What Does Flexible Working & Employee Benefits Look Like In A Post-Pandemic World?

Data from Drewberry’s 2021 Employee Benefits Survey, which questioned 2,000 workers at UK SMEs, found that 56.3% of SME employees who normally work in an office now work remotely due to the pandemic.

This is a massive shift in employees’ working lives. However, it appears to be relatively popular. The statistics show that:

  • 49.7% of workers felt more productive or far more productive at home compared to in the office.
  • 39.3% of employees currently working at home due to COVID-19 said they’d noticed a positive impact on their mental health.
  • Workers would like employers to offer a hybrid working model after the pandemic, with the most-desired working pattern being 3 days in the office and 2 working remotely.

How Employees Want to Work in 2021 and Beyond…

While home working clearly has its benefits, many employees who normally work in an office but are currently working from home would like to return to their offices. 45.7% of workers said they were either very keen or fairly keen to do so.

However, almost 1 in 3 workers (30.6%) said they were fairly keen or very keen to continue working from home, so it’s not definitive by any means.

Although the proportion of staff who’d like to return to the office was higher than those who’d like to keep working from home, few staff actually want to return to the office full time.

Just 13.5% of workers said they wanted to go back to the office 5 days per week. Employees’ preferred working pattern for the future is 3 days in the office and 2 from home. Clearly, employers will need to adapt to a hybrid working future even after the pandemic ends.

How Can Employers Improve Home Working?

While almost half of workers said they felt more productive at home compared to in the office, they did admit to some challenges.

Given considerable employee demand for at least some home working in the future, employers will have to address these challenges to retain a productive hybrid workforce. The main difficulties workers faced while working remotely are:

  • Feeling less connected to colleagues / the organisation (37.1%)
  • Difficulties communicating with colleagues (33.9%)
  • Distractions from family members (32.3%).

Addressing these challenges to improve productivity is essential if hybrid working does become the new normal. Introducing a solid communication strategy and finding ways to make all staff feel included in company culture while at home would be great first steps.

What Else Do Employees Want Going Forward?

As well as changes to their working patterns, our survey also highlighted other areas staff wanted to see reformed. We asked employees about the benefits they’d like employers to offer in the future, as well as asking what made them unhappy at work.

Employee Benefits

The most in demand benefit among workers was flexible working hours. 50.8% of employees said they’d like their employer to offer this benefit. Given it’s incredibly cheap to introduce, this could be an easy win for SMEs across the country.

Other top benefits workers wanted employers to offer include:

What Are Workers Most Unhappy About?

The most common reasons workers gave for being unhappy at work was not feeling recognised for their efforts. 48.8% of staff said they felt this way.

Other major reasons employees felt unhappy at work include:

  • Feeling underpaid (40.7%)
  • Lack of general support from managers / co workers (40.3%)
  • Lack of internal communication (35.9%).

While it’s not necessarily easy to address workers’ feelings that they’re underpaid given the current economic backdrop, there are other options to make workers feel appreciated.

Introducing an employee benefits program could be a logical step, especially given 26.8% of workers said a lack of employee benefits made them unhappy in their job.

The cost of policies such as Group Life Insurance is often more reasonable than many employers realise. Furthermore, premiums for many employee benefits are tax-deductible business expenses for employers. This can make them yet more attractive for companies to offer staff.

Ultimately, the statistics reveal that workers want the following from their employers in 2021 and beyond:

  • More recognition for their efforts
  • More support from managers / coworkers, especially while working from home
  • Better internal communication
  • More options for career progression / development
  • Training or development in areas relevant to their career aspirations (something that might actually benefit employers by improving employee retention and lowering costs associated with hiring outside of the firm)
  • Benefits that help them manage their health and wellbeing, such as Group Health Insurance
  • Flexible working hours
  • Hybrid working, with a split between working remotely and being in the office.

Making Changes For A Post Pandemic World

We can’t pretend that things will return to the way they were before the pandemic. Too much has changed too quickly. Both SMEs and their workforces have realised not only that mass remote working is possible but also that staff can still thrive while out of the office.

It will therefore be important moving forward for employers to adapt to these changes to maintain a happy workforce.

Not every change employers need to make will cost money. After all, the most in-demand employee benefit is flexible working hours, which is both simple to introduce and practically free.

Improving internal communication and making workers feel more connected to the organisation, while trickier, are also unlikely to cost the earth.

Considering New Employee Benefits?

Some of the benefits workers want the most will cost money, however. This includes employee benefits such as Group Health Insurance or Death in Service Insurance. We help companies of all sizes arrange benefits for their staff every day, searching the entire UK market to find you the most cost-effective solutions.

If you need help we are here to provide independent fee free advice. You can call us on 02084327333 or email help@drewberry.co.uk.

Nadeem Farid Head of Employee Benefits at Drewberry

Our experts are here to do all the heavy lifting involved with setting up and maintaining a competitive employee benefits package for your business.

Nadeem Farid
Head of Employee Benefits at Drewberry

Really good service: prompt, efficient and helpful. Would definitely use Drewberry again.

Mark Bevan
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