With energy prices soaring and costs for other essential goods and services one the rise, people across the country are worrying about the emerging cost-of-living crisis. In this blog post, we share our thoughts on how businesses can support their employees during this difficult time.
The term ‘cost-of-living crisis’ describes a scenario where the cost of everyday essentials rises faster than people’s incomes.
The crisis we’re currently experiencing is particularly severe because there are several factors at play all at once. The Ukrainian conflict, recovery from the pandemic and unprecedented demand for oil and gas are all contributing to rising costs. Prices are being pushed up across the board and millions of households are feeling the squeeze.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that around nine out of 10 adults have seen a rise in cost of living. This means it is highly likely that your employees are or will soon be affected by the crisis.
In unpredictable times, money becomes a great cause of stress and anxiety. With this in mind, employers are rightly asking what they can do to support the financial wellbeing of their staff. The obvious answer is to offer pay rises, but this simply won’t be possible for all businesses. The good news is that, even if a pay rise isn’t an option, there is still a lot you can do support your workforce.
As a result of the pandemic, record numbers of staff requested home or hybrid-working. There were many positives that came along with this. But for many, saving money and time on the commute was a big factor. Now, as energy costs rise, more staff might want to come into the office as commuting costs may be less expensive than heating their homes all day. On the other hand, those that have a lengthy drive into work may want to work from home more due to the cost of petrol.
Everyone’s circumstances will be different, and staff will need to weigh up what options are best for them financially. As an employer, being mindful that your staff are having to make these difficult decisions and being as flexible as you can when it comes to working arrangements can really help.
Some employers are offering pay rises to support their staff with the cost-of-living. But if this isn’t practical another possibility is to offer a cost-of-living bonus. Many companies have already taken this step and offered a one-off payment to help staff cope with expensive bills. If this is something you’re considering, speak to your staff and consult with HR professionals about whether this option would work for your business. One-off payments can sometimes inadvertently affect those claiming Universal Credit or Tax Credits.
You could also consider beefing up your other rewards and benefits. Many businesses offer retailer discounts, transport deals or discount gym memberships for example. Along with that, an Employee Assistance Programme that provides access to online resources to support wellbeing is a positive step.
Whatever additional support you offer, make sure that you invest time and resources to let your staff know what’s available. It doesn’t matter how good your support package is if nobody is using it.
Let’s be honest, nobody likes to talk about money and admitting you’re struggling financially can be a difficult discussion to have. That’s why it’s really important that managers are trained and supported to have these conversations with staff. The CIPD has some great advice for managers about how they can remove the stigma and normalise conversations about money.
As with all sensitive conversations, having an empathetic and understanding approach is important. As a manager, you won’t be able to solve your employees’ money problems. But showing them you care and signposting to relevant services can make a big difference.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how you can best support that individual. Bear in mind that everyone’s personal circumstances will be different so there won’t be a ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to supporting staff.
There’s lots of speculation about whether the cost-of-living crisis will push more staff into the office but, as we’ve said above, everyone’s circumstances will be different. Some businesses may see office occupancy increase, others might not. It really does come down to the needs of your business and the needs of your staff.
If you’re expecting more workers to return to the office this winter and want to get your workplace ready to welcome them, get in touch. We’d love to provide you with an office design and fitout that makes your employees feel happy, valued and supported.