Member Article

How to support staff during times of uncertainty

Nearly a year on since the first national lockdown and for many of the UK’s businesses the last 12 months has been a long and uncertain ride. With months of an economy in suspension, cash flow has been squeezed and businesses have had to take quick measures to stay afloat, including restructuring.

Restructuring comes in many guises. It could mean changing around job roles or even merging with another company. For an already weary workforce, this level of disruption can generate high levels of anxiety. With research finding that almost half of employees feel insecure in their jobs right now, businesses will have to work hard and offer an enticing benefits package to help keep staff motivated and productive during times of uncertainty.

Employee benefits specialist Sodexo Engage identifies four top benefits that can help motivate employees during times of major change:

1 - Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)

Working for a business during any major change is nerve-wracking, even without Covid-induced uncertainty added to the mix. Mergers and acquisitions are known to increase anxiety amongst staff and employers have a duty of care to offset the risk of impact to employee wellbeing. Staff might feel imposter syndrome if their role changes overnight, apprehension about working with a whole new team or insecurity about the future of their role.

EAPs have always been a vital tool when it comes to effective health and wellbeing management, and they will be critical during a restructure. With an EAP, staff have free 24/7 counselling at their disposal. They can talk to a counsellor about anything including mental health, financial or family problems, and, for many, the opportunity to talk will be a weight off their shoulders. EAPs not only reduce the chances of employees suffering a mental health-related illness, but they also break down the mental health stigma. They are an important step towards building a company culture that promotes frank and open discussions about the way we feel and how we’re doing.

2 - Financial support

Job insecurity and uncertainty about the future has triggered panic with many of us worried about financial commitments and making-ends-meet.

As such, staff will seek out benefits that tackle financial wellbeing. Salary Sacrifice Schemes address financial concerns, as they make it easier for staff to afford both essentials and luxuries by contributing funds from pay checks. Offering employee discounts in the form of eVouchers, gift cards or employee cashback cards will also help staff economise. Managers can even look externally and offer resources and advice to help the team manage finances better and how to get more bang for their buck.

3 - Flexible working

Managers are approaching businesses with a changing mindset. Restructuring is just one example of how organisations have had to react quickly and adapt to the disorder of the world right now. But, this flexibility must extend to employees too.

Although change is a word that strikes fear into the hearts of many, it can be positive. The obligation for many businesses to switch to remote and be flexible faced with staff juggling personal and professional lives, has demonstrated businesses’ ability to adapt and it’ll be hard to justify backtracking.

The demand for flexible working is set to rise, with 74% of professionals now wanting this option at least some of the time. Working from home, flexible or compressed working hours and job-sharing, have all become commonplace and make balancing professional life with other demands, like childcare and general day-to-day activities, much easier. Flexible working empowers employees when they may feel otherwise rudderless and it’ll help keep the team engaged and motivated.

4 - Peer-to-peer recognition

Major changes in a business shouldn’t mean the basics go out the window. Gratitude is crucial at work and not just beneficial for the person on the receiving end of it, it makes us happier to be grateful. A workplace where the word ‘thank you’ is uttered frequently within its virtual walls will be a happier one. Staff with low spirits, due to loneliness, work and Covid-anxiety will seek positivity and appreciation at work. Managers need to make the working experience as stress-free as possible particularly during upheaval. Saying thank you will go some way to relieving stress, making staff feel comfortable in their jobs, when job insecurity reigns.

Employee recognition platforms are also a means of rewarding success – these can include peer-to-peer recognition and act as a concrete way to express gratitude whilst we’re all bound to our homes in dispersed locations.

Jonathan Bedford, Director at Sodexo Engage, comments:

“Some businesses are struggling and many are undergoing major changes to ensure survival. Any upheaval, particularly right now when life feels extra challenging, is bound to make staff anxious. However, there are ways managers can help alleviate stress. Organisations can offer benefits that address the impact to wellbeing and empower staff who feel isolated by the current situation.
“As we emerge from the crisis, businesses will have to demonstrate that the wellbeing of the team is top of the agenda. Companies that don’t adapt will struggle to retain staff.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Sodexo Engage .

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