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Employees favour wellbeing over pay and bonuses in UK's 'great resignation'

1st December 2021 by Charlotte Walker

With more than two million UK adults leaving their job since the first COVID-19 lockdown, businesses are being forced to adapt to a new world of work, with a good work/life balance and flexible working revealed to now be the top attractions for new recruits, moreso than competitive pay and bonuses.

According to new research from not-for-profit healthcare provider, Benenden Health, the average business in the UK has seen nearly a tenth (7%) of its workforce leave since the summer of 2020, with employees readdressing their priorities and seeking new benefits from their workplace arrangements.

The so-called ‘Great Resignation’ has seen record numbers of workers seek alternative employment over the past year, with the number of open jobs in the UK surpassing one million for the first time ever this August.

Whilst many employees have moved on to start a brand new career and others forced to find a job that fits their new circumstances, a significant number have simply switched jobs due to the way their business treated employees during the pandemic, highlighting the continuing challenge for firms to keep workforces happy and maintain a competitive advantage.

The survey of business owners also revealed the principal reason employees were leaving was to secure long-term flexible working (29%), a request exacerbated by the pandemic and an experience that many now seek permanently in their employment.

Almost two thirds of business owners (63%) explained that their employees place more value on work/life balance now than before the pandemic, whilst 40% acknowledge that they need to do more to stand out and attract new recruits. As the pandemic has also placed increasing importance on the health of employees, more than half of business leaders (58%) accept that they are putting themselves at risk of losing talent by not providing a strong wellbeing offering.

When asked what they consider to be the most important factor in attracting new recruits, UK business owners said that a good work/life balance was now top (44%), followed by flexible working (39%), with these now more important than offering competitive pay (38%). Positive workplace culture (32%) and training (22%) were also prioritised - moreso than more traditional benefits including opportunities for career progression (19%) and bonuses (17%).

With over a third of businesses (37%) admitting they don’t currently offer employees a good work/life balance, firms across the UK are at risk of losing millions of valuable employees purely for not providing an appropriate policy.

Benenden Health is calling on businesses to consult with their employees quickly and regularly to understand what they can do to support them and then commit to do better. This will enable them to be competitive to recruit and retain the best talent as they continue to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

Naomi Thompson, Head of OD at Benenden Health, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a seismic impact on the nature of the workplace, with many employers and employees forced into a whole new way of working.

“We were already seeing a shift away from financial remuneration being top of the list of motivators for employees, with requests for wellbeing support and flexible working ever growing, but this change has only been exacerbated and accelerated by the pandemic.

“Businesses are now at a crossroads - with as many as a quarter telling us that they are concerned that their talented people may resign soon - but this provides a great opportunity for firms to adapt and position themselves as an employer that listens and supports employees. By building and committing to a health and wellbeing strategy that works for all the workforce, it will help them to attract the best talent and retain the valuable assets that they already have.

“A happy, healthy workforce is a productive one so the benefits of flexible working and wellbeing support are not only there for individual employees, but business operations as a whole. Crucially, building a strategy that includes these elements can actually be very affordable, despite the untold benefits it can have both today and in the future.”

Benenden Health enables businesses to offer affordable, high quality, private healthcare to every employee. This includes round the clock care such as mental health helplines, 24/7 GP plus access to services such as mental health counselling support and medical diagnostics so employees can have peace of mind that they can ask for help whenever they need it.

For more information about Benenden Health and how it can support your business, go to: https://www.benenden.co.uk/healthcare-for-business/.