Many of our priorities have changed in the last 18 months, but it isn’t just personal lives that have altered. In 2018, a survey was conducted to find out what employees valued the most from their workplace benefits. This year, a 2021 workplace benefits survey was also conducted to gain insight into how these views have changed since the pandemic hit.
A total of 750 UK employees were asked what they valued the most and what they are currently taking advantage of and compared to the 2018 results.
What Do Employees Think Is The Most Important?
Previously, healthcare and insurance were considered the most important benefits to be provided by employers. Despite the UK having the NHS, private healthcare is needed by many for other reasons, such as dental or physio.
However, 2021 saw this benefit from the first to the second position, overtaken by enhanced leave. Despite record numbers of holidays cancelled since March 2020, it appears UK employees still need their time off more than ever.
The pandemic has led to new responsibilities for workers. From doing grocery shopping for shielding loved ones, homeschooling children during school closures or simply needing extra time off to help with rising mental health issues. Annual leave is no longer just for sitting on the beach.
While our health has been a focal point for some time, many healthcare benefits that are provided have not been accessible, such as dentists closed for some time or physical work not being completed due to furlough, with less need for physiotherapists.
Unsurprisingly, transport benefits are no longer deemed as important as they once were. In 2018, it was the third most valued benefit provided by employers, this year, it has dropped to 5. While many people are still needing to travel to work, most of us are now working from home.
For those who are making the commute, it has been advised to avoid public transport where possible, meaning benefits, such as season ticket loans, have become redundant.
Social benefits have seen the biggest change. Once the second most important benefit, it is now the least. Despite the best efforts of many businesses utilising virtual socials, it is obvious to many that it just isn’t the same as a team dinner or activity in person.
What Benefits Are Employees Using?
These 750 employees were also asked what benefits they were taking advantage of. In 2018, wellbeing benefits, such as gym memberships, were the most popular.
With these establishments being closed for such long periods of time, employees have now ranked this in 8th position.
It comes as no surprise that flexible working is the most commonly used benefit. From working from home to flexible times to accommodate home commitments, flexible working has certainly been used by a substantial number of us in the past year.
It is interesting to note that food and drink benefits were not very popular in 2018, but in 2021, it is number 2. Despite many of us not being physically present in the office, businesses around the country are finding new ways to show value to their staff.
Food and drink gifts, such as takeaway or alcoholic beverages being delivered has become common. Staff are valuing this most just because it saves them money during a very uncertain economic time, but during lockdown, many of us have seen takeaway dinners as one of the most exciting things we can legally do.
How Do The Demographics Differ?
We are all aware that surveys don’t show the true feelings of every participant, just the majority vote. However, the 2021 survey revealed interesting data on certain demographics.
Women believed enhanced leave to be the most important benefits. This could be because, in a typical household, women tend to be the primary caregivers to their children, leading to mothers needing extra time off to care for their family while schools are closed.
In fact, working mothers are more likely to be feeling the strain of the pandemic than others. It can be speculated that these hard-working women are in desperate need of some time off, even if they can’t escape abroad.
The younger generation (18-24-year-olds) also believe enhanced leave is the most important benefit that can be given.
Men and the over 54s stated that they still believe healthcare is the most important benefit that their work can provide. Older generations typically tend to need health services for numerous reasons and being able to obtain private care can speed up this care and can even be better quality.
Overall, it is clear that values are changing and with the ‘new normal’ here to stay for some time and many businesses allowing staff to continue working from home. HR departments need to acknowledge this changing world and adjust what they provide accordingly.