What will hybrid wellbeing initiatives look like?

Work social events will be problematic but necessary after lockdown.
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Reward and recognition schemes have an important part to play in re-establishing company culture and helping employees feel valued as we emerge from lockdown, but the hybrid working model means reshaping them, argues Danni Rush.

Hybrid working – where employees divide their time between working from home and in the office – grants more autonomy to employees to fit work around the rest of their life, it gives structure and sociability on one hand, and independence and flexibility on the other. However, for HR professionals, a shift to a hybrid work structure creates numerous challenges, including how to manage and deploy an effective employee reward and recognition scheme.

While many employees will be excited by the easing of social restrictions and will welcome a return to the office and company socials, others may be more hesitant to embrace face-to-face wellbeing initiatives and prefer to continue remote working.

HR professionals will need to develop a hybrid approach to wellbeing initiatives with an offering that can be enjoyed by all and is tailored to suit each individual’s needs. This can present in different ways, for example introducing gift cards that can be redeemed flexibly and at a range of outlets, or offering early finishes or increased annual leave.

Another increasingly common initiative to aid and promote mental health support is the introduction of a free employee assistance programme (EAP). This gives employees 24/7 confidential access to help and advice from a professional whenever they feel they need it most.

Furlough reintegration

As well as creating a flexible employee recognition and reward scheme that works for those who are feeling varying levels of caution about the easing of restrictions, HR professionals will also need to contend with the challenges of reintegrating furloughed staff back into the workforce.

It’s important that an employee incentives and rewards scheme demonstrates awareness of the efforts put in by those who have been working throughout the pandemic to ensure they feel valued, while also not excluding others who have been unable to contribute through no fault of their own.

For example, rewarding hard work during the pandemic with financial incentives should be handled delicately and respectfully, while also offering all-team socials and wider “thank-you” initiatives to ensure no one feels left out. A subsidised team meal or shared experiences such as a trip to a theme park (Covid rules allowing) are also great ways to bring colleagues back together after long periods of separation.

Reward professionals will also need to evolve pre-planned short- and long-term initiatives, spanning everything from regular team treats in the office to Christmas parties, and how these will look in a hybrid working, Covid-cautious world. Can a Christmas party be organised in dual form where possible, so that those wishing to participate virtually can still feel included alongside those keen to get together in person?

However, with uncertainty surrounding the lockdown roadmap, contingency plans will need to be prepared to ensure all eventualities are covered. Cancellation and insurance policies will need to be investigated for team events and back-up plans developed.

Supporting HR professionals post-lockdown

With so many variables at play, the coming months will be a particularly stressful time for HR professionals tasked with managing the tricky transition back to work and adjusting wellbeing initiatives and new employee demands accordingly.

Businesses must remember the pressures that have been on HR over the past year and, as well as supporting employee wellbeing, ensure that their HR team feels supported too.

Recognising and rewarding individual and team achievements is an important way to show gratitude and is key to enhancing employee happiness and boosting talent retention among all employees.

Virgin Experience Days’ white paper, What Makes Employees Feel Valued, surveyed 2,000 employees nationwide and found that 68% of organisations with a reward and recognition programme had strong employee retention.

As with any other employee, offering HR teams support packages such as flexible working hours, additional annual leave, and rewards are effective ways to show them they are valued and that their employer cares about their wellbeing too. Providing extra funding for employee wellbeing initiatives – if possible – can also help to ease the pressure on HR professionals trying to keep everyone happy with limited budgets.

Those who succeed in adapting employee wellbeing initiatives for the post-lockdown era will need to create a flexible solution that works for a variety of employees, and allows everyone to enjoy our new freedoms safely and fairly.

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Danni Rush

About Danni Rush

Chief Customer Officer of Virgin Incentives and Virgin Experience Days
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