9 things employers can do to look after their staff during the cost of living crisis
As the cost of living crisis continues, employers must recognise the importance of supporting their employees during these challenging times. From both a business and human perspective. Financial stress can significantly impact employee wellbeing, job satisfaction, and productivity. As a result, many organisations are taking steps to provide support and alleviate some of the financial concerns faced by their staff. Beyond being morally right to support employees during times of economic hardship, there are also business benefits.
Here's how businesses can support their employees during tough economic times:
- Focus on employee engagement
- Prioritise employee wellbeing
- Be transparent with employees
- Look to build resilience
- Foster a future focus
- Develop healthy relationships
- Support physical wellbeing
- Provide personal and professional development
- Learn and strategize afterwards
Focus on employee engagement
Why employee engagement matters
Employee engagement is the foundation for any successful business – whether there’s a cost of living crisis or not. When employees feel connected to their work, peers, and company mission, they’re more likely to find meaning in their work. They feel like they are contributing to a bigger purpose, which can boost their sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. Engaged employees are also more likely to be motivated and productive, leading to a sense of achievement and personal growth.
High levels of engagement can lead to greater job security. Engaged employees are more committed to their work and company, which can make them more likely to stay with the organisation. This, in turn, can provide greater stability and a sense of security.
How to build employee engagement
To build an engagement-focused culture, it’s crucial that we understand more about the specific elements of engagement. There's a simple 10 step model for engagement based on what HR best practice and behavioural science tells us are the key elements underpinning employee engagement. Let's assume you're already getting the basics right like fair pay, and competent managers. Others things you can do are:
- Be open and honest about the ups and downs. Transparency is critical to having engaged staff.
- Set clear goals so everyone knows what’s expected, and check progress regularly.
- Recognise when people go above and beyond. Everyone likes a pat on the back every now and then.
Prioritise employee wellbeing
Why employee wellbeing needs attention during a cost of living crisis
Managers, leaders, and HR have a moral responsibility to look out for their employees. This is especially true during the cost-of-living crisis because they’re likely to be facing higher levels of stress at work and at home.
Unsurprisingly, job losses, financial uncertainty, falling engagement, and increased productivity are a bad recipe for employee wellbeing. But wellbeing is more than just how happy someone seems. It’s about finding a good balance because healthy employees = healthy business.
How to offer wellbeing support to employees in cost of living crisis
Managers can help their staff feel supported and valued by offering support, being flexible, providing fair compensation, fostering a positive work environment, and providing opportunities for development. A simple “how are you?” goes a long way.
Jim Hartner, Chief Scientist of Workplace and Wellbeing, Gallup summarised the link between wellbeing and bottom line: “When your employees’ wellbeing is thriving, your organisation directly benefits — they take fewer sick days, deliver higher performance, and have lower rates of burnout and turnover. But when your employees’ wellbeing suffers, so does your organisation’s bottom line.”
Be transparent with employees
Why transparency matters during a cost of living crisis
Honesty and openness create a sense of psychological safety that is essential during times of crisis. That’s why, during the cost of living crisis, it's important for leaders and managers to be transparent at work. When leaders admit to negative situations or acknowledge uncertainty, employees feel safer and more secure. If you can't afford to give the usual bonus or annual pay rise, be honest. Tell employees how you do plan to support them in cost of living crisis.
Frequent communication is key to building trust and transparency between managers and employees. 86% of employees feel a lack of effective and open communication is the main cause of workplace issues.
Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines, emphasizes the importance of being visible, authentic, and transparent in communication during difficult times. By acknowledging what is known and what is unknown, employees are more likely to trust and respect their managers.
How to be more transparent with your staff
Holding regular one-on-one meetings, town halls, and sending weekly email updates from the CEO are all effective ways to ensure that employees have ample opportunity to communicate and share their thoughts and concerns. It's important to avoid talking at employees and instead actively listen and engage with them.
A culture of honesty and openness can positively impact employee engagement, morale, and productivity. Especially when you include clear goal-setting as part of being transparent. It may seem odd but setting clear goals will keep your entire organisation on track. Everyone is focused on the same destination, just via different routes.
Setting goals during a crisis helps to motivate and align individual, team, and department work. In uncertain times, collaborating to set goals can help to ease stress and provide much-needed support and clarity.
