EXCLUSIVE: Virgin Unite meets new employee expectations during the pandemic

Employee Benefits Reset 2020: The impact of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has caused a number of changes in the workplace and inevitably, employee expectations have changed.

In a session titled ‘Meeting new employee expectations in a Covid-19 world’, Anna Gowdridge, director of 100% Human at Work, an initiative founded by Virgin Unite, explained that employees are looking for organisations to support them during times of uncertainty.

Gowdridge explained how organisations can best support the mental health of employees and commute with them honestly and openly about the business. She believes that by being transparent, employers can see an increase in productivity and engagement because of it. She said: “When employees know what challenges the business is going through, they are brought in and feel connected to the business.

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“Employees will feel more empowered if they know how the business is performing and what change they should expect in the coming months. Businesses that do this will experience increased engagement because staff feel like they can trust the organisation despite the challenges that may be ahead.

Gowdridge believes that trust is becoming more important than ever for both employees and organisations. “Employees value trust highly, but it needs to go both ways. It is important for employers to also trust their people by believing that their teams will do their work without being constantly monitored.”

Alongside employees having to adapt to a remote working lifestyle, employers have had to adjust too. “The shift to flexible working hours will have a long-lasting impact on how employees approach work, businesses need to be prepared for these changes in expectation.”

Flexible working is not the only area that employees expect their organisations to lead the way in, as well as offering a good level of wellbeing, healthcare and financial support, employees have come to expect greater levels of communication and overall change during the pandemic. “The vast majority of employees expect their leaders to communicate regularly about change. Additionally, employees also expect to be listened to and want to have an influence over these changes. It is crucial that employers are communicating with employees in the right way to ensure that this is not negatively impacting engagement and productivity levels.”

There is a fear that employees can completely lose touch with the office. Gowdridge believes that organisations should not overlook this and should consider ways to mitigate it. “Employees working remotely permanently may lose out on informal learning and employers need to think of new ways to ensure this is not the case. It is also important to remember that not all employees will have safe and comfortable home working environments, and a move to more remote working could therefore impact social mobility. The office can create a safe and healthy space for people to grow, learn and not feel isolated. These are perks that sometimes cannot be replicated with all employees working from home.”

There is a lot an organisation can do to create the best employee experience for its employees. “Value and purpose are crucial during times of crisis. The pandemic has caused challenges for businesses, however with good workplace culture and a deeply embedded purpose, employees can be brought together during times of uncertainty.

Gowdridge believes it is crucial for employers to experiment and understand the best formula for employee experience. “Thinking of new ideas to support employees can create a better experience for all employees worldwide. Be bold, rethink everything, and be human.”