The landscape of employee wellbeing has undergone a drastic shift over the last two years. The ongoing challenges created by the pandemic, alongside an increasingly turbulent economic climate mean that employers are having to adapt quickly and adopt a range of different approaches to supporting their employees.

Key to this is the challenge of how to continue to support and motivate a diverse workforce across increasingly changing and disparate environments, with recognition, reward, inclusion and a supportive culture all fundamental ingredients.

We take a look at the role benefits can play in this space, helping to support employee wellbeing and motivate employees in the new world of work.

Take steps to create an inclusive and positive workplace culture

Ensuring employees feel a sense of belonging is a key pillar of employee wellbeing; from connecting with the organisation’s purpose, to rebuilding a sense of team spirit and camaraderie, the culture of your team and how individuals fit within it, should be high on the post-pandemic agenda.

Newer employees who have entered into roles after the pandemic began may have never had access to a workspace and could feel isolated as a result. The absence of feeling part of a team means it’s difficult to instil a sense of belonging, which can ultimately lead to demotivation or loss of productivity.

Technology and communication are fundamental; particularly as many organisations will go forward in a fully remote or hybrid environment. Benefits technology can play a key part of this, providing a central hub and a regular touch point which helps to create greater unity amongst employees. For those who may not have easy day-to-day access to digital channels in the workplace, a multi-channelled communication approach will be important.

Increasingly, employees now expect to see their principles reflected in their workplace culture; with alignment to purpose now a critical factor as part of an organisation’s employee value proposition. This is where ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) and DEI (Diversity, equity and inclusion) initiatives are key. Your benefits strategy has an important role to play, with areas such as pension funds, charitable giving, inclusive policies and employee wellbeing support all in the spotlight. Indeed, a rising number of organisations are providing innovation in this space, with access to support in areas such as menopause, fertility, men’s health, and gender dysphoria all great examples of building a culture underpinned by individuality and meaningful purpose.

Such a positive workplace culture can help to enhance employee motivation and loyalty by creating a working environment in which people feel they want to contribute as part of a wider team, and by demonstrating highly principled standards as an organisation.

Encourage recognition of hard work

It’s well established that employers get more out of employees when they feel valued, and this in turn creates a more productive and successful business. An intrinsic part of employee wellbeing is ensuring employees feel valued, and that their contributions matter within the organisation. Clear career paths and development opportunities are an expectation, as are fair and transparent compensation and reward policies. Employers who are most successful in this area have also adopted a more universal policy for recognition which includes peer-to-peer recognition, gifts and experiences, vouchers or savings. And don’t forget, a simple thank you goes a long way.

Promote a healthy work-life balance

Following the pandemic there is an enduring culture of presenteeism within many organisations. As the line between home and work life became blurred with the introduction of remote working, for many people this has led to an unhealthy relationship with work (an ‘always-on’ culture, constantly checking emails outside of working hours or on weekends for example). This way of working threatens to undermine employee wellbeing initiatives and could lead to burnout in employees. The effects of burnout can be gradual, but over time can lead to fatigue, irritability, or even mental health issues long-term.

Promoting the importance of down-time for both physical and mental health is an essential part of employee wellbeing and the wider workplace culture. Most employers recognise they get more out of their people when they are rested, happy, and healthy.

Schemes such as holiday purchase programs, savings and child benefits can help to encourage a healthier work-life balance by enabling employees to get the most out of their down-time. Additionally, access to voluntary wellbeing benefits and information such as mindfulness can reinforce the notion that employees’ wellbeing outside of work is a real concern to the employer.

Demonstrate a level of care for employees

There is a now a greater recognition that wellbeing should be embedded within company culture, and a heightened understanding that employee wellbeing can benefit the business overall. Healthy employees are more productive and motivated and, where support is offered by the employer, this will also help to establish a sense of loyalty and belonging to the organisation.

Although most employers recognise the importance of providing a high-level of care for their employees’ wellbeing, not all organisations take the same paternal approach. When it comes to benefits, there are a variety of value-add benefits which can help to promote wellbeing amongst employees at little or no cost to the employer.

Whilst more traditional benefits such as PMI schemes enable employees to access comprehensive support for their mental and physical health, there are now a wide range of additional or voluntary benefits which allow employees to have more autonomy over the support they utilise, and greater control over their own wellbeing. This can include information on mindfulness and relaxation techniques, optional flexible benefits, or tapping into elements which are included as part of other schemes such as an EAP (Employee Assistance Program).