National Lockdown: One year on…
22 March 2021
Can it really be (only!) a year since we were told to work from home? In March 2020, when work places around the country closed their doors, we wondered how business could really continue ‘as usual’.
Technology has of course been vital. The use of video conferencing tools has exploded and trends that were beginning to emerge, such as using our computers and phones for medical appointments rather than attending in person, have been accelerated. According to year-on-year research by The Exeter, remote GP appointments spiked by 527% in 2020*.
We ourselves at Cloud8 are one of the many companies which has been able to harness digital technology and pivot for the future. We’ve moved to full remote working, and, once restrictions are lifted, plan on converting our previous office into a meeting hub to balance the benefits of a virtual office with physical, collaborative space.
We’ve also seen first-hand – through our own experiences, business growth and client wins – how individuals are prioritising health for themselves and their families as a direct result of the pandemic, and consequently how seriously businesses are thinking about employee benefits. Many companies, particularly SMEs, are starting to take steps forward into digitising their offering – a vital move so that employees can access and engage with their benefits. After all, why offer benefits which can’t be accessed remotely and won’t be taken up?
To recovery and beyond
Employers are looking to the future and defining what recovery looks like and, how they get there. Last summer a PwC survey of nearly 700 CEOs revealed two emerging priorities for businesses around the world: to make companies more digital; and to develop a more flexible and employee-oriented workforce, by increasing the share of remote workers, and expanding employee health, safety and wellness programmes.
Thinking specifically about employee benefits, this raises two important questions for employers – what are we offering and how are we offering it?
The pandemic has made us all acutely aware of our own mortality and the importance of having benefits and support from our employers that help protect us and our families. Pressure on budgets combined with a recognition that engaged, loyal staff will be crucial to business recovery and growth is leading organisations to re-evaluate the benefits they’re offering. It’s not surprising that businesses are (and should be encouraged) to think about this – good physical health and mental wellbeing have never been higher on the agenda. And as we continue to work remotely, recognising the uniqueness of employees and that they expect a more personalised approach are essential.
Now’s the time to look at whether the benefits on offer still meet the needs of staff – keeping them engaged and valuing schemes, when their priorities may have radically changed. But also the needs of business – ensuring that benefits budgets are well spent and help
companies meet (amongst others) financial and diversity & inclusion (D&I) objectives.
How we deliver these benefits to employees also becomes more important than ever. We’ve seen almost every aspect of our working and home life become digital over the past year, and how we provide benefits has to follow suit. With everyone, including HR, working at home there’s never been a stronger case (or expectation) to replace paper forms and printed provider guides with benefits that employees can access instantly and remotely from their screens.
Employers who are serious about the role employee wellbeing will play in their recovery will demand this from their advisers in the months to come (see our previous posts Employee Engagement and Advisers Going Digital) EBCs will need to adapt quickly or risk losing clients and business to simple, direct-to-market digital offerings that threaten the existence of traditional brokers and advisers.
Many markets have been hit impossibly hard this past year. Embracing the importance of employee wellbeing, acknowledging the role benefits play in business recovery and making sure they resonate with – and reach – employees quickly, simply and digitally has never been more critical.