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30% of young workers in the UK want travel vaccinations included in their benefits packages



Data from a recent study reveals that the UK’s company benefit schemes are ignoring younger employees, despite a huge majority placing great value on benefits. Just 16% of UK employees under 25 (Gen Z) feel that their current benefits package is suitable for them. This figure increases to 24% for aged 25-34.

The study was conducted by one of the UK’s leading wet wipe brands, Wet Ones, as part of the 2021 Employee Benefits, Health and Wellbeing Survey. It asked employees at 133 workplaces across the UK how their health and wellbeing needs and habits have changed, and whether updated benefits packages from their employers would help to support their wellbeing.

The ‘wants’ of Gen Z employees, who feel least satisfied with their benefits packages, are found to be evolving with shifting societal priorities faster than other age groups.

30% of under-25s in the UK want travel vaccinations included in their benefits packages, helping them to embrace their pent-up wanderlust as overseas travel gradually becomes easier

25% would like additional ‘health days’ holiday packages to support mental health

21% want greater flexibility on working hours, hoping that pandemic-enforced changes would lead to a working hours revolution

Many employee benefits schemes remain unchanged after the global shift to home working and a more flexible hybrid system. This has led to many company perks being unused and failing to encourage employee health, wellbeing, and productivity.

Have companies adapted to fit changing lifestyles?

The study reveals that companies are lagging behind lifestyle trends, with four out of five (81%) employees (of all ages) stating that their benefits packages are out of sync with their lifestyle.

When asked how their employers could support their physical, mental and personal wellbeing, these were the results:

70% feel the need for more flexible working hours

61% want private healthcare and dental care, and financial support with staying healthy (such as glasses, physio sessions or ergonomic office equipment)

53% would like additional ‘health days’ for personal wellbeing

How can companies better align to employee lifestyles?

To effectively support employee wellbeing, it is essential that companies realise how their employees’ lifestyles have permanently shifted. 

The way we exercise

Rather than ‘binge exercising’ at weekends, the UK workforce has enjoyed regular exercise throughout the working week since widespread working from home began. 84% say they are more physically active since moving the office to home.

The UK has become a nation of walkers: nearly three in five (56%) employees now walk more during the working week, instead of exclusively at weekends

Two in five (39%) feel their diet has improved, with people ditching takeaways and pre-packaged food in favour of healthy, home-cooked meals

A quarter (25%) of UK employees are participating in more wellness activities, such as gardening and engaging with nature

Changing exercise routines should cause companies to consider more flexible funding of equipment, instead of just offering a standard gym membership. While an increased focus on healthy diets could point towards more of an appetite for fruit and vegetable box deliveries, rather than a monthly takeaway. Wellness activities should also be incorporated to ensure both physical and mental health support is covered.

Gurinder Sagoo, HR Director for North Europe and Oceania at Wet Ones, says:

“We’re aware of the importance of ensuring people have the support and resources they need to lead both active and healthy lifestyles. The findings from this study show that an urgency to adapt employee wellbeing packages has emerged during the last year. 

“Significantly, they also demonstrate how essential it is for benefits packages to cater for everyone in the workplace, by taking into account each individual’s age, lifestyle and personal circumstances. An inclusive benefits package contributes to the whole team feeling supported in pursuing a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally. Therefore, it is crucial that companies digest these findings and take action to improve how they nurture employee wellbeing.”

Kris Ambler, Workforce Lead at the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), says:

“Lockdown loneliness and digital fatigue are among the phrases that have entered our lexicon and many employees are contending with bereavement and grief, redundancy, restructuring and job insecurity. This means that employee benefit programmes will need to be more personalised; managers will have to be more intuitive when assessing the mental wellbeing of remote workers; and financial wellbeing support will need to play a larger role within the employee benefits and occupational health mix.

“Investing in employee benefit schemes makes good economic sense and demonstrates a genuine commitment to an employer’s duty of care to their staff. Support services, including counselling, can help to identify and address problems early. They can alleviate the psychological impact of negative work situations and keep employees working effectively and productively.”

Dawn Morris, HR Adviser at Cluer HR, says:

“The right workplace support can have a hugely positive impact on employee wellbeing and mental health and is fundamental to every employer’s reward and benefits programme. It will show understanding and appreciation of current and future employees, and help to build an engaged, supported and productive workforce. Having the right benefits package can also attract new talent to the business.”

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HBO Max gets Smita Puranesh as talent lead for APAC



HBO Max, a WarnerMedia company, has appointed Smita Puranesh as its talent lead for APAC. Puranesh announced this development via a post on social media. Prior to this role, she was director – HR at Netflix and comes with close to two decades of professional experience.

Puranesh has not always been an HR leader. After graduating from IHM, Puranesh started her career working in the hospitality sector for different properties — including Park Plaza Hotels and Resorts and GESCO— in the sales and marketing function. She also worked with Airtel as a manager for call centre operations and managed a team of 350 employees.

