Whether it is weekend activities, the weekly meal plan or a one-off gym class, the rising cost of living affects more than just your bills, says Gautam Sahgal.
In fact, our research found that nearly three-quarters (72%) of UK workers have been forced to change their lifestyles due to the rising cost of living.
Businesses are therefore faced with the stark reality of rising costs and tackling how best to support their staff through these difficult economic times. With their lifestyles disrupted, employees could inevitably become distracted, anxious – even unhappy – as a result. We found that over one in four (28%) employees admit that the change in their lifestyles has had a detrimental impact on their mental health.
Mitigating this isn’t just the right thing to do from a human perspective — it also makes good business sense. Firms are under pressure to maximise performance and deliver results. To do this, they need a fully engaged and productive workforce — one that is motivated to go the extra mile for their employer.
Our research has shown that nearly three-quarters (73%) of workers are looking to their employers for support. Business leaders therefore need to spring into action, fast. But during times of economic uncertainty, salary increases aren’t always financially feasible, so what can employers do to help support their workforce?
Step 1: Recognise the wider impact
Time away from work is no longer what it once was. Rising costs are forcing workers to reassess how they spend their free time, with nine in 10 (92%) cutting back on purchases such as going on holidays or leisure activities like going to the pub. And as a result, almost a quarter (24%) are taking fewer moments to themselves.
The knock-on effect of this is that employees are losing out on the moments that matter to them, causing their stress levels to increase, whilst their engagement at work and overall wellbeing also take a hit.
This should be an alarm call for employers to step in. Protecting the moments that matter and ensuring a work-life balance is essential to a happy, healthy and engaged workforce.
Step 2: Sense check the basics
To ensure employees have appropriate support, business leaders should first check their existing support mechanisms are up to scratch.
It is all too common, for example, that workers accidentally fall out of the salary band they should be in as a company grows rapidly and changes its bands accordingly. Businesses need to regularly review pay and salary bands to ensure that everyone is being paid fairly and reflective of their skillset and contribution.
It’s also important to reassess your current rewards strategy, to check you are effectively fostering a culture of appreciation. Whether big or small, celebrating your employees’ successes creates an environment where employees feel supported and motivated to do their best work.
Crucially, you should ensure employees can choose rewards that are meaningful to them. This can have a huge impact — showing that you value them as individuals, and ensuring rewards hit the mark every single time. This ultimately enables employees to protect the precious moments that matter to them.
Once you have sense checked the basics, ask yourself whether your employees are aware of the full scale of benefits and rewards on offer and how it can benefit them. You might be surprised how many don’t take advantage of what’s on offer, simply because they don’t know what’s in place. Take this time to educate and communicate regularly, and build this education into the onboarding process with new hires. You can also host regular training sessions and ‘benefit surgeries’ where employees can drop in, ask questions or provide suggestions. Also, seek out advocates within the business, and profile them so they can spread the word for you and share practical tips and tricks.
Finally, make sure your employee value proposition is clear. Fostering a strong company culture is more important than ever. Employees want to feel part of something bigger, where they feel secure and not afraid to ask for support. Setting company values and aligning your rewards strategy to them is a key step towards cultivating the culture you want.
Step 3: Listen
Find out what your employees truly want. Many may feel nervous to voice concerns or wants, so it’s essential to regularly check what is working. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking: “how are you, really?”. Encouraging an open and honest dialogue, will ensure employees know when they ask for change they will be listened to.
Ultimately, we can’t expect our employees to bring their best selves to work when they can’t enjoy the moments that matter to them. To correctly support employees, companies need a three-pronged approach: acknowledge that their workforce face a very different set of challenges than they did during the pandemic, check the support on offer meets their employees needs, and listen to and take action on the feedback given. Only then will companies truly realise the power of an effective rewards and benefits strategy.
Gautam Sahgal is CEO of Perkbox.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.