The pandemic has had a huge impact on how people across the globe work. But the impact hasn’t stopped there: it’s also influenced the relationships between employees and employers, and how employees think and feel about the work they do.
As companies have started to operate more flexibly, employees have come to expect more flexibility, too. Alongside this, mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing, and work-life balance have become much more important to employees. In response, many organizations – as many as 98%, according to a Care.com report – are exploring the employee benefits they can introduce to give employees the support they expect.
Of course, some benefits are more relevant than others from an employee perspective, and it’s always worth collaborating with a workforce to determine which are best for their specific needs. But the chances are that the following three are the most likely to be requested in the weeks and months to come:
Only in the future will the long-term effect of the pandemic on people’s mental health and wellness fully emerge. But in the short term, one positive impact of COVID-19 is the light it’s shone on the health and wellbeing of all of us.
Most employers genuinely care for their workforce. But when employees feel stressed, mentally unwell, or simply just burnt out, the implications for an organization often go further than direct concern for individual employees. Operations can be disrupted, financial performance can be hit, and employee turnover rates can soar. That’s why it’s important for employers to refocus their efforts on supporting their employees’ mental wellbeing before any issues can have an effect.
The employee benefits that can be applied in this area are wide-ranging. They can be formal and structured, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that help employees solve problems they’re experiencing away from their work, or health insurance provision that reassures employees that they can get help if they need it. But they can also be informal: company social events that give workers the chance to unwind, and the use of mental health support apps can also be valuable.
Paid Time Off
So that employees can enjoy a better work/life balance, and feel more relaxed at the times when they’re at work, many employers are reassessing their approach to Paid Time Off (PTO). This applies not only to annual leave or holiday entitlement that employees get, but also around parental leave and childcare so that employees can better take care of their families.
For example, there are still many cases where employees don’t take all of their holiday entitlement, and so companies can take measures to encourage them to take time off. This could be a temporary removal of ‘use it or lose it’ policies where any unused holiday time expires at the end of a one-year period: instead, it can roll over so that employees can take longer breaks if they so wish.
Some businesses have gone even further in the flexibility they offer their employees in taking time off. Many have rolled sick leave and holiday leave together and allow employees to bank the time and take it however they want, while others – like Netflix – have removed all restrictions on PTO altogether, allowing employees to take as much time off as they need.
Earned Wage Access
If employees are working more flexibly and taking time off more flexibly, then there’s no reason why they can’t be paid more flexibly, too. This is especially important given the economic turbulence that may well be on the horizon post-pandemic. Portifina research has found that in the UK, 43% of disposable income is spent within 24 hours of payday, while PWC has found that 54% of workers are more stressed by pandemic-related financial concerns than anything else.
To help relieve the financial strain, Earned Wage Access (EWA) has emerged as a more employee-friendly option, where employees accrue their wages in real-time. Under an EWA model, employees can get 24/7 access to their earnings and be paid at times that suit them, rather than on a fixed date every month set by payroll. Run through cloud-based software, employees can go as far as conducting their entire pay process themselves from their own mobile device, and enjoy the financial safety net of gaining immediate access to their pay if an urgent need arises.
Putting this in place will require a change in approach for the payroll team and a shift in payroll infrastructure. But the benefits can far outweigh these challenges: employees can feel that they’re in control of their earnings, while employers can leverage this employee benefit as a key selling point in competitive recruitment markets.
There are plenty of things businesses can do to support their employees, not only in this period of upheaval, but in other times of need, too. They can be simple changes, such as adjusting PTO policies or helping staff socialize, or they can be software-based, such as adopting Earned Wage Access. But in any case, employees who are less stressed and more in charge of what they do will feel happier and more productive – and for employee and employer alike, that’s a win-win situation.
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