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Just because it’s January doesn’t mean you have to be Blue

Attributed to unfavourable weather, extended nights, bank balances running dry and post-festive guilt, January is renowned as the ‘worst’ month of the year. Inevitably this month often has connotations of low mood, poor motivation and reduced productivity. Most concerning, with the continued pain from the high cost of living, there is a risk that this year the effects will linger. This should pose a serious concern for employers…

Chris Ronald, VP B2B, EMEA at Blackhawk Network (BHN) discusses how access to the right employee voluntary benefits can help. In fact, BHN recently uncovered that in recent times 40% of people have upped their use of workplace benefits due to off-set the rising cost of living, however only 20% are confident that these benefits will be enough in supporting them in 6 months time​.

Prioritising employee well-being is crucial to the health of individual staff and also the health of the business. Fostering a culture of positive mental health, where staff feel valued and cared for, can counteract the inherent gloominess of this time of year. But with the current added pressures, employers must go above and beyond this year to mitigate the risks of a demotivated workforce. This could possibly warrant the need for entirely new or at least refreshed strategies. This underscores why the most effective management teams have devised well-structured health & financial well-being initiatives that emphasise recipients having options and choices.

Choice is key

A common error among employers is creating a rigid well-being strategy, yet the concept of ‘wellbeing’ means different things to different people, particularly in today’s dynamic environment. BHN recently found that the thing (32% of) people liked the most about their current benefits programmes was their ability to choose options that suit them.

To address not only the challenges of January but any difficult periods throughout the year, HR teams must formulate a strategy that accommodates the distinct needs of individual employees as their personal circumstances are all different and often evolve. Whether an employee is a parent or looking to buy their first home, or struggling with discretionary spend or every day household expenses, there are different needs, which if not supported will impact their sense of well-being and viewpoint of the support their employer is providing. Some may value a subscription to a -wellness app or access to a bike through a cycle-to-work scheme, while others may favour discounted gift cards to make their salaries go further. Offering a variety of options empowers employees to choose what suits them best, maximising positive effects on wellbeing and enhancing the return on investment for employers.

Communication, communication, communication

Leaders that prioritise effective communication with their staff are far more likely to succeed in understanding their employee’s needs. Through ongoing listening and communication, HR teams can gain precise insights into the needs and motivations of their employees, allowing them to devise a benefits scheme with tailored and relevant options. This not only enhances the appeal for attracting new talent but also fosters a sense of care among existing staff, making them feel valued and supported by the organisation.

There is often a disconnect between what a company is offering and the perceived value to their staff. A significant increase in employee engagement and satisfaction is quantifiable and has been observed in companies that publish testimonials from their own staff, showcasing success stories of how a company’s perks and benefits have made a tangible positive impact. Recognising that personal reviews provide advocacy, often acting as a referral, inspire and motivate colleagues to participate and engage with what is on offer.

Neglecting to listen to employees and limiting their choices can undermine even the most well-intentioned strategies. Failure to align with the needs of staff signals a disconnect, posing a threat to already strained motivation levels. Embracing a benefits strategy that offers choice, demonstrates an understanding of staff preferences, can play a pivotal role in mitigating the impact of challenges such as the  January blues, and overall motivation throughout the year.


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