By David Vanek, Co-founder and CEO of Anorak…
As we get nearer to returning to normal, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 42% of Brits are anxious about returning to the office, having adjusted to working from home for a protracted period. After a tumultuous year, remote working has become an expected perk rather than a taboo subject and as we look to go back to the offices, many businesses are having to reassess their benefits package to incorporate people’s new priorities.
During the lockdown, many businesses searched for ways to keep company culture alive, with research from Just Eat for Business showing that many businesses turned to food gift cards (55%), virtual parties (55%) and recipe boxes (52%) to boost morale. As teams plan for the return to the office, there is a noticeable shift towards health and travel perks, as companies look to introduce travel loans (21%), cycle to work schemes (54%), gym memberships (35%) and healthcare support (45%).
Following the pandemic, employees are less concerned with whimsical perks like discounted cinema tickets or free fruit, and are now understanding the value of the traditional employee benefits that had previously been off trend and overlooked. The pandemic left many workers in financial and emotional distress, and as a result, people are now looking for more security when it comes to benefit packages.
Mental health support
Home working and flexible working patterns is leading to more people using the counselling and support services offered as benefits of Income Protection policies. One provider reported a 500% increase in the use of a mental health support line compared with the pre-lockdown use. This trend is likely to increase before it returns to normal, with many experiencing social anxiety in relation to returning back to the office or when using public transport for their daily commute. It is important for companies to make this return as smooth as possible, by ensuring they have a support service available to their team 24/7.
It can be tricky to find a one-size-fits-all platform when it comes to mental health support. But many benefit platforms, including health insurance and life insurance, now come with access to counsellors, doctors and alternative therapies as an affordable extra, which can help support your team as we transition back into the office.
Research from Nudge Global found that over two-thirds (67%) of employees felt unsupported by their organisation when it came to financial wellbeing at the height of the lockdown last year. The pandemic left many worrying about their financial futures, and even younger generations who were previously unengaged with financial education have taken an interest in a greater variety of financial products, with over eight million 22-44 year-olds having considered protection policies over the last three months.
While providing financial advice to employees might not normally be at the top of the priority list for companies, the consequences of ignoring these concerns are clear. Of the 2,000 HR professionals surveyed by Nudge Global, two in five (41%) had seen employees’ financial issues affect their business negatively – the stress of which has led to mistakes and loss in concentration (40%), alongside general unproductivity (35%) amongst employees. Addressing financial stress helps companies to build stronger, long-time relationships with their employees, improving trust and company culture.
Providing the option for income protection insurance can offer some much needed comfort to individuals who are concerned about what would happen if they were to become too ill to work, a reality many people had to face in one way or another following the events of the last year. Benefits like these also increase staff retention, with companies who prioritise supporting their employee’s financial resilience seeing a 16% reduction in leavers compared to the previous year.
Platforms, such as Anorak, can easily be embedded into companies’ financial wellbeing strategies and provide staff with access to free financial advice, assessing their financial vulnerability and signposting them to the right products to support their needs.
With the lifting of the lockdown delayed until July, companies should use this extra time to speak to staff and get a better understanding of what would actually be useful to them in terms of benefits they want, in order to retain the best talent. While small gestures such as cakes in the office add an element of fun, it is important businesses adapt quickly to the shift back to the traditional perks, otherwise they risk being left behind.