
Workplace benefits can also help to save thousands of pounds on childcare through the Workplace Nursery Scheme – this creates a saving of around £4,200 per year based on monthly nursery fees of £1,000.
How can workplace benefits help to maintain a team bond when people are less likely to be meeting in the office?
This is a question many will contemplate – and existing benefits could help to provide a solution.
Gym membership for instance (once gyms are back open) could offer discounted rates at a gym close to the workplace, the gym therefore also becoming a place to socialise and catch-up with colleagues.
Could the Dining Card be used to encourage people to catch-up over meals – this card can save up to 50% per meal and can save any employee hundreds of pounds per year if used regularly.
Even the Workplace Nursery Scheme can lead to greater staff bonding – the savings ensure that this will be a popular offer for any employee with nursery-aged children, meeting workmates at the nursery door might facilitate a conversation and some human interaction that may be otherwise lacking as we adjust to working from home.
As specialists in workplace benefits, we must admit that even we are not 100% certain what the future holds in this field or how workplace benefits will have to adapt – anyone who suggests they have certainty at this time is perhaps displaying a confidence that can’t be backed up.
What we are doing though is thinking about these issues every day and working with companies across all sectors and of all sizes, helping them to adjust their workplace benefit offering to make it suitable for changes as they happen.
If you would like an obligation-free conversation about how workplace benefits could be adapted or set-up at your organisation then please do get in touch.
Typically, creating a suite of benefits saves both employees and the employer money and the management is virtually admin-free as we run it through a bespoke hub.
Contact us today by using our Contact Form.