It was in 2006 that she moved to Genpact as business HR lead for the analytics business. Three years later, she was promoted as the head of HR for Axis Risk Consulting, a subsidiary of Genpact. Moving on from Genpact, Puranesh joined STAR TV Network as vice president – HR and later also served as SVP-HR before heading HR at Hotstar. For five years, Puranesh was with the STAR Nework brand serving in different HR leadership roles.

“Thrilled to join HBO Max. It certainly feels like coming home to a brand that I love, and the bonus is, I get to collaborate with the most amazing colleagues! Looking forward to building HBO Max for APAC,” read Puranesh’s post on social media.

A graduate from the University of Calcutta, Puranesh has been exposed to different industries in her over two-decade long career, including hospitality, consulting, telecom, ITES as well as media and entertainment.

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How to Promote Remote Company Culture



Remote work has arrived, and it’s not going anywhere soon. But what happens to the company culture you’ve worked so hard to cultivate when your company goes remote? 

Well, the good news is that company culture can still exist and thrive remotely. You just need to learn how to foster it. 

Why is Remote Company Culture Important? 

Put as plainly as possible, company culture is a set of shared values, goals, attitudes and practices that define the shape and character of a company.

Remote company culture is vital for the same reasons traditional company culture is essential: workers are more likely to enjoy their work and be more productive when their needs and values match their bosses and the company. 

These needs are more accentuated in work from home models. Employees are literally and figuratively isolated. Promoting your company culture for remote workers reinforces the idea that they’re needed, valued, and part of something together. 

Know Your Values; Share Your Values

Here’s the thing, you can’t promote a company culture – remote or otherwise – if you don’t have one. 

Before you start thinking about promoting remote company culture, rethink and consolidate what that culture is. Whether it’s updating or reminding yourself of your values or just taking a second to define your company culture, it will give you greater motivation and emphasis when sharing it. 

Ask your team what is important to them, what the company means to them. What ideas do they have about the direction of the company and what its culture should be? Even the gesture of asking them for their input could go a long way. 

Make Your Meetings Face-to-Face

Nothing can replace in-person face-to-face communication. But thanks to the miracle of video technology, we can make a commendable effort to replace it. 

Meetings with face-to-face video conferencing can be quick reprieves from the loneliness of staring at a computer screen all day and are a great way to promote remote company culture and relationships.

It doesn’t even have to be business-related calls. Why not try Buddy Calls? Buddy Calls are when two team members are paired up for the week. They take ten minutes on Monday and Friday mornings to have a ten-minute chat (or more, if your workload allows it). They can talk about their workweek, their life, or just general nonsense. 

You could also try doing some creative ice-breakers when preparing for longer brainstorming sessions or virtual team events. A good ice-breaking session is excellent for inducing effective communication and creative thinking. And what’s more, they’re fun! 

Make Fun Company-Wide Initiatives

In the olden days, when people worked in offices, in person, together, company bonding was as simple as walking to the bar on the corner.

These days, you need to be creative to engage your team regarding logging off time. The trick is to choose something where people are active and involved, not something where they have one eye on Netflix or their Xbox. 

It could be as simple as having after-work drinks to chat away and just be friends. Virtual after-works have all the perks of a social event while having the comforts of your own home.

To make it more of an event, you could do an old fashioned virtual pub quiz. They’re fun, give you a chance to show off your knowledge, and more importantly, the thrill of the competition will light a fire under everyone! 

Or for something more unique, what about a Cook-a-Long? A cook-a-long is when a team member leads a cooking workshop for the whole team. They choose a dish they know and send out a shopping list to everyone else. You turn on your zooms, and you cook together! The only caveat is that it can’t be too expensive, too complex, or too time-consuming. 

CEO of Spacehutnr Dietrich Moens told us, “We love doing monthly cook-a-longs. We have a team of foodies, so it’s popular. It’s great because it demands engagement; if you miss a step, your dish is ruined! They’re loud and frantic; they’re a great substitute for a traditional after-work, and more often than not, you learn something!” 

Working Wellness

It’s essential that your team has the space and opportunity to share how they feel about working from home, the company, their work, and anything else that can affect their well being while working with the company. 

As we said earlier, it’s also essential to allow your team to have a say in what the company culture is going forward. Likewise, having feedback channels is vital for a healthy workplace, especially in this new environment that is still finding its form. 

Wrapping up 

So to wrap up, remote work offers new challenges not only for productivity but with company culture too. But if it’s important to you, there are ways to foster it. If you have any cool ideas of your own, we’d love to hear them! 

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The importance of listening to employee feedback and how to execute it successfully



Danni Rush, Chief Operating Officer of Virgin Experience Days and Virgin Incentives

The importance of listening to employee feedback

Successful businesses know the importance of customer feedback. It can help to improve the quality of goods and services, open business development opportunities and ultimately grow profits. According to recent research, acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing one, andincreasing customer retention by 5% can increase profits from 25-95%. So it’s important you listen to customers’ positive and negative feedback to show you care about their opinions, to improve your offering and to keep them engaged.

