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The New Normal & What That Means for Work

The past few months have been incredibly tough as businesses have needed to manage the curveballs that were being thrown their way.

As a business we help organisations with their employee benefit programmes, be that the initial introduction of benefits for the first time, such as salary sacrifice products or more complex solutions covering both traditional and digital employee rewards, engagement services and products. Over the last six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the discussions that we have had with HR teams have centered around helping businesses put in reward programmes that will help them adopt and support new ways of working and transform their rewards and benefits offering.

 

How are we all coping?

The past few months have been incredibly tough as businesses have needed to manage the curveballs that were being thrown their way. It has been a period of great learning for business owners, managers, and employees, as everyone has been forced to look at how they operate. Lockdown has forced everyone to slow down and examine the quality of their working and personal lives, to look at what they like and do not like.

I am a born optimist and try to balance up risks and opportunities and how to make the best of every situation, but it has been difficult ensuring that I focus on the positive to help the business to thrive in these difficult circumstances.

Lockdown has forced businesses to question how they do things, and the best ones are changing, getting ready for a new business landscape. They are looking at the role that benefits technology can play in delivering employee benefits and in managing the employee experience to drive engagement.

For many, one of the best aspects of lockdown has been to bring their world into more focused dimensions for a while – no commuting, a slowing down, but with back to back meetings continuing virtually. With social distancing more people are learning to live life locally and how to better organise their lives.

New communities have sprung up via on-line apps, employees have learnt how to support one another to keep safe and be productive remotely. This has meant that diverse team members have celebrated VE day together, hosted Karaoke, Bingo, or quiz’s together via digital platforms and learnt how to work more smartly.

 

Managing the anxiety and stress

That does not mean however that everyone has been at ease and stress free. Many people have struggled managing their fears and anxieties, whilst working in their kitchen or on the sofa. Therefore, we have seen a huge demand for our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).

The health and wellbeing support offered by an EAP with access to trained counsellors 24/7 have come into their own, as they provide personalised emotional wellbeing support. The aim of the service is to create a safe space for employees, where they can access confidential one-to-one support. EAP’s also provide reference material that employees can access and download online.

It is important to remember that what affects employees outside the workplace can affect them in it, too; it’s inevitable. For this reason, an EAP is intended to extend its support far beyond the workplace. It’s an indispensable tool for financial and legal matters, childcare, eldercare, emotional, healthy living and practical everyday support and much more. If dissatisfaction with any of these issues boils over into the workplace, it can manifest itself as aggression and conflict. With the economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19 employers are also using EAP’s to help employees cope with layoffs or management shakeup.

Some employers have been asking for more protective measures around mental health support. That is why services which can combine access to a GP telephone consultation and trained counsellors are very important. There are courses that can be taken to provide mental health first aid in the workplace to help provide early support in the workplace. By embedding mental health first aid training into your organisation encourages people to talk more freely about mental health, promoting early intervention which enables recovery, reducing stigma and creating a positive culture.

 

Going forward – what does the future hold?

Whilst lockdown is easing, it is evident that we are going to have many more months in small bubbles, without face-to-face meetings and larger gatherings. For many this will continue to be a difficult time and like many people I back in March I did not believe that this very difficult situation would go on for as long as it has. But here we are into September, and we are certainly not back to what we could describe as normal.

The likelihood is that more of us will be spending a lot of time working from home and many of our regular social and work activities will continue to be disrupted due to on-going social distancing. The new normal is going to affect every part of our social and working lives – who we meet, how we meet them, how we work, where we travel to meet people for business meetings.

These new times give us opportunities to review how we all work and support each other. Having the right and appropriate employee benefits in place is an important element in terms of how businesses will perform going forward. So please review what you offer you employees and have a talk with your benefits provider.

 

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.