But beware. During tough times, goals need frequent reviews as priorities and objectives adapt to the situation. An outdated goal can have a negative impact on engagement, performance, and wellbeing.
Build employee resilience to help them adapt during hard times
Why resilience is critical to supporting employees during a cost of living crisis
Your people are a business’ secret weapon to thriving in tough times. Support your people and they will support you. But bosses must do the groundwork to help their employees learn healthy mechanisms to develop their own resilience.
Resilience is how you handle difficult situations. Often described as the ability to bounce back and carry-on during adversity. Resilience measures how effectively you regulate your thoughts and emotions, as well as perceiving challenging situations as an opportunity, not a personal threat.
Having a resilient workforce has huge benefits. Your people can deal with change and are less susceptible to burnout. It drives motivation and improves employees’ overall health. That’s because resilience and workplace wellbeing are linked.
How to build employee resilience
Building resilience is very much a personal journey that takes self-reflection, time, and practice. However, team leaders and managers can support an individual’s development by providing the right tools and training.
Employees and managers need to understand the basic elements that create resilience at work. A workplace culture with opportunities for social interactions, good wellbeing, and personal development will instinctively create the right environment to build resilience.
Foster a future focus
Why looking forward will help support your employees after the cost of living crisis
A growth mindset helps employees to future-gaze constructively. This promotes openness to change and adaptation and enables healthy responses to challenges and problems. This is linked closely to being resilient.
Critical thinking and accountability are important here. It requires stopping and thinking logically, rather than being swayed by emotions. It also means being human: admit you don’t know everything and ask questions to learn more.
How to foster a future focus
Employers can help their employees develop a growth mindset by providing opportunities for learning and development. Encouraging employees to take on new challenges and providing them with the necessary training and resources can help them build resilience and adapt to changing circumstances.
Leaders should foster a culture of continuous learning, emphasising the importance of taking risks, learning from failures, and celebrating successes. They can also provide regular feedback and recognition to help employees see their progress and feel motivated to continue their growth.
Another way to support employees in developing a growth mindset is to encourage them to seek out mentors or coaches who can provide guidance and support. Mentors can offer insights and advice based on their own experiences, while coaches can help employees identify their strengths and weaknesses and develop strategies for improvement.
Employers can also promote a growth mindset by setting challenging but achievable goals and providing employees with opportunities to collaborate and share their knowledge and skills with others. By creating an environment that values learning and growth, employers can help employees build resilience and adaptability, which can be particularly important during a cost of living crisis.
Develop healthy relationships for moral support
Why having a good support network at work matters during the cost of living crisis
During the cost of living crisis, employees may feel stressed and isolated, which can negatively impact their mental health and overall wellbeing. By developing healthy work relationships, employers can create a supportive and collaborative environment that helps employees feel more connected and engaged in their work.
When employees have positive relationships with their colleagues, they are more likely to feel motivated and engaged in their work, which can lead to increased productivity and better job satisfaction. Additionally, having people to talk to and offer support can help employees manage stress and navigate difficult situations, such as financial uncertainty, during a cost of living crisis.
How to build healthy employee relationships in cost of living crisis
Relationships take time and can’t be forced. Developing healthy relationships at work is essential for both your personal and professional growth. And Leadership can support employees to foster healthy workplace relationships by encouraging them to focus on things like:
- Building genuine connections by expressing real interest in others, including their differences, and being mindful of their views and values. Being open to other’s viewpoints can expand your own perceptions and expectations.
- Confiding in a mentor. They provide a safe space outside your immediate team to express and challenge yourself. Encourage your employees to learn from those around them. This could be as simple as observing from a distance or having more formal arrangements.
- Calling out negative behaviours. If there are people who bring you and others down at work, think about what can be done. Often, people don’t realise what they’re doing and how it affects others until someone else challenges it. Honest, empathetic feedback can help with this.
- Respecting your colleagues' boundaries. Being mindful of their time and workload, as well as out-of-work responsibilities.
- Practice gratitude: Show appreciation for your colleagues' contributions, celebrate their achievements, and thank them for their support.
- Communicate to be understood, not heard. Communication is key to building healthy relationships at work. Be clear and concise when you communicate, listen actively, and be open to feedback.
- Build trust: Trust is crucial for any relationship, especially in the workplace. Keep your promises, be reliable and consistent, and show that you are trustworthy.
