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Time to build improved benefits to improve wellbeing and resilience

Article by Deborah Frost, chief executive, Personal Group

With the migration back to workplaces underway, it’s time for organisations to re-visit the strategies they have in place to keep employees well, and ensure resilience as companies rebuild and we get back to unusual.

HR Directors are also tussling with equity issues in the workplace, with those in IT, HR and Finance who have professional privilege to work from home versus those who have had to keep the business running physically at work in retail, care and manufacturing.

So how can businesses be more inclusive to make sure that all employees have access to the support they need to rebuild and reshape as we emerge from the pandemic?

Building a better benefits programme
Post pandemic, we’ve seen a rise in people struggling with resilience and mental health.  Workers from home report burnout, whilst those who have been in work feel a real sense of inequity that they have had to carry on, on the front line. A more strategic, sympathetic approach to employee wellbeing is needed.

There are three key wellbeing benefits that will help improve wellbeing and resilience in a post-pandemic world.

1. Flexible working
For those who can, the COVID crisis changed the game for working from home. We’re likely to see large numbers of employees continue to work flexibly over the next few months, with Forrester predicting that 70% of companies will pivot to a hybrid working model.

People value flexible working because it helps them juggle work and life commitments. This type of arrangement has proven to be effective for many employees as it is easier for them to flex their hours as needed.

The challenge for companies is around their employees who are shift based – a bus driver can’t tell his boss he’s going to be late because he’s decided to take the children to school, and HR teams are facing the challenge in flexibility between the haves and the have nots.

Thinking about white-collar privilege should extend beyond working arrangements – making sure everyone can access their wellbeing benefits whether at home or work is essential. Can the workforce easily access benefits on their phone? Is your mobile benefits provision a consumer grade app or a clunky rendered website? These things really matter when employees aren’t sitting comfortably behind a desk in the office.

Wellbeing provision should include health benefits which are increasingly difficult to access easily via the NHS, to fill the gap opening up between employee needs and NHS provision. Two suggestions:

2. Online GP
We all know that finding the time to speak to a doctor can be difficult, with extended waiting times and unhelpful surgery opening hours. Giving staff access to on-demand GP appointments means that staff can speak to a medical professional via telephone or video, 24 hours a day, and often within a few hours of their request.

As well as providing reassurance on minor problems, online GP appointments can help employees manage their long-term health conditions, preventing extended sickness leave. As this service is also often extended to an employee’s family, it can be helpful to reduce the amount of time people need to take off for caring responsibilities.

3. EAP (Employee Assistance Programme)
EAPs are often used to support those struggling with mental health conditions or other forms of neurological illness. It’s in employers’ interests to prevent mental health problems from developing or to improve management of an existing condition.

Employers can help by providing flexible support; for example, an EAP helpline. Employees can access the EAP confidentially – via their own device, in the privacy of their home – or indeed anywhere they feel comfortable. EAPs offer advice on a huge range of complex issues, from mental health and debt advice to addiction.

As employees once again adjust to new ways of working, it is time to commit to building better benefits to support staff and build wellbeing and resilience. This is key to help companies build back better, and ensure a sense of fairness in their workforce who have often experienced very different pandemics.

    Personal Group provides the latest employee benefits and wellbeing products, in addition to employee focussed healthcare cash plans. We protect the unprotected and connect the unconnected.

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