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Looking after employees when times are tough

A recent survey by the Office for National Statistics suggests that the cost of living crisis is a concern to 77% of people over the age of 16, with over 50% of respondents confirming that they thought about it every day.

Not only were they worried about the crisis, respondents also stated that it was actively driving them to make changes in their day-to-day life, including using the car less or reducing food and energy consumption to save money.

While it is not possible for all businesses to compensate staff with pay increases in line with rising inflation, there are ways to support staff in non-financial ways that can still help them feel valued and appreciated.

Wellbeing

Historically employee wellbeing initiatives have been seen as an added benefit in the workplace, but in recent times they have become more of an expectation, if not a necessity, for employees and job seekers.

  • General wellbeingChampion Health confirms that 40% of people with mental health problems claim that being in a poor financial situation impacts and even worsens their mental health issues. By providing access to wellbeing support, staff have an outlet where they can discuss any issues they’re experiencing and the opportunity to develop healthy coping mechanisms.

  • Financial wellbeing – Providing access to financial help and advice means staff not only feel supported but can learn how to improve their financial health. This might involve signposting to available grants and financial support, advice on pension planning, debt management, savings, or other tools to help reduce financial stress.

Learning and development

When budgets are tight, it is easy for CPD (continuous personal development) programmes to fall by the wayside. However, that does not have to be the case and employers need to continue to have discussions with staff around learning goals and career development.

Grants may be available to fund specific training courses but learning opportunities don’t all have costs associated:

  • Job swaps – employees can develop a better understanding of other parts of the business, practice teamwork and learn new skills.
  • Buddy programmes – less experienced staff members can gain knowledge and skills by working closely with and shadowing more senior members of staff.
  • Personal objectives – goals that take individuals into new areas of working, require them to learn new skills and move outside of their comfort zone can also provide valuable learning opportunities.

Communication

All communication is important. Whether it’s an informal team re-group, a transparent conversation about company performance, or a 1-2-1 catch-up, the benefits of open conversation between employer and employee can be impactful and long-lasting.

Being available to listen to your team’s questions and concerns and putting aside time for both formal and informal conversations is vital. This will encourage an open and honest understanding of individual and business-wide objectives, as well as ensure employees feel appreciated, heard, and valued.

Incentives

While the increased cost of living is putting significant pressure on individuals, there are also huge financial impacts for businesses too in the current climate. Sizeable pay increases might be out of the question, but low-cost and no-cost incentives can help keep employees engaged and motivated.

  • Flexible working options – Despite the fact that flexible working has been accelerated by the pandemic, the International Workplace Group’s ‘Workspace Revolution’ report suggests that flexible working has long contributed to increased productivity and employee job satisfaction. In line with the results of this research, employees in England, Wales and Scotland have the legal right to request flexible work. Offering this flexibility can contribute positively to business output and reduce stress on employees struggling to manage both personal and work commitments.

  • Show gratitude – Small tokens of appreciation go a long way and while your business may not be in the position to offer bonuses or annual pay increases, low-cost alternatives can demonstrate gratitude to your employees for their contributions. This could be something as simple as celebrating birthdays, team lunches, or acknowledging individual and team achievements through your communications channels.

    Other small motivational incentives might include an employee of the week and an employee of the month award. This boosts team morale and participation by encouraging employees to celebrate each other’s hard work.

  • Review your employee benefits – Get-to-work schemes, gym discounts and early finishes on Fridays can have an enormous impact on your employees’ sense of value and work-life balance. 

If you’re looking to make a bigger impact, 4 Day Week Global has recently launched its UK Pilot Programme, a 6-month trial in which 3,300 workers across 70 companies will trial a four-day working week with no loss of pay.
 
The programme consists of workshops, mentoring, networking and a wellbeing and productivity assessment to conclude the trial. Similar studies in other parts of the world have already shown promising results in terms of productivity and staff satisfaction. Would you try it?

It is vital that employers do whatever they can to support their staff, many of whom are going through tough times at the moment. What is more, research shows that motivated and engaged employees are likely to be more productive and creative. Just a few small changes that help reward staff can significantly improve employee satisfaction and retention, strengthen company culture, and help drive business success.

Read more about fostering good people culture in the workplace

How to foster good people culture

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