The pandemic has changed routine working lives for millions. We are no longer fixed to desks five days a week. With this new work-life freedom, many of us have discovered that we can work from almost any location.

As a response, the benefits that employers have been offering employees to keep them sweet have changed dramatically. There’s been a huge shift away from office-centric benefits, such as subsidised meals, complimentary drinks, company cars, discounted travel, and in-house crèches. Now, we’re seeing more offerings around flexible hours, utility contributions, and technologies, such as apps for encouraging healthy lifestyles, and childcare. The ways that employers are looking to retain and attract talent has turned on its head as they pivot to what’s now more important for employees.

Flexibility benefits

The pandemic highlighted the need for employee wellbeing strategies. Our recent research shows that two-fifths of employees rank flexibility as one of the most important benefits and three-fifths (60 per cent) would not consider a job that provided less flexibility than they have today.

For employers, their strategy to best support employees must be to offer flexibility. Compressed hours or split days are becoming more common. Employers need to offer benefits that support working from home, such as utility contributions, technology budgets for purchasing laptops and local business club memberships, which helps people integrate into their communities.

The integration of work into the home can bring benefits for many. The time saved from avoiding a commute, and navigating busy public transport lines, can be a great help for early morning productivity. But this also can be negative, since it increases the sense of an ‘always on’ culture, where people feel compelled to answer emails around the clock.

No more false promises!

Before the pandemic, wellbeing was often talked about a lot, but rarely delivered on. This did not go unnoticed by employees and has become a cause of irritation as they seek more transparency and flexibility from the organisations and businesses they work for.

As we come out of lockdowns, businesses are increasingly realising that they are nothing without their people: employee wellbeing must be taken seriously. Employers have had to be more empathetic and previously strict policies of how, where, and when people work should no longer apply. Employees have proved they can work efficiently, and they can be trusted to deliver. It will be a tough argument if any organisations want to revert back to the pre-pandemic ways. But first and foremost, if you are not an empathetic employer, heed this warning: many are, and your talent will undoubtedly seek them out.

Mental health is now an open discussion and organisations are also reviewing the health benefits they offer employees. Currently, many private health options do not offer more than surface level introductions to counselling services. These need to be expanded to cover the need for extensive support from PTSD support to psychodynamic counselling, a form of counselling that enables a better understanding of the way we relate to people, to the world, and to ourselves.

Technology is a benefit

Staff need access to technology, digital tools and the software typically used in the workplace. For example, giving employees access to a website or mobile app so they can make best of the benefits on offer, as well as access payslips or other HR matters themselves is better than them relying on others. However, these tools must be easy to access and to use.

Earned Wage Access has become an increasingly popular conversation for companies, and it allows employees to access wages earned at the end of each shift, rather than in a formal weekly or monthly payday. Alongside this, Paycards, a prepaid card that an employer can use to pay their employees as an alternative to direct deposit or paper checks are becoming more and more popular. The latter is a good option for bosses who employ those earning a lower wage, who might not have a bank account and would otherwise find it hard to secure employment.

Wellbeing benefits for retention

For those employees who have had perks and benefits cut, absence will almost certainly make the heart grow fonder. Now the world of work is beginning to return to normal, we should expect to see employees eager to recover their perks and benefits.

Whether that means changing companies is yet to be seen, but it’s not inconceivable that talented members of staff could look for other jobs if they believe it will help them to enjoy their favourite benefits sooner. Employees and employers will look much further afield for opportunities and talent. People will no longer be restricted by geography. Companies that do embrace this new normal will surely reap the benefits of access to a global talent pool as well as more engaged employees.

Across all demographics, people are looking for an employer who recognises an employee as an individual, and not a cog in a money-making wheel. Companies that have adapted their businesses to remote and flexible working retained staff throughout the crisis and continued to motivate and inspire their workforce. The payoff we will begin to see from this is increased employee loyalty and for these companies to become a more desirable place to work for top talent entering the job market.