Exploring the new approach to workplace benefits

Much like everything else in the world of work, employee benefits have undergone significant change in the last year. As employee and candidate attitudes to working have altered, the benefits employers offer as an additional incentive for joining an organisation have had to adapt alongside them.

Unsurprisingly, this all began with the pandemic forcing us to work remotely. Suddenly there was no need for quirky offices, pool tables or unlimited holidays; these things became almost redundant overnight. Attitudes also switched, as we were all forced into a standstill, workers in virtually every industry were able to rethink what’s most important to them at work or even re-evaluate their careers. Employees began to realise how much time they spent at work, and many seem to have taken action to prioritise their wellbeing, both mentally and physically, as well as their happiness. If you spend near enough 40 hours a week doing a job, you want to be happy at work.

Because of this, the role of benefits at work has changed significantly. What was once an additional perk to help entice candidates has quickly become necessary to enhance their experience and lifestyle. Fully stocked beer fridges and ping-pong tables have had their day. Once upon a time, the more quirky or fun a benefit was, the more a business stood out in the eyes of candidates. But, the last two years have proven that benefits should be just that, a benefit, not something fun and out there to add to your employer brand communications. Benefits shouldn’t be there to capture attention but rather to enhance the lives of employees significantly.

This means we’re seeing a new approach to benefits where employees’ lives take centre stage. HR and talent teams have to look at the real-life challenges their employees face and find solutions to provide support and help.

Financial and Legal Support

As the cost of living rises, so do financial pressures on employees. By offering support in this area, you could be helping employees through a stressful and challenging situation. Financial and legal concerns can be challenging and often isolating. Employers cannot expect that their team members will leave these pressures at home; if you’re under intense strain, it’s bound to affect your performance and productivity at work. Therefore, it should be the concern of employers too. By offering financial and legal advice as a benefit as an employer, you can show that you’re considering their personal problems and issues, understanding that emotional stresses cannot be left at the door.

Health and Pregnancy Benefits

Maternity and paternity benefits have long been a topic of discussion, but if tech employers which to diversify and attract more female employees, it’s essential that they refine these benefits. Proper maternity and paternity benefits can help reduce burnout amongst new mothers and help families adjust to their new work-life balance. In addition, allowing new parents to adapt and spend quality time with their child means that they’ll have a more positive perception of their employer and will probably be ready to come back to work sooner, in a more focused way.

Both Monzo and ASOS, for example, have recently extended benefits for employees going through menopause, undergoing fertility treatments, with wider health issues, and those who have experienced a pregnancy loss by allowing these individuals to take extra leave. In terms of pregnancy loss, it also applies to partners and those using surrogates. They aim to ensure that their team feel supported through any unexpected challenges life throws at them. They want employees to know that they can take a step away from work if times are hard. ASOS wants to reassure their teams that they will have personal and financial support no matter what life throws at them and will have time to recover without feeling forced to come back to work. This is the sort of benefit that makes employees feel valued and takes away added stress.

Like here at Talent Works, some employers can also offer healthcare benefits that cover the cost of certain expenses. This can help employees both financially and medically, giving them more reason to access healthcare services and financial support should they need them. There are also options for providing discounts for gym memberships and offering team fitness classes or other health orientated activities. Employers realise that their employees’ mental and physical health is key to their happiness and success at work. Therefore, they are becoming more willing to invest in it.

Pawternity Leave

The new approach to benefits also helps with lighter situations like if employees get a new pet, with many employees considering “pawternity” leave as a unique benefit. While some may say it’s silly to offer time off if an employee gets a dog, 39% of people asked agreed it was a good idea. Having a puppy creates a lifestyle change which can include sleepless nights and a schedule change. While it may be the employee’s choice, offering flexibility to adjust could really help them feel supported by their employer. This could be the choice to bring pets into work, more options to work from home during this time, or offering paid leave, depending on what works for the business. Pets benefit our mental health, that’s been proven, so employers offering support with this does make sense if they care about their team’s overall wellbeing.

Support for carers

It seems that many employees have also had their eyes opened to the challenges faced by employees who are also caregivers. Care isn’t only for children, and employees can often feel the pressures of holding down a full-time job while caring for an elderly or sick relative. These extra responsibilities and concerns can add stress and make employees more likely to burn out or lose focus. Employees can’t always leave their home life at the door or switch off their emotions when in the office. Life isn’t like that. The best employers will find ways to support all employees who have these responsibilities, not just those with young children. A genuinely supportive approach to workplace benefits in 2022 will mean providing solutions tailored to individual situations and understanding that each employee has other priorities outside of the workplace.

Can’t flexible working solve all of this?

Yes and no. The idea of flexible working and the option for employees to work from home once or twice a week became the norm during the pandemic; with many industries seeing little to no effect with this change, it became something that employees expect rather than a benefit or perk. For retail, hospitality, construction, healthcare and beauty (among many others), flexible or remote work isn’t possible. But, you’ll find most candidates and employees in desk-based jobs expect to be able to work from home at least some of the time, and if you don’t offer this option, plenty of other companies will. Therefore, flexible working is no longer seen as a benefit for office workers. It’s an expectation.

However, working from home is exactly that, working. If your employees are grieving, trying to adapt to life with a new baby or pet, caring for a loved one or are sick themselves, then they won’t be doing the best job possible. By offering the option of flexibility, leave or additional support, employees will have an emotional weight taken off their minds. Encouraging extra leave or financial aid as a benefit will significantly improve their wellbeing and perceptions of you as an employer. In the years after the world was forced to stop and think, we realised the value of taking a step back from work, and that is becoming the ultimate workplace benefit.

But why do benefits matter so much?

Well, benefits that improve the lives of your employees will build loyalty and improve your employee retention. In a market with so many available positions and higher attrition than ever before, finding ways to really help and support employees will be vital in ensuring they stay with you.

Benefits can also help to build your employer brand image and perceptions. If you want to be seen as an employer that takes care of its team and supports them, much like ASOS and Monzo, as we mentioned earlier, then benefits will play a massive role in this. Your benefits packages can form a part of your EVP, and whether it’s weekly yoga sessions, extended leave for personal reasons or financial support, they will help define who you are as an employer. Including them in your EVP will ensure that these benefits run throughout the organisation and will assure employees and candidates that these are real benefits available to them, not just talk. This will form your employer brand perceptions. Employer branding is crucial in retaining and attracting talent. It helps build team unity and supports your recruitment efforts. By being true to your word and supporting your employees on an individual basis, you’ll improve employer brand perceptions and could have more stories to tell.

Finally, they can support your talent acquisition efforts significantly. If a candidate is choosing between your business and the competition, you may find that salary, company culture and opportunities for learning and development are all on par. Therefore, it could be benefits that tip the boat. If you offer better maternity support, for example, and this candidate is thinking of starting a family, then this may be the deciding factor. Having helpful and supportive benefits could really work in your favour when it comes to attracting talent in this competitive market. A personalised approach covering all possible scenarios is a great way to make your employees feel valued.

Talent Works are experts in helping businesses attract talent and build and develop EVPs and employer brand messaging, which can help retain and attract candidates. Our EVP work has formed the basis of company cultures and talent acquisition strategies for some leading tech businesses.

Contact us to find out more about how we can help you create an EVP relevant to teams in 2022.