Stepping up for your staff: Supporting employees through the cost of living crisis

supporting employees through cost of living crisis

The current rise in the cost of living is undoubtedly a source of stress for business owners. You may be concerned about cash flow, rising utility bills and overheads, but you’re probably also feeling that you want to help your employees out.

Supporting staff is a key part of running a successful business. Now more than ever, employees expect to be able to rely on their employers for understanding and support when it comes to their well-being. This responsibility can be a challenge for business owners and it can be tough to know how best to help out when your employees feel the strain. We’ve put together a simple guide with practical steps you can take to help your employees through this difficult time. And don’t worry, our suggestions won’t leave you short, as we know finances are tight for everyone right now.

Employee expectations have changed

Employees are starting to want different things from their employers. The workplace has changed dramatically in recent years and many of us have reviewed our priorities. Work-life balance and well-being have become buzzwords when it comes to attracting talent to an organisation, and these days employees might prioritise flexible working over salary, for example.

However, this is not to say that salary and financial benefits are not still important; particularly as the cost of living just keeps on rising. Taking time to think about the benefits you’re offering your staff is the key to supporting them through this latest financial crisis.

Studies like this one from SHRM, make for interesting reading. Employees now want a lot more support from their employers when it comes to remote working and their health and well-being. As a business owner and employer, you’ll need to make sure you’re aware of your employees' particular needs when it comes to their home life and be prepared to tailor contracts to suit individuals. These are the kinds of changes that can make employees feel heard, understood and supported, ultimately helping them to continue to work and remain motivated, even when living away from work is difficult.

Ways to support your employees with rising cost crisis
Consider a bonus or cost of living payment, but be cautious

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has found that more than 30% of UK organisations are either reviewing the idea of making a cost of living payment to their employees, are planning to make one, or have already made one. Of the private sector firms they surveyed, 18% had already paid a bonus. However, there can be implications for those on certain benefits, such as Universal Credit, to receiving one-off bonuses.

The CIPD recommends considering alternatives for all employees, or for those impacted. These alternatives include a pay rise, a temporary pay rise, which involves spreading a bonus over a number of months instead of offering it in one lump sum, or even awarding employees gift cards instead of cash.

Make sure every employee feels heard and understood

This is something that will pay dividends in the long term, regardless of the economic climate. Creating a culture within your business where your employees feel they can be open with you about their own challenges, mental health, financial or personal issues when they feel it is appropriate, is valuable.

It may not be easy to achieve, and being open and honest with colleagues doesn’t always come naturally to people, but it’s worth making an effort. Here are a few steps that are easy to action and can help to create a more open work environment:

  • Make sure senior managers are present at meetings

  • Encourage employees to ask questions and never shut them down

  • Be open to all types of communication

  • Hold ‘all hands’ meetings

  • Use surveys to gather views

  • Hold Q&A sessions

  • Reward success

Look at your recognition and benefits package again

Now is a great time to review the benefits you’re offering your staff and make changes that will improve their rewards and well-being. Some of the benefits you might want to review include:

  • Leave policy for care responsibilities

  • Leave for parenting

  • Holiday entitlement

  • Advances on pay

  • Flexible working

  • Working from home

  • Provision of technical support

  • Provision of computers, phones and any other tech they might require

  • Access to private health

  • Access to short-notice leave

Although some of these benefits don’t directly impact an employee's finances, there may be financial implications that will relieve financial pressures. For example, providing the option to take a last-minute day off if childcare falls through can save an employee cash and remove a source of stress.

Flexible working hours can also help to cut costs for your employees without impacting productivity or increasing your staffing costs.

Improve access to financial health guidance during the crisis

Taking a few simple steps to help improve your employees’ access to financial information can boost their financial well-being and help to improve employee engagement. Make sure your staff are aware of the free financial help that’s out there by sharing these links:

It’s also your responsibility to ensure your employees know exactly what workplace benefits are available and how they can make the very most of their benefits in a tax-efficient way. If your managers need HR training, then this could be a great investment.

Remember, over 4 million working days are lost each year due to employees' poor financial well-being. The stress and strain caused by financial uncertainty, debt and poverty can create huge problems for people, making it impossible for them to do their job or be productive. Providing support can make a huge difference to the individuals you employ, and to your business in the longer term.

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