Without doubt, our lives have all been turned upside down in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
How our households live and breathe has shifted massively, with homes quickly morphing into offices, classrooms, gyms and much more. Our weekdays look a lot like our weekends, except with a few more people to talk to on a Monday to Friday.
The concept of flexible working – or perhaps more accurately, remote working – has suddenly been thrust into the limelight, with employers grappling to react to an evolving landscape of government guidance and a challenging economic environment.
Naturally this shift in how and where we all work has affected the relationship between employers and their employees with virtual meetings replacing gatherings and video chats eclipsing email threads.
While the ability to work in a truly flexible way will, I’m sure, be welcomed by many employees, the demand that this places on employers is significant.
In the fallout from the pandemic, employees are now asking for more from employers, be that a change in hours worked or an increased health benefits package, at a time when businesses are being squeezed financially.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development recently revealed that for many employees flexible working had not even been offered to them, with 46 per cent of workers saying it was not an option.
And perhaps the barrier to embracing this fully is the misconception that changes to employee benefit packages has to mean additional expense. They do require commitment, but not always the financial sort.
Promote your benefits
For example, all too often employees are simply unaware of their existing benefits provision. Often these are typically shared at interview stage and largely only mentioned annually ahead of the staff selection window.
For example, how many of us can readily say what our employer contributes to our pension scheme, let alone what sort of scheme it is? Timely reminders and a more frequent cadence of communications would help employees to understand what benefits they have. This alone could go a long way to reassuring employees and establishing a greater level of trust between employers and staff.
Some employers are also likely to offer benefits for employees' families and dependents too. When the health of ourselves and our families has been put under such a spotlight, reiterating to staff the health support available to them can offer real peace of mind.
Employee assistance programmes are another interesting example of unsung benefits rarely promoted or communicated frequently enough, especially in this new virtual environment.
Advertising or highlighting those services offered, such as telephone helplines, apps or online support, can be a huge help. And having them readily available at the time when they most need it, is often what will make the difference.
The last thing employees need to be doing in their time of need is struggling to find contact details.