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12 Feb 2024
by Heidi Stewart

What do employees really want? Clue: it’s not just money

The disruption caused by Covid-19 exposed the poor mental health support provided by employers

What do employees really want? Clue: it’s not just money.jpg 1


In today’s world of work, salary is not enough. While employee benefit packages have been used by businesses for decades to attract and retain talent, the Covid-19 pandemic has led many employers to rethink their benefit strategies to meet the changing needs of the workforce.

According to The Harvard Business Review, the disruption caused by Covid-19 laid bare the interconnectedness of work and life. It not only exposed that the support mental health was insufficient but also showed that many workers are entangled in demanding and inflexible workplace cultures that create burnout.

Even after the pandemic, employers have started to realise that pressures outside of work affecting their employees are not challenges that can just be ignored. People can’t be expected to just leave their stresses at home and turn up at work without their worries.

Instead, business leaders are acknowledging they have a responsibility to act to get the best from their staff. This is especially important in current circumstances where families are struggling to make ends meet due to the cost-of-living crisis and individuals are finding it increasingly difficult to access basic healthcare due to the long NHS wait times.

Employers need to try harder

However, the CIPD’s Reward Management Survey found only four in 10 employees are happy with the benefits being offered by their employer and just 41% find them easy to access. The survey also found that UK employers need to work harder to ensure that low-paid workers can access benefits that could help them increase their spending power and protect them from poverty.

Meanwhile a study by YouGov reported that 85% of workers say employers should play a role in their mental health and wellbeing, but many still do not have access to support. And only one in five businesses make healthcare cash plans available to employees, while just 25% of organisations have cash plans that provide access to GP appointments, physio, chiropractors, or counselling.

On the positive side, 38% of businesses are planning to increase their benefits budget.

BHSF, for example, has seen an average 24% increase in average member use of the top six cash plan benefits between 2021 and 2023, with diagnostic consultation and screening and physiotherapy and osteopathy services receiving the highest increases in access.

For non-cash plan benefits there have been significant spikes in use especially with GP helpline and mental health support services, which have shown an increase of 300% and 50% respectively between 2022 and 2023.

Choose the right benefits package

While employee benefits packages can be costly, figures show that businesses can expect a significant return on investment. An often-quoted statistic, for example, is that each £1 spent brings a return of between £4 and £9.50.

As this varies from company to company, it’s recommended that it’s best to focus on other measures such as outcomes. This can include employee key performance indicators, staff turnover rates, absence percentages and employee satisfaction.

However, gaining the most value out of an employees benefits package will largely depend on the quality of provider. Start by opting for a holistic solution that provides employees with cash back for healthcare, discounts and instant access to help as well as support across a range of areas including legal and financial services and access to accredited mental health experts.

With almost half of UK workers experiencing burnout, mental ill health and work-related stress, and one-third of managers feeling out of their depth supporting their team with mental health concerns, special attention must also be given to the wellbeing support your provider offers.

Look for the best

Best-in-class providers will offer a tailored service around an individual’s specific needs, no matter how complex their issues. Features and benefits should include 24/7 counselling and advice, 24/7 health and wellbeing support, face-to-face counselling, telephone access to legal information as well as financial and dept support, access to a GP 24/7 online or by phone, unlimited call length with no time restraints, and online resources to help employees with their mental health and wellbeing.

With the boundaries of work and life becoming increasingly blurred, employees want more from employers. While support can be provided through employee benefits packages, businesses have a responsibility to ensure that the services provided are right for their workers.

Partnering with a provider that can accommodate the varying types of support needed by employees can make a positive difference to the organisation and help keep workers healthy, happy and productive.

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