How will employee benefits change to support the new normal?

Life and work have changed forever. Coronavirus has opened our eyes to ways both might be improved, and few employees wish to return to traditional ways of working that don’t support modern life today. We value our health above all else and accept that social distancing measures will be in place for some time to protect it. 

Amid these concerns, employers need to rebuild their businesses, and as a nation we need to revitalise the economy. None of this can be achieved without a highly motivated and engaged workforce. Forward thinking employers are starting to think about the adjustments they need to make to support employee needs, and motivate and reward them along the long road to recovery. Here’s our predictions for what will change:

As more people return to the workplace fear of using public transport will increase

We’ve already seen a marked increase in the number of people cycling to work during lockdown. Two factors contributed to this uptake. A fear of catching the virus on public transport and near empty roads. As more people return to the workplace the use of buses, tubes and trains is increasing. While the Department of Transport is doing all it can to enforce social distancing, until a vaccine is introduced many commuters want to avoid the risk of infection. 

Employees have consistently said in surveys over the years that they would love to take advantage of the health benefits of cycling to work but won’t for fear of being killed on the roads. Unlike many European countries the UK doesn’t prioritise bikes over cars or lorries and has few dedicated cycle lanes to bring commuters safely and seamlessly into our major cities and towns.

All that may be about to change. Will Norman, London’s walking and cycling commissioner and Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, have unveiled one of the most ambitious walking and cycling schemes of any city in the world. It will close off vast swathes of central London to cars, enabling people to cycle safely to work.

With the safety barrier removed, people will inevitably choose to cycle rather than risk infection on public transport. If you have a cycle-to-work scheme, now is the time to remind employees they can use it to get a significant discount on a new bike or upgrade safety equipment such as a helmet or high viz gear. If you don’t have an existing scheme, consider setting one up.

Working from home will become a right not a request

Twitter was the first giant corporate to announce all staff could choose to work from home as an automatic right. The biggest global experiment in working from home has shown fears around employee motivation, technology and cyber security to be unfounded. The right to work from home will become the norm and employers that don’t nail their colours to this mast risk looking outdated. If surveys taken during lockdown are accurate a high percentage of employees will choose to work from home more frequently. This means employers are going to have consider equipping home working and health and safety issues more closely.

Employees will tolerate makeshift home offices during a crisis but the surge in reported back and neck pain cannot continue. As working from home becomes common place the HSE will inevitably reinstate workstation health and safety checks temporarily lifted during the crisis. This means employers will need to provide appropriate and safe workstations, technology and ensure employees can self-monitor health issues such as ergonomics and eyecare.

Organisations that recover quickly will be employee-centric

We’ve emphasised the importance of employee wellbeing throughout this crisis. This will become even more relevant as we enter the return and recovery phase. Employers will be asking staff to go the extra mile to drive performance against an economic downturn, fear of job and income loss.

A preventative approach to health and wellbeing will be essential to keep staff well, motivated and engaged. And that means addressing the full triumvirate of health, physical, mental and financial. If you have programmes in place to address all three aspects, ask line managers to ensure all staff participate in them and continue to take regular pulse surveys to spot early warning signs. Wellbeing programmes will no longer be seen as a nice to have, but your best defence against sickness and absence. If you haven’t got support in place, make this an urgent priority.

As the economy recovers, wages in real terms will decrease for most people. Employee saving schemes are going to become more critical to keep household cash flow at pre-coronavirus levels. If you have a savings scheme in place, keep reminding staff to use it to maximise savings on their weekly food shop and to check the platform for special offers.

Your bounce back plan may require different incentives

For incentivised roles employers will be looking closely at whether current incentives are appropriate and motivating when ways of working have changed. Few businesses will have got through this crisis without a profound shift in employee focus away from individual success to, understanding and accommodating the personal circumstances of each team member in order to succeed together.

Consider whether it would be helpful to tweak your incentive and reward schemes to continue to encourage group success. The latest reward management survey from the CIPD finds individual performance is the most common variable used in pay, used by 62% of those with bonuses. Yet while their incidence may be lower, collective bonus plans have a much stronger record in research at motivating staff. 

Author: Andy Philpott | Category: Blog | 19/05/2020 | 2

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