The same is true of employees. In 2017, Employee Benefits News reported that hiring a replacement can cost employers 33% of the departing employee’s annual salary. Considering that Willis Tower Watson also found that one in three hires leave a company within two years, the cost of finding new recruits can quickly stack up, far exceeding the cost of retaining existing staff.

With this in mind, it is clearly important for businesses to ensure they keep talented employees. Not just for the financial savings made through hiring and training new workers, but also for creating a positive team dynamic and morale.

One of the best proven ways to do this is to listen carefully to your employees. Like customers, employees want to be heard, and listening to what they have to say is a great way to show you value their input and are prepared to make changes to improve their working life. This in turn can have the added benefit of making the company more attractive to future prospective candidates.

Employee feedback is especially important in times of change, such as we have experienced since the start of the pandemic last year. The situation is so dynamic, that employers can’t afford to just stick to the status quo either during or after the lockdown restrictions. The pandemic has changed the working world for good – and while there is a debate as to whether the long-term changes have been positive or negative, employers must constantly adapt regardless. Not everyone will feel the same way about new and emerging situations, so listening to employees and showing flexibility is crucial.

How to execute it successfully

Firstly, the employer needs to identify the problem that needs resolving and create opportunities to discuss these with staff. It may be via an anonymous survey or a focus group – or a combination of both. Either way, communication and transparency throughout is key.

Once the feedback has been collated and a full analysis conducted, employers might consider sharing the results with employees where appropriate to highlight the issues identified along with an outline of the suggested approach to resolve it and the reasons behind it. For example, this might be increasing flexible working or introducing a new reward and recognition scheme such as team days out to support group bonding. This approach will show employees that you have listened to their thoughts and responded accordingly.

Once you’ve then implemented the changes, it’s important to then assess the results a few months on. Employers might consider a further survey of staff to analyse how the new changes have been received and if they’re beneficial to both the business and employees. Adjustments can then subsequently be made.

A Virgin Incentives case study

During the pandemic, Virgin Incentives adopted this approach by listening to employee feedback and applying a test and learn process. The business introduced a new feedback platform, and our first survey reported an engagement score of just 54%.

We set about on an employee engagement transformation journey, aiming to increase the score to at least 70%. Employee feedback was crucial to this, and so we closed the business for a day and held an off-site workshop to discuss ideas around key business values. We also established quarterly pulse surveys to check our progress and ensured that results were communicated openly to the business. 

Although a challenging period for the business, by listening our team, we recorded annual revenue growth of 40%, while also reducing employee turnover by 18.6%, and improving our engagement score to 73% – a huge 19% improvement in 12 months.

Our employee engagement reform focused on employee feedback and ultimately secured Virgin Experience Days the gold award at the UK Employee Experience Awards.

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Employers worry about remote work productivity



New research released today by Ricoh Europe reveals that employers are failing to invest in technology to maintain productivity across their remote workforce, despite concerns about their output.

More than 18 months since the Coronavirus pandemic took hold across Europe, forcing businesses to adopt remote working practices, just over a third (36%) of employers say their organisation has provided the tools and technology to maintain employee productivity while working from any location. Despite the failure to implement new solutions, the majority of employers (53%) acknowledge that investing in AI and automation boosts productivity across a hybrid workforce. These findings come off the back of research released by Ricoh Europe last month, which found that two thirds (65%) of employers don’t fully trust their employees to work remotely.

The research conducted by Opinion Matters, on behalf of Ricoh Europe, polled 1,500 decision makers across the continent. The findings suggest that employers fail to understand the barriers to productivity amongst their workforce.

Employers seem to vastly over-estimate the amount of time employees spend on tasks that deliver real value to customers, while employees say they are bogged down in less impactful work. Most employers (69%) believe their staff spend up to 180 minutes each a day on high value activity, compared to the 73 minutes that employees estimated when asked a similar question in March this year.

The lack of investment in technology to enable people to work productively from any location suggests that employers are underprepared for the realities of hybrid work. Over half (54%) of European business decision makers believe that in-office collaboration is vital to the future success of their organisation. Despite this desire, only 27% believe their company will return to a five-day office-based week in the next 12 months – further questioning their lack of investment in hybrid working tools.

David Mills, CEO, Ricoh Europe, says: “Employers clearly value in-person collaboration – but they must strike a delicate balance between safeguarding culture and a sense of team, often best experienced though office-based working, with the virtues of hybrid working. It is important to remember that technology that aids productivity for hybrid work will benefit people while they are in the office, too. This is particularly true for automation and AI based tools, which employees increasingly crave, because it frees them from repetitive, low value work, to focus on more rewarding tasks.”

Nicola Downing, COO, Ricoh Europe, adds: “Businesses have weathered more than their fair share of disruption over the past 18 months. While they have shown incredible resilience, they risk losing the talent that has stayed with them for the duration of the pandemic if they fail to invest in the technology that will boost productivity for the hybrid work era and beyond. Employers should remember that establishing hybrid working practices, which put employee needs at the heart of decision making, demonstrates commitment and understanding of the challenges these workers have faced, increases productivity and fosters loyalty.”

Click here to discover how Ricoh can help to empower your employees and enable hybrid working in your business.

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