COVID-19 sparks new interest in holistic employee benefits

May 6, 2021

The MyEva team brings you insightful content on workplace financial wellbeing

COVID-19 sparks new interest in holistic employee benefits
Employee benefits have long been a vital part of the workplace as well as the employee experience.

From company cars and cycle to work options to childcare vouchers and share buy-ins, benefits play a significant role in building relationships and loyalty between a business and its workforce. However, the landscape is shifting. Traditional benefits that were once used to woo new candidates and retain existing staff are rapidly falling out of favour, with more socially responsible alternatives on the rise.  

The COVID shift

This shift has undoubtedly been facilitated by the pandemic. The global health crisis has sparked a massive change in priorities. COVID-19 hasn’t just impacted working environments. It’s impacted finances. Mental health. Support networks. It’s impacted practically every aspect of day-to-day life. And now, research suggests that employees are turning to their employers for help. According to a recent survey, nearly three quarters of UK workers believe that their employer has a duty to support their wellbeing and happiness, while 60% want their employer to consider personal circumstances.  

It’s clear that businesses cannot operate in the same way in a post-COVID environment as they did previously. Fortunately, some employers do appear to be stepping up. Shortly after the UK’s first lockdown, it was reported that around 40% of businesses had made changes - or planned to make changes - to their employee benefits programme as a direct result of the pandemic. But what changes are they introducing?

The new era of employee benefits

Although lockdown regulations have been devastating to many, one of the very few silver linings is that it’s pushed self care to the front of the queue. With more free time, and fewer activities or opportunities for socialising, lockdown has enabled some people to focus more on their own physical and mental health, and prioritise their wellbeing.  

And this is the driver of change in the employee benefits landscape. Employees and candidates are no longer looking for perks; they’re looking for holistic benefits that take into account both wellbeing and social factors, and support them in day-to-day life.  

To date, two of the biggest changes happening in employee benefits are:

1. Financial wellbeing options

Furlough, reduced hours, and redundancies - coupled with home school supply costs and other COVID-related outgoings - are creating levels of financial inequality greater than ever before. In fact, a recent survey undertaken during the COVID-19 outbreak shows that nearly 50% of employees would like their employers to help them secure loans or manage loss of household income, while a quarter would like their employer to support them in identifying ways to lower outgoings and stretch their budget further.  

Some benefits that employers could consider offering include:

  • Access to educational resources to help build good spending habits
  • Advice on pensions, saving for retirement, and maximising contributions
  • Guidance on understanding the importance of pensions
  • Pre-retirement support such as options for taking tax-free cash

And the good news is the employers don’t need to be in-the-know about financial wellbeing. These services can be delivered to employees via online financial wellbeing apps like MyEva, which provides each employee with their own financial expert and sets achievable goals for saving and spending based on individual circumstances.  

2. Mental health & wellbeing options

The true extent of the UK’s growing COVID-related mental health crisis is not yet known. What is known, however, is that the mental health charity Mind reports that more than half of all UK adults believe that their mental health has deteriorated during lockdown.  

Some benefits that employers could consider offering include:

  • Access to online or telephone counselling or support services
  • Availability of ‘mental health days’ for rest and recovery
  • Scheduling of non-work chats, particularly for employees working remotely
  • Access to dedicated online programmes to help manage life events

What is particularly worrying at this stage of the pandemic is that, while 34% of businesses have introduced a new wellbeing employee benefit over the past 12 months, just 25% are planning to continue offering these services in the future. Mental health is not a trend. COVID-19 has permanently changed the landscape. Prioritising mental health - alongside physical health - is now vital for creating healthy balance.  

It’s time to change

Now is the time for employers to adapt and step up to accommodate the needs and changing requirements of the workforce. Ultimately, it appears they can’t afford not to.  

The fact is that benefits matter. Recently, it was found that the pandemic had forced around half of all UK workers to reconsider the value of the benefits their employer was offering, with some deciding to join a new business to access benefits more relevant to the shifting landscape and their evolving needs. The type of benefits a business offers can make or break the employee experience. It pays to be ahead of the curve.  

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