There are a number of areas companies can look towards to retain their key people. Offering hybrid, or full-time remote working for those who want it is a good starting point, following the last years of government-mandated home working.

Due to the instability of the last year, and many workers having to adapt their lives to assume responsibilities like childcare, home-schooling and care for vulnerable dependents – all on top of full-time work – creating policies that show consideration towards the different challenges workers may be facing is crucial in supporting employees to do their work.

After noting the rising demand for part-time work following the pandemic, Zurich UK, for example, did just that and increased opportunities within the company to accommodate workers with other commitments.

Space away from the office isn’t a cure-all solution, however. Other support mechanisms to consider alongside this are regular wellbeing check-ins and ensuring staff don’t slip through the cracks. It’s also important that wellbeing strategies are inclusive enough to provide benefits for all workers, no matter their needs and circumstances. Employee benefits schemes that offer different services ranging from general health care, therapy, fertility, exercise, nutrition and caregiving support among others, can help here. Flexible working policies that allow staff to adjust their hours according to changing needs can also play a part.

Problems are getting bigger

Financial concerns such as inflation and the cost-of-living crisis are further stresses that weigh on employee mental health and productivity. Average annual energy bills could go up by another £800 in October and, as a result, general price levels could increase by as much as 10% by the autumn. Pay rises falling behind this inflation have forced some workers to opt out of their pensions to receive the extra percentage of their salaries, while some retirees are considering re-entering the workforce.

One solution for employers could be to adopt salary sacrifice for pensions. Scottish Widows calculates that an employer shifting to salary sacrifice could boost pay by £133 for an employee on £20,000 and by £199 for an employee on £30,000, with no downside to business.

Employers could also introduce systems that enable staff to pause making pension contributions for a few months, but then reinstate them after a pre-agreed period. The present auto-enrolment regime means that employers only have to re-enrol lapsed staff only after a lengthy three years.

A happy workforce is a healthy one

It’s essential that all members of staff are able to have an open dialogue about their mental or physical health needs in the workplace, including their emotional wellbeing, without fear of discrimination or negative repercussions. Managers can help to identify members of their teams who may be struggling and to offer them support and resources to help if needed.

Support platform Unmind – an app for addressing anxiety, depression and insomnia – is already being utilised by major firms including Virgin Media and Samsung to facilitate these discussions. By placing wellbeing as one of the central pillars of employment strategy, companies will be better able to retain and attract staff, as well as improve and maintain their reputation among customers, investors and other stakeholders. 

The diversity angle

One of the driving forces behind attrition in this “Great Resignation” is toxic corporate culture, and an MIT study cites a failure to promote diversity as a main contributing factor. Minority groups have historically been marginalised and faced discrimination in the workplace, and during the pandemic were the most likely to exit work or be let go. These candidates are now seeking work at a time where improving corporate diversity is a crucial ESG factor on the minds of regulators and investors.

Hiring for diversity can have a number of strategic benefits. Financial firms have reported that the hiring of neurodiverse workers, for example, has allowed them to outperform their competitors. These hiring practices cultivate more diverse thinking and fresh insight into how everyday challenges can be tackled. It can be a win-win situation for corporates as it increases diversity within teams while boosting performances overall. 

JPMorgan’s global head of diversity, equity and inclusion made a statement encouraging companies to look to neurodiverse workers and people with criminal records to fill the talent gap. A study by PageGroup also found that workers with disabilities faced barriers to employment at one in five companies.

Putting your best foot forward

When it comes to changing company culture, it’s important that any effort has wholehearted support at all levels of the company. That means the most senior people leading the charge and making mechanisms for feedback and collaboration on changes available for all employees. A big first step is ensuring employees feel seen and heard, which means taking their concerns seriously and rewarding them for their participating in the reform effort. Remember that periods of change are also periods of innovation, so work to foster a creative environment where ideas can be shared and built on.

Some key advice that we’re happy to share is that the process is about “evolution, not revolution” – gains might be slow, but every small step is evidence to employees that their company is making the effort, and that’s half the battle.