This is a guest post from Laura Oliphant, CEO of Stand, on what companies can be doing during the cost of living crisis.
Any help given to staff during situations like Covid and the cost-of-living crisis needs to be part of a positive and genuine work culture. As we enter the tougher winter months and energy and food prices soar, companies need to ramp up their employee support, going beyond free drinks and gift vouchers. Support has to be meaningful – nothing lands as badly as a token gesture, or support not awarded fairly across the business.
At Stand we aim to support our team from the day they start work with us, but as the cost of living continues to rise, we recognised more was needed. We decided to give a one-off payment to our staff. £800 split across two payments in October and January 2023 for those earning up to £30,000, and £500 for those earning over £30,000. Feedback on the payment was universally well received, particularly because it was announced months before government support was confirmed.
Alongside financial help, we introduced a number of smaller gestures in the office, including increased fruit and snacks, and additional breakfast supplies.
But support for teams must go beyond one-off gestures. We are constantly challenging ourselves to come up with new ways to show our team they are valued. We understand life can be tough, especially during times like Covid. After three lockdowns and other restrictions of the pandemic, we wanted to give our team better balance at work. Initially, we trialled a nine-day fortnight where every two weeks, everyone at Stand had an off day to spend how they wish. This has now been adapted into a 1pm Friday finish where we are encouraging our team to start their weekend early, or use the afternoon to do something creative or good for their wellbeing.
Wellbeing is particularly important for us at Stand. In addition to our annual £250 wellbeing allowance, we have trained mental health first aiders, free counselling and discounted gym membership and equipment through our private health cover. Everyone has a day off on their birthday, 2.5 volunteering days, creative time off to seek inspiration and the chance to take a sabbatical after three years of service.
The most important advice I can give alongside consistency and fairness, is introducing support and benefits that are co-created. Listen to feedback and try to read the room so you introduce support before people say they need help. But also have realistic expectations. Having a positive culture, a strong suite of benefits and giving extra support is not a silver bullet to recruitment and staff retention, but it is the right thing to do.
For more on the cost-of-living crisis and its impact on the PR and communications industries and their audiences, download our white paper Communicating the cost-of-living crisis… A guide for charities and the third sector.