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Employee benefits in a post-Covid world: Emotional wellbeing is just the start

by wrich

By: Lucy Roberts, Head of HR, ActiveQuote

Making sure employees feel safe, supported and are moving at a pace that feels realistic to them is paramount for any HR professional at the moment. Reinforcing a commitment to the overall wellbeing of employees at a time when anxieties around returns to the workplace are running high for many is crucial at the present time.

Lucy Roberts, Head of HR , ActiveQuote

Supporting employees emotionally isn’t the only change afoot for organisations looking to attract and retain the skills they need in a post-Covid world, however. As potential and existing candidates have been forced to reassess their overall wants and needs by the pandemic, employee benefits packages are also set to take on a new level of significance as a result.

The practical steps towards promoting health and wellbeing at work that every HR Manager needs to have been considering in the past few months should, by now, be in place. Questions around who should be wearing a facemask and when, how many people should be in a meeting room at any one time, how many bottles of hand sanitiser need to be stationed and where, and how to keep employees moving in a one way flow should all have been answered by now. Times are already moving on.

Businesses need to be extending this thinking towards the creation of a wider wellbeing and mental health strategy that is more in line with the needs of a new generation of employees who are fast expecting hybrid working to be the norm from now on. Assigning existing employees with specialist wellbeing duties, forming a dedicated committee or creating a specific role in-house is something employers in all industries should now be considering if they haven’t already.

Companies looking to thrive in the post-Covid world need immediately identifiable personnel who can be assigned to complete certifiable mental health first aid training, for example, hold regular staff surgeries and arrange various other wellbeing days and perks for colleagues on a regular basis. In short, the kind of benefits employees used to look for pre-Covid versus the kind of additional support they might seek to prioritise now need bringing into sharper focus, and fast.

Can the car allowance previously prioritised as a company perk by certain individuals before Covid hit – which may be far less relevant now to those working between home and the office – be used in a different way? Can conventional gym memberships be swapped out to be spent on alternative activities and therapies more closely related to an individual employee’s personal interests and their locality?

Healthcare is another good example. There has been a rise in the number of group schemes being taken out as organisations look to reassure prospective and existing employees they are serious about supporting their wellbeing and that of their families too, particularly in light of the effects Covid has had on the wider healthcare sector.

Insurance providers are in turn re-assessing the packages they provide to make Group PMI schemes more accessible and affordable in the post-Covid era too. They are changing the level of cover provided to help employers support their employees with fundamental healthcare services which may otherwise be delayed or unavailable through the NHS at the present time. It means healthcare is becoming more of a routine and less of a high level employee benefit as it has tended to be in the past.

This is all because employers who are serious about attracting and retaining a new type of talent post pandemic are starting to ask themselves if the budget previously used for conventional employee benefits can be put to better use elsewhere. Candidates have never had a wider range of jobs or organisations to consider. With so many vacancies being made available remotely and geography now not a factor for many, businesses are having to think about other ways in which they can stand out from the crowd.

Put simply, employers looking to make the most of new and top-level talent coming to market need to think beyond how they get employees back into the workplace safely now, and start putting a whole host of steps in place which show they are serious about supporting their employees in the ‘new normal’ working environment far beyond furlough and lockdown.

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