Support your employees physical wellbeing
Why physical wellbeing matters during a cost of living crisis
Physical health is closely linked to mental and emotional health. Although physical fitness is personal, companies can take steps to support their employees' physical health and wellbeing.
In the UK, an estimated 141.4 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury. In the US, an estimated 1.5 billion workdays are lost each year due to absenteeism and presenteeism (working while sick or unwell) caused by poor physical health.
How to support your people to be physically heathier
This isn't about gym memberships and away days. This is about creating a workplace culture that enables your people to work in a way that works for their health. Here are four ways companies can support their employees' physical health:
Offer ergonomic workstations. Sitting for long periods can be harmful to employees' physical health, so companies can provide ergonomic workstations with adjustable chairs, desks, and computer monitors to help reduce the risk of injuries or chronic pain.
Suggest walking or standing meetings, or limiting meetings altogether so that people can choose to work how and where they need to, to best support their physical health.
Encourage employees to take breaks rather than work through lunch, or for excessively long periods. Offer flexible work arrangements that allow employees to balance their work and personal lives more effectively.
Check-in on people’s workloads to make sure they’re fair and manageable. This is achieved by setting clear goals and realistic deadlines. Knowing what’s expected and how you’re tracking against those expectations plays a big part in managing ambiguity and stress.
Provide personal and professional development opportunities
Why personal development is the ultimate way to support employees in cost of living crisis
Personal and professional development is crucial for employees during a cost of living crisis as it helps them to adapt to changes, remain productive, and advance their careers while also building resilience.
Investing in an employee’s personal and professional development is a way of recognising an employee’s value. Empoyers can use development as an alternative to increasing basic salary or offering a bonus, which lose their effectiveness quickly anyway.
Setting clear and actionable steps will make building resilience feel more tangible, and prevent it from feeling overwhelming.
How to encourage employees to learn new skills
New skills help employees to adapt to changes in the workplace. In a cost of living crisis, companies may need to make changes to stay afloat, and employees who can adapt to these changes will be more valuable. This can open up new career opportunities for staff. This is particularly important when job opportunities may be limited.
Emphasise how new skills support future job security. Employees who are constantly developing their skills are more likely to be retained. Companies may prioritise retaining employees who have the skills and knowledge needed to navigate challenging times.
Developing resilience is important during difficult times. Employees who have a growth mindset and are constantly learning and developing new skills are better equipped to handle the challenges that come with a cost of living crisis.
Learn and strategise afterwards
Why you need to use the cost of living crisis to learn how to support employees moving forward
Not to get all Nostradamus on you, but you never know when the next tough episode is coming. But be sure, it is coming. Whether it's a pandemic, recession, or natural disaster, or something else entirely. Being prepared means your people and business will be in a better position to face it. So now’s the time to take stock, learn the lessons, and introduce new processes and strategies.
How to take what you've learnt and adapt
Review how you supported your employee through the cost of living crisis
The first step is to look at what you, your people, and your business has just gone through. Collect the thoughts and experiences from your people. Find out how they felt, what they went through, and poll for ideas on futureproofing.
Continue to focus on supporting employees to build their resilience
Resilience is like any other skill. It needs honing. Yes, your people may have just gone through a crisis and come out stronger, but don’t lose focus. Put plans into motion to build and strengthen resilience further.
Build better communication processes
You’ll have seen the impact good communication has on your people and business during your recent tough time. Again, resting on your laurels is not a sensible move here. Continue to talk to your people open and honestly. Run frequent employee check-ins, have your managers run 1:1s more often, and open up lines of communication across your business. Make sure your people can talk and be heard when they need to be.
Shake up your hiring and retention strategies
It’s likely you’ll have learnt a lot about your people during the last period of change and uncertainty. Some hidden gems may have emerged and some previous stars may have faded. You’ll have a better feel for strengths, loyalty, and weaknesses. Take that information and reform how (and who) you hire and how you keep people long-term.
A morally and economically sound strategy
Supporting your people during hard times, or times of uncertainty, is morally and economically sound. Both the business and your employees will benefit. Build a team capable of pitching in when times are tough, not just when it's easy. Reward great work and innovation fairly, celebrate the great things your people achieve, and build employee engagement organically.
If you're managing people, you'll want to download our latest best practice guide that shows you how to support your employees during tough times, like a cost of living crisis. Get your copy here.