Debra Clark, head of specialist, Towergate Health & Protection
Covid has given us stark statistics, with infection and death rates reported daily. Employers have seen an impact on their workforce, with an increased awareness of mortality shaping the requirements of health and wellbeing programmes and influencing employee benefit decisions. Offering health and wellbeing benefits can no longer be a tick-box exercise, it must be front and centre of corporate agendas. Now is the time for employers to act to ensure their benefits are current, relevant and addressing the very real concerns of their employees.
When looking at how best to support employees during 2021, employers must:
- Focus on prevention
Prevention is a major watchword in wellbeing at the moment and in light of the tougher restrictions announced yesterday (4 Jan) this will be even more applicable. Employees are interested in benefits that will help them to stay fit and healthy. Employers need to consider providing access to educational programmes including webinars and health tips; more tangible lifestyle and fitness support, such as exercise classes; healthy eating plans and cycle to work schemes, or literal preventative measures, such as flu vaccinations.
- Extend benefits
In many businesses, employees are no longer working in quite the same way. Employers need to consider benefits for remote and part-time workers as staff diversify in terms of their work patterns and locations. Benefits need to match the flexibility of the roles now in place. Forward-thinking employers are extending benefits to cover dependants, recognising that an employee’s wellbeing is affected by their home environment too. Supporting dependants lifts a burden for employees.
Whereas traditionally some benefits have been thought of as being for senior levels only, employers need to expand health and wellbeing benefits to the wider workforce. Offering healthcare to a larger number of employees will have a positive impact for the business and employees alike.
- Personalise provision
Personalisation is key to engagement and utilisation of benefits. Solutions that are varied and flexible will provide the best fit for each individual. Health and wellbeing benefits often come with added-value options that include personalised programmes such as hubs and apps, where individuals can enter data each day regarding how they feel physically and/or emotionally. These can provide a nudge or prompt for self-support or for access to additional assistance. Similarly, fitness trackers can be updated with individual details to monitor progress and set goals.
- Protect finances
Some employees will be concerned over future finances. Reports in the media of ongoing furlough, reduced hours and redundancies will only fuel such worries. Consequently, there is increased interest in benefits that protect employees’ finances. Group risk products will appeal, providing financial, emotional and practical support at times of ill-health, disability or in the event of death, all of which support employees and/or their families in difficult times.
- Use wider communication methods
Engaging employees will be vital, not only regarding benefits, but also to keep in touch with staff to support their physical and mental health. Regular contact with colleagues helps to maintain both morale and focus. Support for emotional wellbeing can be made available in the form of access to specialist mental health support, personalised hubs, or employee assistance programmes. Online benefits platforms allow employers to administer and promote benefits in one place, they help gain maximum engagement and make educational and support services easily available.
Covid has put health, wellbeing, and protection right back at the top of the benefits agenda. Employees have had a valuable reminder of what is really important to them – their family and their health. Employers too have had an awakening and now is the time to take action to ensure that their main assets, their people, are protected.