In the ever-evolving landscape of the modern workplace, the concept of a hybrid workforce has become increasingly prevalent – with over three-quarters of UK businesses offering a hybrid option for employees[1]. As businesses continue to adapt to remote work, it is crucial that HR leaders focus on engaging, nurturing, and retaining hybrid employees.

Employee benefits are a powerful tool to help companies achieve these goals, but companies need to consider their role beyond simply boosting remuneration figures within a total rewards statement. Good employee benefits should have a meaningful impact on the lives of employees – and their families. But how can employers deliver these effectively in a hybrid world?

First, let’s consider the challenges of engaging a remote workforce.

One of the primary challenges businesses face with remote work is maintaining high levels of employee engagement. The absence of physical proximity and face-to-face interactions can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection. Without regular engagement, remote employees may struggle to stay motivated and connected to the company’s mission, values and purpose.

“Companies shouldn’t just focus on how engaged employees are in their everyday roles. Hybrid employees may also feel disconnected to programmes aimed at nurturing their development such as training, peer networking and wellbeing offerings.”  Suzanne Summerfield, Wellbeing Consultant

Empowering managers

In order to overcome these challenges, businesses need to invest in strategies that bridge the gap between on-site and remote employees. Managers play a pivotal role in maintaining team cohesion and ensuring that every team member feels valued and engaged, but are also well-placed to spot emerging issues. Effective communication becomes even more critical when team members are spread across various locations, and companies need to facilitate a multichannel approach to employee comms. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work for employee engagement.

Providing managers with training tailored to the nuances of leading a hybrid team is essential. This should focus on building strong communication skills, fostering a sense of belonging, and leveraging technology to facilitate seamless collaboration. When managers are equipped with the right skills, they can create an inclusive and supportive environment – regardless of geographic boundaries. Line managers should also be able to signpost available benefits and encouraged to regularly communicate with their teams about benefits that might be applicable to them. To ensure this is delivered consistently and sensitively, scripts and templates can be provided to drive these conversations.

Supporting diverse needs

An employee benefits programme should both meet basic needs and also address the challenges that may be faced by employees. Truly understanding employee needs is crucial, and employers need to ensure they take an inclusive approach to gathering employee feedback. Employee listening; in-person focus groups or anecdotal watercooler conversations exclude the input of remote employees.

Employers should also consider the diversity of their benefits offering; some ‘traditional’ benefits – such as cycle-to-work schemes or discounted access to local gyms – may not be as relevant for remote workers.

Employers should also consider how they can facilitate a better work/life balance; our Mind the Gap survey revealed that 26% of employees report that they are currently struggling to manage theirs. A flexible working arrangement can help employees manage their personal commitments and hobbies, as well as provide the flexibility to manage their health appointments and caring responsibilities. A sense of autonomy is an important factor to career satisfaction; flexible working can go beyond an individual’s professional life and have a positive impact on their overall wellbeing.

Focus on inclusivity

A company could offer every possible employee benefit available, but if an employee isn’t aware or empowered to access them then well-meaning intent becomes futile tick-boxing.

Facilitating access to benefits needs to be part of your broader people strategy, and enabling and encouraging benefits engagement should be a key component of your company culture. For example; access to health services and fitness classes can be facilitated by a reasonable amount of flexibility around working hours; financial wellbeing products could run parallel with financial education sessions to improve financial literacy; mental health provision should be supported by a culture of acceptance and accessibility.

“Employee benefits are not a sticky plaster solution; if there is an underlying cause creating issues then companies need to address these at the root. Employee benefits may form part of a solution, but they should be implemented strategically.” Suzanne Summerfield, Wellbeing Consultant

Digital platforms are a good way for companies to provide employees with equitable access to their benefits, often with 24/7 access available. Providing easy, anytime access could even help employees make better decisions about their benefits and boost uptake. There are various options for delivering digital platforms – from simple retail discount portals to more complex voluntary benefits platforms – which make them a realistic proposition for every budget.

As businesses navigate the challenges of managing a hybrid workforce, prioritising employee engagement and tailored wellbeing support is paramount. A well-crafted employee benefits package – underpinned by credible data coupled with effective manager training and engagement strategies – can help foster a workplace culture that thrives in a hybrid environment. By investing in the well-being and professional development of employees, businesses can build a resilient, motivated, and productive workforce.


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