The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has led businesses to focus more on delivering effective, bespoke benefits packages that truly meet their needs. As well as aligning with values statements, these can generate many practical and commercial advantages, including reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, raised happiness in the workplace and higher levels of employee engagement.
By getting its suite of benefits right, an employer can support its ethical ambitions, protect and enhance its reputation and cultivate an engaged, productive workforce. In recent years, there has been an increasing emphasis on offers that include health and wellbeing features to help employees work better and live better – with Coronavirus accelerating that trend.
The seismic interruption of Coronavirus has put into sharp focus the importance of both physical and mental health. Among the many mental health impacts are fear of infection, the stresses of working from home, job and financial insecurity, the need for many to take on increased childcare responsibilities and looking after isolating elderly or vulnerable relatives.
Offering employees benefits that meet precise wellbeing needs is vital because it demonstrates how well an employer knows its people. It also underlines that the company is not only committed to its workers’ health but their future, too – and, by implication, their future with the organisation. A package relevant for all helps differentiate from competitors, making the employer a destination of choice for top talent.
Business performance can also be protected by encouraging employees to follow routes to wellbeing – for example, increased opportunities for exercise, yoga, Pilates and free physical and mental health checks, consultancy and guidance. A healthier workforce is one with lower healthcare costs: fewer sick days and doctor and hospital visits, with people spending more time on the job where they give their best to the organisation consistently.
Employee appreciation of a worthwhile benefits platform is high. More than half of all respondents in a recent survey* said that a meaningful health and wellbeing offer would increase the likelihood of their joining or staying with an employer. And its value increases the younger employees are. Generation Z employees (aged 16-23) reported they would be willing to sacrifice an eye-watering third of their salary to receive a healthcare package that fits their personal needs.
There is also a split along age lines as employers need to cater for multi-generational workforces. Younger workers revealed that they place importance on mental health support, counselling sessions and life skill lessons, while the older generations said regular medical checks and flexible working were top of their list of potential healthcare benefits.
Generation X workers often have the dual commitment of looking after children and parents, so flexible working is a priority for them. Meanwhile, with many employees working longer hours than ever before, ensuring that the older generation is catered for – for example, through regular eyesight and hearing tests, and ergonomic offices – is vital to maintaining a strong modern workforce.
The nuances by age and a clear desire among many workers for adequate wellbeing rewards mean that employers should move away from a one-size-fits-all healthcare offering and think about tailoring a plan to meet the varied needs of their widely diverse business.
Yet, despite this, as many as 85 per cent of SMEs reported that they do not have a healthcare package in place for employees above statutory requirements. Forty-four per cent of those without one claim they do not believe it is necessary and as many as 36 per cent say they do not think a strong health and wellbeing offering is effective in recruiting and retaining employees. In addition, more than half of businesses (53%) revealed that they have never consulted workers on what healthcare benefits they would want.
Clearly, a worrying disconnect between businesses and the people in their organisations needs to be bridged.
It is time to recognise that a healthy workforce is a productive and motivated workforce and there is a significant amount of research to validate this claim. Having open conversations with employees about their needs in a thorough consultation exercise is the first step to putting things right.
Stated requirements should then shape a customised healthcare approach that suits everyone, putting an employer in pole position to recruit and retain its sector’s brightest and best – and maximising the performance of these key players across long service.