Changing the work landscape in 2021

The economic and business landscape has undergone a huge transformation during 2020, as businesses had to change their way of working and adapt to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Covid-19 has accelerated remote working, flexible hours working and pushed employers and employees to a greater reliance on technology. As a result, the way of working and where many of us have worked during the year has changed beyond recognition. This change now requires a major overhaul of how businesses reward, motivate and engage with their employees.

 

What has changed?

The pandemic has seen people opt to cycle and walk rather than take public transport. That’s why the cycle to work scheme has seen such growth over the year. It’s also made working from home a respectable option for many.

Employees have become more tech savvy, as one of the biggest changes has been using technology for virtual meetings and communications. Managers have had to learn how to appraise, motivate and reward staff who they may not have seen for over 9 months, other than through a laptop screen.

All this has meant that employee benefits such as health and mental wellbeing, which were previously viewed with suspicion by many business leaders, have come into their own and are now here to stay as mainstream solutions.

The fallout from these changes requires that the shape, content and delivery of benefit programmes will have to also change in response to the new requirements.

Remote working

According to the Office for National Statistics, 42.7% of working adults in the UK are working remotely due to social distancing measures (1). Most employers have been able to facilitate this by providing the equipment needed for their employees to work remotely and enable them to communicate with co-workers and customers online.

Workplaces are now experimenting with social media, AI, and wearable technology, bolstering their presence in the digital space, and many organisations are now considering moving completely online. Alongside saving money with no premises, rental costs or commuter costs, it allows businesses to hire employees without being restricted by their geographical location.

Of course, it’s not without its challenges. People are naturally social beings, and a lack of face-to-face interaction can prompt a decline in mental health, an unhealthier work-life balance, and slower communication.  This is why we have seen that much of the focus of employee benefits since the start of the pandemic has been on helping employees use the benefits that could help them with their emotional wellbeing such as employee assistance programmes and mental health resources provided by cash plans and private medical insurance.

 

Mental health support

Taking a proactive approach and investing in employees’ mental wellbeing has become a key issue for many employers. Benefit providers like Busy Bees Benefits now support the introduction and training of mental health ambassadors within a business. This has involved educating employers about the role and responsibilities of a mental health ambassador to appoint the most appropriate people to champion an environment of good mental health.

A mental health ambassador should be open to conversations with colleagues about mental health issues and be able to guide someone to the appropriate professional support.

 

Changing the way productivity is measured

Before remote working, employees would enter office spaces and stay there for the traditional nine-to-five. Productivity was measured by attendance and whether employees were sat in their desks and came back on time from lunch.

Looking forward productivity will need to be measured differently. This will involve must more focus on output-based ways of monitoring people’s performance, rather than physically seeing people sat in their seat with their heads down in the office.

Before the pandemic, organisations were slowly coming around to the idea of trusting employees to work outside of a manager’s direct oversight. But this was not a universal view with many traditional line managers not able to make the transition to flexible working. The lockdown at both a national and global level has forced any business dragging its feet on this issue to begin addressing the issue of productivity. And to start to address issues such as:  How do they know that their employees are working? How do they communicate with their teams?

Businesses will need to move away from the costs of lots of micromanagement and focus more on organisational culture, and that includes changing the way productivity is measured e.g. more focus on output rather than logged hours. This change means that employers will need to look at having an appropriate reward and recognition programme in place to support the news ways of working.

 

Reward and recognition

Employers can transform the way they engage with their employees by providing easy-to-use technology to provide their reward and recognition benefit programmes. The technology enables employees to access the benefits anywhere, any place and at any time. The key factor that must be looked at and at finding low cost easy to apply benefit platforms that new players such a Busy Bees Benefits can offer rather than expensive, IT heavy, flexible benefit systems.

Recognition has a huge impact in the workplace to make your employees feel appreciated, motivated and engaged. Whilst leadership-led recognition is a powerful tool, peer to-peer recognition can have a much larger positive impact on productivity and morale. Employers can increase employee job satisfaction and retention by implementing a simple low-cost recognition platform and make recognition part of their everyday business culture.

The key aspects of a recognition system are:

·     Use the Recognition Platform to highlight achievements and standout work

·     Administrators manage comments submitted by employees to show on the news feed

·     Management information provides an insight to help drive a recognition culture

·     Monitor recognitions sent via an Engagement Dashboard and assess who are your most active champion employees

·     Incentivise outstanding efforts in line with business objectives and values

·     Immediate reward delivery

·     Customised e-reward cards so that the rewards become personal

·     Adopt business branding and personalisation whenever you can

·     Create a nomination culture – peer-to-peer nominations for employee of the month

The aim of any reward and benefits programme is to better manage the new work environments and improve levels of engagement from employees, which means they see their work as valuable and feel recognised. This will then lead to better business performance.

 

Wojciech Dochan

Managing Director, Busy Bees Benefits

Provider of the SmartHive Platform

Smart Hive is an integrated, cost effective employee benefits platform that provides your employees with access to all their health and wellbeing benefits in one place. Talk to a member of our team today or book your very own demonstration.

Notes

1.    ONS November 2020