The employee’s guide to work benefits

In the current climate of widespread financial uncertainty, millions of people across the country are feeling the pinch. Years of wage stagnation coupled with a steadily rising cost of living have piled pressure on countless households, crippling consumer demand and making a major contribution to tipping the economy back into recession. It’s certainly true that times are challenging for many employers as well as their employees, as the persistent weakness in consumer spending has forced them to find ways of cutting costs whilst simultaneously boosting efficiency. However, the secret to good employee management is to remember that a happy workplace is almost certainly a more productive one.

Wage cuts or freezes might seem at first like the only realistic choice for employers, but there are ways to sugar the pill. If workers feel they’re not being adequately rewarded for their efforts because of circumstances which are completely beyond their control, then there’s a chance that they’ll become demoralised and distracted or they’ll simply decide to seek better opportunities elsewhere. Employee benefits, however, can be a useful sweetener and help to maintain staff loyalty. Workers are more likely to be sympathetic to any difficulties their employer is having if they can see the organisation is at least making an effort to lighten the load on their own shoulders. However challenging the situation might be, employers must remember that their staff have concerns of their own to think about.

The effectiveness of employee rewards obviously varies from person to person, and this is something that both employers and workers ought to consider. For example, high childcare costs are commonly cited as one of the biggest financial worries facing working families. It’s often simply unrealistic to expect one parent to stay off work to look after their children, particularly when so many people have sky-high mortgages and utility bills to service. It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that childcare vouchers are one of the most popular workplace rewards of them all. Providing workers with vouchers to help cut costs and make childcare more accessible is often gratefully received by workers.

However, not all employees have children of their own – indeed, many struggle to settle down in one place for a sufficient length of time in order to start a family – so handing childcare vouchers to these workers is clearly a waste of time. There are other schemes, however, which might attract their attention. Gym membership discounts, for example, might prove attractive to some members of the workforce. Regular social and networking events outside of work may also help to boost team spirit and camaraderie amongst the team by encouraging them to get to know one another better.

From an employee’s perspective, however, flexible working is one of the most practical and attractive work rewards on offer. Many people have to commute long distances to work – particularly in the current climate, when good job opportunities are at a premium – and this can be both expensive and energy-sapping. Giving workers the chance to work from home or to choose more practical hours, on the other hand, provides a real incentive and can result in a significant productivity boost.

Janice Lincoln is a freelance writer specialising in business and employee relations and incentives such as the cycle to work scheme and child care vouchers.

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