What can businesses do to support employee wellbeing during a cost-of-living crisis? 

July 17, 2023

My role at Frazer Jones is to help businesses and professionals by sourcing, recruiting and onboarding HR candidates and specialists – with a focus on the rewards and benefits space. 

Every day I speak to employers and professionals about workplace wellbeing and what can be done to support the workforce as new and evolving challenges affect the UK and beyond.  

The cost-of-living crisis is creating another wellbeing matter, as a silent storm sweeping working parents. 

How the cost of living affects the ability to work 

The Covid-19 pandemic undeniably upended the traditional work structures across the globe. Amid the uncertainties and hardships, however, a new approach to work has emerged – the hybrid working model. This flexible work arrangement, combining in-person office time with remote work, has provided a refreshing perspective on productivity and work/life balance, particularly for working parents in the UK. 

“Now more than ever, working parents are finding themselves caught in a juggling act of work, life, and everything in between.” 

In the early parts of 2023, today’s fast-paced world and the cost-of-living crisis is hitting home, particularly for working parents in the UK. With rapidly rising expenses, an unsteady economy and stagnant wages, the predicament faced by working families is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate. As parents try to balance work and family life, the strain on their resources, both financial and emotional, is becoming all too overwhelming. 

Traditionally, we lived in a society where it was assumed that someone else would always be available to manage life’s monotonous tasks – the school runs, household chores, the laundry cycle. This “invisible” helper, whether it was a spouse, a relative or a paid professional, provided the support system that enabled working parents to focus on their professional life. However, the rising cost of living is forcing families to reconsider these arrangements. Now more than ever, working parents are finding themselves caught in a juggling act of work, life, and everything in between. 

“Commuters are feeling the squeeze with the rise in train fares not reflecting their salaries.”

The increased burden on working parents going back to work four to five days a week is not just a financial one: it’s also emotional. The cost-of-living crisis has transformed them into “emotionally unavailable” parents, always chasing deadlines, juggling workloads, and scrambling to make ends meet. This constant rush leaves little room for emotional engagement with their children, nurturing their growth, and providing the support they need. 

Train strikes and fare hikes have dealt another blow to working families. Once viewed as a cost-effective and efficient means of commuting, train travel is now becoming an unsustainable expense for many. Commuters are feeling the squeeze with the rise in fares not reflecting their salaries. In the quest for affordable housing, many employees are finding themselves living further from their places of work. This not only adds to the commuting costs but also means less time spent with their families and more time spent in travelling. 

Many families are stuck in a tough spot. The opportunity to work full time and the promise of financial security is being marred by the rising costs of commuting and living. For those living on tight budgets, the prospect of saving money seems increasingly like a distant dream. 

So, what wellbeing strategies should employers look to adopt?  

Employers have a critical role to play. They can create a supportive work environment that fosters mental wellbeing. This could involve implementing policies that promote work-life balance, like flexible work hours, encourage Teams/Zoom calls from home, and mandatory time-off policies. They could also look to offer resources for mental health support, such as access to counselling services, workshops on stress management, and fostering a work culture that encourages open conversations about mental health. 

“Prioritising wellbeing support in the workplace is not merely a discretionary act of goodwill by organisations – it is a strategic obligation underpinned by sound psychological principles.” 

Some studies have suggested that working from home can actually boost productivity. For instance, a two-year Stanford study found a 13% increase in productivity when employees worked from home, and employees reported higher work happiness. 

It’s important to note that the effectiveness of remote work can vary depending on individual circumstances, such as the nature of the job, the available support structure, and the ability to maintain boundaries between work and home life. While some people may thrive in a work-from-home environment, others may find it more challenging. 

Prioritising wellbeing support in the workplace is not merely a discretionary act of goodwill by organisations – it is a strategic obligation underpinned by sound psychological principles. 

Psychology tells us that stress and anxiety can significantly hinder cognitive functioning. When an individual’s wellbeing is compromised, their ability to concentrate, problem-solve, and think creatively – skills that are crucial in the modern workplace – can suffer. In contrast, when an employee’s mental and emotional wellbeing is nurtured, they are more likely to exhibit enhanced cognitive capabilities, creativity, and productivity. 

Well-Being and Productivity: There is a well-established link between wellbeing and productivity. A 2015 study by the University of Warwick found that happiness made people about 12% more productive in the workplace. 

Well-being and Employee Engagement: Employee wellbeing has been linked to increased engagement and decreased turnover. For instance, a Gallup study found that organizations that score highly on employee well-being have 81% lower absenteeism rates and 18% less turnover. 

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