This article is part of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce’s Raise the BAR (Business Adaptability & Resilience) Campaign, sponsored by Western Union Business Solutions. For more campaign content click here. This campaign provides Chamber members with a platform to share learning and inspiration on this agenda. All views and opinions expressed below are those of the author only.
By Brian Hall, Chief Commercial Officer, BHSF
Think back to the beginning of this century. All offices, by and large, looked the same. Employees would have a desktop PC and a landline phone. If they went for a meeting offsite, they might be contactable on their mobile phone, but there was no way that they could access files or emails. Employees who worked in other locations like shops, factories or out on the road would have very little access to digital communications.
In the last ten years, this has all changed. The rapid development in mobile technology has revolutionised how and where people can work. The creation of the smart phone and Wi-Fi means work can be carried out almost anywhere. Employees have a newfound freedom, no longer shackled to their workstation. Those that don’t work at a desk can now be contacted easily. In fact, 84% of employees say they use their smartphone during normal working hours1.
These developments have changed employees’ expectations. They want to take advantage of this freedom and work where and when suits them and their lifestyle. This has changed what’s important to employees. According to a new survey from YouGov, 71% are attracted to organisations that offer flexible hours and 62% to those that offer employees the chance to work from home2.
Younger employees who have grown up in the digital age want to work in a flexible way. 80% of millennials say that they don’t want to work in a traditional office and would prefer a much more flexible choice2. It’s vital that employers take note of these expectations and adjust their thinking accordingly.
This is especially true around the delivery of employee benefits. Employers offer these benefits for a whole host of reasons – to keep their workforce healthy, to satisfy their duty of care, to attract and retain key staff members, to create greater engagement – to name but a few. All these objectives can be better met if employers communicate these benefits effectively and employees have a simple and easy way to access them. This can be done by creating an app, where workers have all their benefits at their fingertips.
This is why BHSF has created Connect. An app that enables employees to have their benefits right at their fingertips whenever they need them. From accessing legal advice or the 24/7 GP helpline, Connect is the only place that both employers and employees need to go, giving them exactly what they want all in one place. The app also includes hundreds of discounts and savings, helping employees save money outside of work. 76% of employees say that they would like to access health and wellbeing benefits via an app and 44% of those aged under 34 are very interested in doing so3.
Looking at the usage figures for BHSF’s GP helpline from 2018 reveals just how valuable offering benefits outside of normal working hours has become. 20% of the calls were made over the weekend and almost a quarter (23%) of calls were made either before 9am or before 5pm. Many health problems may occur suddenly or be of a sensitive nature. Employees really value knowing where to turn to immediately to get the help they need.
While work and home lives have blended more and more over the past few years, a significant number of employees want to keep their outside activities private and do not want to share with their employers. More than half of “sandwich carer” employees (53%), who are responsible for looking after both children and elderly relatives, have not told their employer about this4. Health issues can be especially sensitive, with only 16% of employees feeling able to disclose a mental health issue to their manager5. Providing an app that has a range of services including advice for carers allows employees to choose the ones that they need, empowering them to help themselves on their terms.
For wellbeing initiatives to be successful, employers must find a way to reach all workers with the help and support when they need it, not just the ones who feel comfortable enough to seek assistance publicly. The Connect app enables them to do just that, on the go 24/7.
1Research conducted by laptopsdirect.co.uk 2017
2Success in the modern workplace, YouGov report, 2019
4Daily workers omnibus survey conducted with 1,000 employees by Maru/Usurv June 2019
5Mental Health at Work 2018 report, You Gov