When employee well-being suffers, so does an organisation’s bottom line. Risk managers must make sure that people-related risk is top of mind as the cost-of-living crisis worsens.

As the cost of living crisis continues to worsen, risk managers must recognise the importance of supporting their employees.

Financial stress can significantly impact staff well-being, job satisfaction, and productivity, leading to significant business exposures.

Mental Health for customers

The risks of failing to tackle employee health and wellness include high turnover, lost talent, increasing absence and even reputational damage.

Employee performance gurus Weekly10 said: ”With the fluid state of the economy and no particular letup in sight in terms of the cost of living, looking after staff is going to be of increased importance in every business for the foreseeable future.”

Here are nine tips from employee experts to help risk managers and the organisations they work for support their employees during tough economic times:

1) Focus on employee engagement

Employee engagement is the foundation for any successful business.

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 greater purpose, which can boost their sense of fulfilment and satisfaction.

Engaged employees are also more likely to be motivated and productive and less likely to move to a competitor.

How to build employee engagement

  • Be open and honest about the ups and downs. Transparency is critical to having engaged staff.  

  • Set clear goals so everyone knows what’s expected, and check progress regularly.

  • Recognise when people go above and beyond. 

2) Prioritise employee wellbeing

Managers, risk teams, and HR have a moral responsibility to look out for their employees. This is especially true during the cost-of-living crisis because they’re likely to be facing higher levels of stress at work and at home.

Unsurprisingly, job losses, financial uncertainty, falling engagement, and increased productivity make a bad recipe for employee well-being.  Firms must find a good balance because healthy employees = healthy business.

Jim Hartner, Chief Scientist of Workplace and Wellbeing, Gallup said: “When your employees’ wellbeing is thriving, your organisation directly benefits — they take fewer sick days, deliver higher performance, and have lower rates of burnout and turnover. But when your employees’ wellbeing suffers, so does your organisation’s bottom line.”

How to offer well-being support to employees 

Managers can help their staff feel supported and valued by offering support, being flexible, providing fair compensation, fostering a positive work environment, and providing opportunities for development. 

 3) Be transparent with employees

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 the usual bonus or annual pay rise, be honest. Tell employees how you do plan to support them.

Frequent communication is key to building trust. 86% of employees feel a lack of effective and open communication is the main cause of workplace issues.

Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines, emphasises the importance of being visible, authentic, and transparent in communication during difficult times. By acknowledging what is known and what is unknown, employees are more likely to trust and respect their managers.

How to be more transparent  

Holding regular one-on-one meetings, town halls, and sending weekly email updates from the CEO are all effective ways to ensure that employees can share their thoughts and concerns. 

A culture of honesty and openness can positively impact employee engagement, morale, and productivity. Especially when you include clear goal-setting.

However, these goals need frequent reviews as priorities and objectives adapt to the situation. An outdated goal can have a negative impact on engagement, performance, and well-being.

4) Build employee resilience 

Bosses must do the groundwork to help their employees learn healthy mechanisms to develop their own resilience.

Often described as the ability to bounce back and carry-on during adversity, resilience measures how effectively you perceive challenging situations as an opportunity, not a threat.

Having a resilient workforce has huge benefits. Your people can deal with change and are less susceptible to burnout. It drives motivation and improves overall health. 

How to build employee resilience

Team leaders and managers can support an individual’s development by providing the right tools and training.

A workplace culture with opportunities for social interactions, good well-being, and personal development will instinctively create 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 enables healthy responses to challenges and problems. 

Critical thinking and accountability are important here. It also means being human: admitting you don’t know everything and asking questions to learn more.

How to foster a future focus

Leaders should foster a culture of continuous learning, emphasising the importance of taking risks, learning from failures, and celebrating successes.

They can also provide regular feedback and recognition to help employees see their progress and feel motivated to continue their growth.

Another way to support employees is to encourage them to seek out mentors or coaches who can provide guidance and support. 

Set challenging but achievable goals and provide employees with opportunities to collaborate and share their knowledge and skills with others. 

6) Develop healthy relationships for moral support

During the cost of living crisis, employees may feel stressed and isolated, which can negatively impact their mental health and overall well-being. 

To manage this risk, employers should create a supportive and collaborative environment that helps employees feel more connected.

When employees have positive relationships with their colleagues, they are more likely to feel motivated and engaged in their work, which can lead to increased productivity and better job satisfaction.

How to build healthy employee relationships 

Leadership can support employees to foster healthy workplace relationships by introducing mentorship programs, calling out negative behaviours, communicating and building trust.

7) Support your employees’ physical wellbeing

Physical health is closely linked to mental and emotional health. Although physical fitness is personal, companies can take steps to support their employees.

In the UK, an estimated 141.4 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury. In the US, an estimated 1.5 billion workdays are lost each year due to absenteeism and presenteeism (working while sick or unwell) caused by poor physical health.

How to support your people to be physically healthier

Create a workplace culture that enables your people to work in a way that benefits their health. 

  • Sitting for long periods can be harmful to employees’ physical health, so provide ergonomic workstations with adjustable chairs, desks, and computer monitors to help reduce the risk of injuries or chronic pain.
  • Suggest walking or standing meetings, or limiting meetings altogether.
  • Encourage employees to take breaks rather than work through lunch, or for excessively long periods.
  • Offer flexible work arrangements that allow employees to balance their work and personal lives more effectively.
  • Check in on people’s workloads to make sure they’re fair and manageable. Set clear goals and realistic deadlines. 

8) Provide personal and professional development opportunities

Personal and professional development is crucial for employees during a cost-of-living crisis as it helps them to adapt to changes, remain productive, and advance their careers.

Investing in an employee’s personal and professional development is a way of recognising their value. Employers can use development as an alternative to increasing basic salary or offering a bonus.

How to encourage employees to learn new skills

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. This can open up new career opportunities for staff. This is particularly important when job opportunities may be limited.

Emphasise how new skills support future job security. Companies may prioritise retaining employees who have the skills and knowledge needed to navigate challenging times.

9) Learn and strategise afterwards

Being prepared means your people and business will be in a better position to face the next crisis. So now’s the time to take stock, learn the lessons, and introduce new processes and strategies.

How to take what you’ve learnt and adapt

Look at what you, your people, and your business have just gone through. Collect the thoughts and experiences of your employees. Poll for ideas on futureproofing.

Run frequent employee check-ins, have your managers run 1:1s more often, and open up lines of communication across your business. 

It’s likely you’ll have learnt a lot about your people during the last period of change and uncertainty. Some hidden gems may have emerged and some previous stars may have faded. You’ll have a better feel for strengths, loyalty, and weaknesses. Take that information and reform how (and who) you hire and how you keep people long-term.