- The labor shortage caused employers to offer hiring bonuses and perks to incentivize new hires.
- One-off perks aren’t enough for many of the 8 million unemployed Americans.
- A workplace wellbeing expert shares 5 benefits employers must offer for workers to return.
The labor shortage surges on: 10 million US job positions are currently open, but 8 million unemployed Americans aren’t jumping on the opportunities. Some individuals were laid off during the pandemic and have yet to return to the workforce, while millions of Americans are quitting outright.
For many individuals quitting or contemplating their return to work, an increased salary, work-life balance, and basic empathy from employers are at the front of mind. Employers have reacted to demands over the last few months by incentivising employees with one-time hiring bonuses, extra benefits, and office (or home office) perks; but it doesn’t seem to be enough.
Insider sat down with Paula Allen, the global leader and senior vice-president of research and total wellbeing at Lifeworks, a company providing health and wellness support to businesses and employees around the world.
“We focus on health and productivity and how they relate,” said Allen of her work at Lifeworks. “We provide wraparound support. Our ‘total wellbeing’ concept includes mental, physical, financial, and social health, which includes your experiences in the workplace.”
Lifeworks conducts monthly surveys to understand employee experience, mindset, and struggles.
“Those who identify as females have been more strongly negatively impacted,” said Allen, who continued to name parents and those early in their careers as the most affected populations throughout COVID-19. These characteristics made someone vulnerable even before the pandemic, she said, but already existing issues of instability, isolation, and uncertainty were exacerbated, leaving many employees unhappy in work environments.
Experts expect the same fears to persist post pandemic. Allen suggests employers implement support in 5 key categories to successfully attract and retain employees.
1. Employee & Family Assistance Programs
Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs, are programs offered to provide a wide-range of benefits addressing circumstances that might adversely affect employees’ work and health, according to the IRS. From financial assistance to therapy, EAPs allow employees to choose from a plethora of resources depending on what they find most necessary.
The benefit for business owners? Not only do EAPs offer extended benefits– acting as an incentive to attract employees– but EAPs are also completely tax deductible.
2. Mental Health Resources
Virtual or in-person therapy sessions, career growth counseling, and substance-abuse services among other mental health resources should be offered to employees, Allen said.
Throughout COVID-19, “many people started developing behaviors that have long-term impacts that have actually increased the risk level of the population: such as substance use,” she said.
Ken Gorfinkle, psychologist and owner of Common Sense Therapy, also suggests giving employees the option to seek help for issues within the workplace: “Executive coaches, psychologists, or mental health experts can help people navigate difficulties with coworkers, with bosses, with supervisors,” he said.
3. Financial Services
Financial coaches, savings plans, and investment services engage employees with their earnings and ensure they feel stable and supported in their current and future financial position, an issue both Allen and Gorfinkle said has been a common trigger for larger issues.
Especially for parents and older employees, said Gorfinkle, “People are often hardcore concerned about supporting a lifestyle and their economic circumstances.” he continued. Paying mortgages and putting kids through school creates pressure to maintain financial security, he said, which is why financial health is so intertwined with mental and physical wellbeing.
Parents were among the most affected individuals during the pandemic according to Lifework’s monthly surveys. As offices reopen, childcare guidance and support becomes even more necessary for working parents around the country, said Allen.
“It’s become more complex than people might think,” said Allen of the childcare problem. With COVID-19, parents can no longer depend on their children’s schools or daycares to always be open, she continued, “The supports that we have are just more fragile right now. That’s creating a lot of stress.”
5. Flexibility in Schedule
Whether it’s to deal with family conflicts, mental health days, or simply create a better work-life balance, Allen suggests flexible schedules be instituted for any business. Determine what works best for the company and employees; this might include a 4-day week, later start time, or unlimited PTO.
On the most basic level, business owners should focus on the hierarchy of needs in addressing employee concerns, she said. Ensuring employees feel like they belong, have a continuum of support, and have internal and external resources in case something goes wrong is the most efficient way to ease employee discontent.
“It’s important that everybody, regardless of their level of needs, has the kind of support that they need,” she continued. “Everybody needs to understand that they’re valued.”