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9 ways to support employees during the cost of living crisis

By Guest Writer | 26 May 2023 | Business, Expert Advice, Feature, Health & wellbeing

Cost Of Living Crisis

Experts at employee engagement software company, Weekly10, have collated nine top tips for businesses to support staff during tough economic times…

1. Focus on employee engagement

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 more likely to be motivated and productive, leading to a sense of achievement and personal growth, and are more committed to their work, making them more likely to stay with your company.

How to build employee engagement

Assuming you’re already getting the basics right, like fair pay and competent management, others things you can do are:

  1. Be open and honest about the ups and downs.
  2. Set clear goals so everyone knows what’s expected, and check progress regularly.
  3. Recognise when employees go above and beyond.

2. Prioritise employee wellbeing

Managers can help 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 Harter, chief scientist of workplace & wellbeing at Gallup, summarises the link between wellbeing and bottom line: “When employees’ wellbeing is thriving, your organisation directly benefits. They take fewer sick days, deliver higher performance and have lower rates of burnout and turnover.”

3. Be transparent

Honesty and openness create a sense of psychological safety that is essential during times of crisis. When leaders admit to negative situations or acknowledge uncertainty, employees feel safer and more secure. If you can’t afford to give a bonus or annual pay rise, be honest, but tell employees how you do plan to support them. Fierce, Inc. data shows that 86% of employees feel a lack of collaboration or effective and open communication is the main cause of workplace issues.

How to be more transparent

Holding regular one-to-one meetings is an effective way to ensure that employees have ample opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns. It’s important to avoid talking at staff and instead, actively listen and engage with them.

A culture of honesty and openness can positively impact employee engagement, morale and productivity, especially when this includes clear goal setting to align work. In uncertain times, collaborating to set goals can help to ease stress and provide support and clarity. However, goals need regular reviews as priorities and objectives adapt.

4. Build employee resilience

Resilience is how you handle difficult situations, and is often described as the ability to bounce back and carry on during adversity. Resilience measures how effectively you regulate your thoughts and emotions, and perceive challenging situations as an opportunity. Having a resilient workforce means staff can deal with change, are motivated and are less susceptible to burnout.

Building resilience is a personal journey that takes self-reflection, time and practice. However, employers can support an individual’s development by providing tools and training. A workplace with opportunities for social interaction, good wellbeing and personal development is the right environment to build resilience.

5. Foster a future focus

A growth mindset helps employees to future gaze constructively. This promotes openness to change and adaptation, and enables healthy responses to challenges. It requires stopping and thinking logically, rather than being swayed by emotions. It also means being human: admitting you don’t know everything and asking questions to learn more.

How to foster a future focus

Encouraging employees to take on new challenges for their learning and development, and providing them with the necessary training and resources, can help them adapt to changing circumstances. Leaders should create a culture of continuous learning, emphasising the importance of taking risks, learning from failures and celebrating successes. They should also provide regular feedback and recognition to help employees see their progress and feel motivated to continue it.

Others way to foster growth mindsets include encouraging employees to seek out mentors or coaches for guidance and support, setting challenging but achievable goals, and providing employees with opportunities to share their knowledge and skills.

6. Develop healthy relationships

During the cost of living crisis, employees may feel stressed and isolated. By developing healthy work relationships, employers can create a supportive and collaborative environment that helps staff feel more connected and engaged in their work. Having people to talk to can help them manage stress and navigate difficult situations.

Employers can foster healthy workplace relationships by encouraging employees to focus on:

  • Building genuine connections by expressing real interest in others, including their differences, and being mindful of their views and values.
  • Confiding in a mentor, who will provide a safe space to express and challenge themselves. Encourage employees to learn from those around them.
  • Calling out negative behaviours with honest, empathetic feedback. Often, people don’t realise what they’re doing and how it affects others until someone challenges it.
  • Respecting colleagues’ boundaries, by being mindful of their time, workload and responsibilities outside of work.
  • Practicing gratitude, by showing appreciation for colleagues’ contributions, celebrating their achievements and thanking them for their support.
  • Communicating to be understood, not heard. This means being clear and concise when communicating, actively listening and being open to feedback.
  • Building trust by keeping promises and being reliable and consistent.

7. Support employees’ physical wellbeing

Physical health is closely linked to mental and emotional health and although it is personal, companies can take steps to support employees’ physical wellbeing. According to the Office For National Statistics, an estimated 185.6 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in the UK in 2022.

How to support staff to be physically healthier:

  • Offer ergonomic workstations. Adjustable chairs and desks reduce the risk of injuries or chronic pain.
  • Suggest walking or standing meetings, or limiting meetings altogether so that staff can choose to work how and where they need to.
  • Encourage employees to take breaks, rather than work for excessively long periods. Offer flexible arrangements that allow employees to balance their work and personal lives effectively.
  • Check in on employees’ 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 helps manage ambiguity and stress.

8. Provide personal and professional development opportunities

Investing in an employee’s personal and professional development recognises their value, and helps them to adapt to changes, remain productive and advance their career. 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, opening up new career opportunities. Emphasise how new skills support future job security.

9. Learn and strategise afterwards

You never know when the next tough episode is coming, whether it’s a pandemic, recession or something else entirely. Being prepared means your business will be in a better position to face it. Now’s the time to take stock, learn lessons and introduce new processes and strategies:

  • Review how you’ve supported employees through the cost of living crisis. Collect the thoughts and experiences of your staff to find out how they’ve felt and their ideas for futureproofing.
  • Continue supporting employees to build resilience. Resilience is like any other skill: it needs honing. Employees may have just gone through a crisis and come out stronger, but don’t lose focus. Put plans into motion to strengthen resilience further.
  • Build better communication processes. Continue to talk to employees open and honestly. Run frequent employee check-ins and one-to-ones, and open up lines of communication so staff 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 staff during this period of change and uncertainty. You’ll have a better feel for strengths, loyalty and weaknesses. Use this information to reform how and who you hire, and how you keep employees long-term.