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Employers are prioritising plans to improve productivity

Since the start of the pandemic, rising financial stress due to an uncertain economy has created a downward spiral on employee wellbeing that has impacted employee performance. A study by borofree revealed that an average of 3.05 working days were taken off by workers in Great Britain last year due to the financial stress felt by employees.

The study examined the plans that companies across the UK now aim to implement in order to improve employee productivity, financial wellbeing and increase morale in the workplace as business recovery begins to take shape.

The research, which was conducted online by YouGov, highlights that HR decision makers are feeling optimistic about building stronger employee productivity as the economy settles into a ‘new normal’ with over half (57%) believing that employee productivity is set to  increase over the next 12 months.

Action taken from businesses to increase employee wellbeing over the next year will be critical for them to regain strong post-pandemic productivity growth and recover from a challenging 18 months. In fact, 83% of HR decision makers surveyed revealed that their business will be prioritising plans to improve employee productivity over the next year. Improving pay and working conditions for employees is high on the agenda for companies looking to regain lost morale due to the pandemic, with almost a third (31%) stating that this will be a business priority for them this year.

Across Britain the study highlights that employers are searching for new ways to increase productivity. The research shows that wellbeing is now a vital part of ensuring that teams remain productive, with over one in five (23%) companies looking to introduce new or improved health and wellness benefits for employees to improve morale and productivity over the next two years.

Despite financial worries among the UK workforce being a cause of emotional stress, the study shows that offering financial wellbeing initiatives as part of a businesses’ productivity recovery plan is still being overlooked. Whilst financial stress is a contributing factor to absenteeism in the workplace, only 12% of HR decision makers are looking to introduce personal finance coaching and training to employees to improve morale and productivity amongst teams within the next two years.

Minck Hermans, CEO and Co-founder at borofree, comments: “Whilst it’s great to see that businesses are prioritising incentives to build stronger employee productivity following a challenging 18 months, it’s critical that they do not overlook initiatives to promote better financial wellbeing amongst teams.

Our findings show that financial stress can lead to increased absenteeism in the workplace and the effect of this will hit a company’s bottom line. For employees that seek a certain degree of financial security from their employer such as being able to absorb an unforeseen financial shock, only one in ten (10%) businesses surveyed have stated that they are looking to introduce earnings on demand and paid weekly options for employers within the next two years and just over one in ten (14%) confirmed that they’ll be introducing salary advance facilities (e.g., a loan a company can give an employee from their future salary).”

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A quarter of UK businesses are planning to close, downsize or consolidate their offices in the coming months as they plan for a hybrid working future.

This was the finding of YouGov research carried out for Applaud last month, with researchers surveying more than 500 HR decision makers at 500 small, medium and large organisations across the UK.

More than half (53%) the respondents said their company plans to offer more flexible or remote working policies going forward.

Some 30% are expecting employees to return to working in the office between one and three days per week, while one in seven (14%) are not expecting employees to return to the office at all.

Duncan Casemore, Co-founder and CTO at Applaud, said: “When it comes to the way we work, organisations are embarking on an era of unprecedented change. Driven by employee experience, business leaders are turning away from the traditional five days in the office format, instead moving to provide more productive flexible and remote working scenarios.

“While there has been great clamour from the workforce to implement more flexibility in the way we work, the Covid-19 pandemic has provided the catalyst to initiate these changes.”

However, 44% of respondents admitted that their HR department had not been equipped to deal with remote working during the early stages of the pandemic, though 43% had invested in this area over the past few months to improve the situation.

Indeed, with the savings made on office space, employers are increasingly putting more financial resources into their HR teams, with Nottingham-headquartered software firm ENSEK one such example.

“We’ve invested heavily in our people team, and have doubled the function in the past two months alone as we tackle this head on. We’ve instated ‘Culture Champions’ across the company, who act as a living example of our values, and will be pivotal in driving the company forwards with its core ethos and purpose,” said Mel Joy, Chief People Officer at ENSEK.

Companies are also investing heavily in technology that enables remote working – 46% said they were planning to implement better remote working tools in future.

Employees are also set to benefit from the savings their employers are making on office space, with 18% of respondents looking at handing out pay rises and promotions in the coming months.

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