The Role Of Employee Benefits Post-COVID

As my colleague Tom Pullinger recently highlighted, presenteeism is rife among home workers, with more than a third of employees who are currently working from home saying they have continued to work during lockdown despite feeling unwell. It’s a reality that outlines the effect of the ‘always on’ work culture that has emerged over the last decade.

But the more employees’ physical and mental wellbeing is stretched, the greater the negative impact on productivity. That’s why many forward-thinking organisations have already started to address such issues by introducing new measures, including relevant employee benefits.

Two-thirds of employers have introduced new wellbeing benefits

Indeed, a new poll by Gartner has revealed that two-thirds of organisations have introduced new wellbeing benefits to support employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Gartner research found that 68% of employers have introduced at least one new benefit to support employees’ mental and emotional health as they adjust to new ways of working.

Interestingly, before the pandemic even occurred, employers were spending 45% of the increases in wellbeing budgets on programmes that were designed to boost mental and emotional wellbeing.

Of those organisations that provided emotional wellbeing programmes, all offered Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), while almost half (48%) provided bespoke counselling services and 21% offered mental health assessments.

When Gartner analysed the impact of such interventions, it found that when mental health assessments were offered, employee engagement improved by 3.1%. An even more positive impact was seen by those companies that offered support groups, with employee engagement improving by 5.5%. However, it is ironic because despite the improvements to be afforded, support groups are the least common employee benefit offered by organisations, Gartner found.

Speaking about the findings of the research, Carolina Valencia, director in the Gartner HR practice, said that organisations can position themselves as “employers of choice for prospective job seekers” by doing what they can to help their employees adapt to the ‘new normal’.

She added that limited gym access and other services, not to mention concerns about job security, have led many individuals to feel isolated.

Communication remains key

It is unfortunate that some organisations spend significant amounts of time and money introducing thoughtful employee benefits, but then do not put the same level of effort into effectively communicating them. As a result, benefits uptake is often lower than expected, something that could be avoided if more impetus was placed on communication.

Organisations can maximise the impact of the benefits they offer by ensuring employees are aware of how they can access them, as well as making them available over virtual channels, and identifying any areas where additional support could be offered.

Gartner advises HR leaders to survey employees to better understand how their needs might have changed during the pandemic. “Progressive organisations are crowdsourcing ideas and guidance on how to support the emotional wellbeing of their employees,” the analyst company said.

Need Help?

When was the last time you reviewed your employee benefits offering? Will you once the lockdown has been fully lifted and people have returned to work?

Staying in touch with your employees and understanding their needs is arguably the best way you can stand out as an employer of choice.