A trend towards flexible working, and particularly towards only spending Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in the office, has been the direct result of the recent pandemic.
Prior to lockdown, few of our clients were offering flexible working of any sort. But now the majority are doing so as they attempt to ease recruitment and retention issues.
The practice is particularly popular with firms involved in IT and with those in creative industries – where colleagues still need to meet up a couple of days a week to bounce ideas off each other.
Being able to work some of the week from home can have clear benefits, such as creating a healthier workforce by enabling employees to visit the gym rather than spend hours commuting.
Recent Canada Life research found that 63% of adults felt remote working had improved their work-life balance, with 55% citing the positive impact it has had on their mental health, and 47% feeling fitter and healthier as a result.
But management also need to be alert to its potential downsides. Should they, for example, be sending emails to team members outside normal working hours? And perhaps they should be encouraging homeworkers to take more breaks between calls and to consider whether they actually need to attend every single video meeting?
The same Canada Life research found that 46% of adults would prefer fewer meetings or less time on Zoom, 43% would like better access to mental health support, and 54% would like their employer to introduce wellness days.
Important tools to help tackle some of the health and wellness issues are readily available within many health and group risk schemes, and Chase de Vere is seeing clients increasingly looking to enhance their benefits packages to ensure they provide the necessary support.
In particular, employee assistance programmes (EAPs), which are commonly included in a range of health-related schemes, can have a crucial role to play. They offer employees free and impartial 24/7 stress counselling together with a range of other services such as debt management, legal help and elderly care guidance.
But it’s important to understand that just having an EAP is of little use unless you let employees know it’s available and what it can do. Indeed, you may enjoy no usage at all.
A good communications programme – which Chase de Vere can help you with – can, on the other hand, lead to usage rates of over 10%.
Group risk schemes are also now increasingly including other free features that can be helpful to those working from home, such as virtual GP services, mental health support and online platforms giving a wealth of information on health and wellbeing.
Some providers now even extend usage of some of these added-value features to non-scheme members and their families.
HR departments seeking to convince their finance teams of the benefits to the business of such facilities should realise that we may be able to help them set schemes up on a cost-neutral basis.
For many clients, for example, we implement a salary exchange arrangement for the pension scheme, and use the employer NI savings resulting from this to fund health-related schemes.
Furthermore, some schemes that offer a range of valuable benefits are in fact extremely inexpensive, particularly health cash plans — which can include EAPs and health assessments and can allow employees to claim back money towards the cost of many check-ups and treatments, including those for optical, dental and complementary therapies.
Taking a low-cost form of group income protection that pays out for sickness and disability for a maximum of two to five years – as opposed to until retirement like a standard income protection scheme – can also represent outstanding value. Crucially, the ancillary benefits remain the same as on a standard scheme.
Even once the COVID crisis has ended, added-value features will continue to evolve, as will a business’s individual requirements. So, HR teams will still face new challenges in their quest to support employee wellbeing and will benefit from working with an intermediary that has its finger on the pulse.
Content correct at the time of writing and is intended for general information only and should not be construed as advice.