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How will home working change company benefits?

Ellie Sultana - Advo

Expect to see continued growth in demand for hybrid working where staff split their time between the office and home. The FTSE 250-listed firm has seen a surge in demand from large businesses seeking to use several of its sites to provide their workforce with flexibility.

More than 12 months into the pandemic, many office-based employees are still working from home part or all of the time, in line with public health restrictions. In a recent Nationwide survey of staff, 57% said they wanted to work from home full-time after lockdown ends. More than a third – 36% – said they preferred a mix of home and office-based work.

Nationwide, The UK’s biggest building society, has announced that it is to allow 13,000 office staff to choose where they work under a new flexibility scheme. Under its new ‘work anywhere’ plan, employees will have more control of their lives. Nationwide is closing three offices in Swindon, with 3,000 staff either moving to the nearby HQ, working from home, or mixing the two. Other UK staff may be able to work from their local High Street branch if they prefer, rather than travel to offices.

The pandemic has shown that home-working can be effective and reducing office space can save money. This is setting a new chapter in reassessing workplace benefits to ensure they are ‘fit for purpose’, with many benefits like season ticket loans, gym discounts and free vehicle parking, now of little use to employees.

Recent research from The Reward and Benefits Association (REBA) shows that a significant 91% of businesses agree that employees’ expectations of their work experience are changing. More than half of businesses understand the role benefit structures plays in employee engagement and have acted on this knowledge, with 68% of employers having introduced at least one new benefit to support employees’ mental and emotional health over the last 12 months.

According to advo, the pandemic has led to a shift in priorities, the biggest being around flexible working and the desire to blend home and office working, as well as a need to prioritise work life balance and the importance of an employees’ family life. Employers now need to adapt their benefits to new ways of working, ensuring staff remain motivated and happy in the workplace, wherever that may be.

Ellie Sultana, Head of Employee Benefits at advo commented: “2020 was a year like no other and completely disrupted the way many people work. As we move through the final stage of the Covid reopening plans, working from home looks like it is here is to stay for the foreseeable future, with many companies expecting to have a mixture of staff in the office and at home.

“With this is mind, businesses are investing and enhancing their benefits virtually, using platforms and drawing on their intermediary advisors to understand the scope of online benefits and tools available from their existing providers. 2020/2021 has been a time for maximising existing benefits and for employers to find new ways to connect with their employees, through reviewing and enhancing benefits where possible.

“Mental health has been on the agenda of almost all businesses. Management level and above are working hard to support employees through isolated & difficult times, whilst often needing support themselves. Over the last 12 months, we have seen an increase in the promotion, usage and implementation of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s) at all levels. EAP’s offer employees a confidential space to talk, receive advice and to access counselling if required. This low-cost benefit is a must have for any organisation with a duty of care to its employees.

“Total reward statements (TRS) are a great way to revitalise and remind employees of their overall pay & reward package, often leading to an increase in opt-in benefits and assisting with staff retention. TRS can be provided in soft copy making it accessible during periods of home working and providing a useful communication channel for remuneration & to promote employee benefits.

“Popular benefits remain spread across Health, risk & well-being with most employers striving to be competitive and offering Medical Insurance, Life insurance and EAP as a minimum. The shift has come in how employers utilise and interactive with their benefits, making the most of additional fringe services associated with core products is on the rise and this trend is set to continue in the new, post-pandemic, way of working.”

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