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Sun, sea, and the summer slump

By Chris Ronald, VP EMEA B2B - Incentives, Rewards & Benefits at Blackhawk Network

August 20 2023 - Summer is usually synonymous with school holidays and sunshine breaks, longingly anticipated all winter. After the disruption of Covid, this summer was even more longed for. However it comes with its own challenges. Not only has the weather been terrible (though at the time of writing the sun was making an appearance), but there is also the fact that behind many of these family holidays, weekend trips and flights abroad, there will have been increased amounts of hard work and desperate attempts to save money, in order to make them happen - fuelled by the worst cost-of-living crisis for generations.

Unfortunately, the economic instability isnít going away anytime soon and recent research from Blackhawk Network (BHN) has shown employees are feeling most concerned and anxious over utility bills (53%), groceries (55%) and fuel and travel costs (46%). In addition, 61% of businesses are concerned about employees leaving their business due to the cost-of-living crisis, rising to 75% in businesses with 101-250 employees.

How employers treat their employees during this difficult time could be make or break for businesses, however it is within employers power to help bring the sunshine back into summer!

Lend an empathetic ear to your employees

Balancing the desire for employees to enjoy well earned time off, while maintaining the momentum of the workplace during the summer months, can be a delicate task. But incorporating a blend of empathy, support, and well-designed incentives which actually appeal to employees, can be huge in boosting employee well-being and giving that extra productivity push over the holidays.

The front line for this are businessís team leaders, who need to show active interest in their reports. Whether thatís asking them about holiday plans, or chatting about their weekend - showing an active desire to want to know them, not just who they are at work, can promote a sense of belonging and increase workplace well-being. It can also give an insight into where an employee may be having difficulties or where certain incentives would have the most impact. For example, an informal conversation may help you to identify a parent struggling to juggle the 6 week long summer holidays, with their work commitments. Whilst another conversation may have revealed someone wanting to take on as much overtime as possible over the summer, to save up for an expensive purchase. Employers who empathise and understand their team members can use this kind of information to offer flexible and fun working options - tailored to their teamís individual needs.

This goes beyond just offering working from home options or ping pong tables in the staff room. For instance, research from BHN shows that 31% of employees would like free subsidised food and drink options and 27% would like the option to sell annual leave as a benefit. Hardly surprising with the current economic climate, but knowing this kind of information is crucial for making any money you invest, in benefits or people programs, work harder and ensure effectiveness.

Offering flexible working that is tailored to each employee and their unique desires also allows employees to balance work and personal life more effectively. Whether that be working from a beach during the summer months or providing extra child-care support to accommodate the summer holidays; an understanding team leader can be a huge asset in identifying the most effective way to make a big difference to team morale.

Implement rewards which actually interest your employees

As well as showing employers care through conversation, rewards can also be a great way to help employees feel valued and appreciated, which in turn is likely to make them more motivated and productive. Utilising workplace benefits that show employees that they are appreciated, such as company-funded lunches, team-building events, or gift cards, can do wonders for wellbeing in the workplace. However, we all have different things that make us tick; not everyone will want the same thing. Well-designed incentives are those which provide employees with a choice of benefits they can engage with and that address their current needs and wants.

Whilst people are struggling, benefits that can help to lessen the financial strain are likely to be well received. Recent BHN research found that cycling to work can lead to average savings of £1,262 a year on commuting costs. A significant amount of money at a time when the nation is grappling with a cost-of-living crisis. Therefore, offering a Cycle To Work scheme, whereby employees can use salary sacrifice to offset the cost of a bike, could be a great option - with the added bonus of getting some exercise in the summer sun, during their commute. The research also revealed almost half (48%) of employees would be more likely to return to the office if their employer offered a Cycle To Work Scheme as part of their benefits package, so it could be a win-win for team morale and the business.

Creating a motivated and valued team

Things are tough for everyone at the moment, but it does present a real opportunity for employers to step up to the plate to support and reward employees in a way that will make a difference. Throwing more money at the problem in the form of pay increases isnít always possible when businesses are struggling themselves with the economic downturn. Instead, listen to your employees, identify what would mean the most to them and tailor your benefits packages and approaches accordingly. Employee benefits arenít one size fits all. Whether itís a gift card to their favourite shop or grocery store to help with their weekly shop - you need to understand what would make them feel acknowledged, rather than stabbing in the dark with benefits that might miss the mark. Those that do this well, will see employees that feel motivated and engaged all year round - not just for summer!



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