Work and Life: Boost Employee Retention by creating a culture of flexibility


What is flexibility?

Employee retention and acquisition

Mental and physical wellbeing benefits

Financial wellbeing benefits

Create balance with Sodexo Engage





It’s National Work Life Week, organised by Working Families; a UK charity focused on removing the barriers that those responsible for caring for others face in the workplace. This year, the campaign focuses on flexible working and how it’s more important than ever during the cost-of-living crisis.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, only 1.7 million UK employees worked from home. To put that figure into perspective, in 2019, there were 32.6 million people actively working in the UK, so that’s 5% of employees.

When you look at research by Statista, we can see that there’s been a steady increase year on year, but there was a considerable jump between 2019 and 2020 when the number of people mainly working from home rose to 5.6 million – a 30% increase.




What is flexibility

There’s no denying that being forced to make homeworking effective during the lockdown has led to employers and employees assessing the long-term feasibility of remote and hybrid working. Though many have adopted a hybrid approach, flexibility in the workplace isn’t just about location.

Employment law states that employees have the right to request flexible working, and on receiving a formal request, employers must review it. These requests can relate to annualised hours, job-sharing, phased retirement, compressed hours, and even career breaks. Not all will be possible to implement within your business, but you must give them fair consideration, or you risk losing a valued employee or facing a tribunal.

The annualised hours approach is an excellent place to start if you’re considering implementing flexibility within your employee contracts. You can set the overall working hours whilst giving employees input on their daily working patterns.


Employee Retention and Acquisition

Adopting a culture of flexibility and work-life balance is fast becoming the key to acquiring and retaining your talent. Research shows that 65% of job seekers would reject a role that didn’t allow for remote working. It’s an employee-driven market; if your employees are unhappy, they will look for a new role. At least 45% of employed people are actively job hunting, and wellbeing and flexible working are higher on their list of priorities than salary.

At the 2022 Employee Benefits Exhibition, Ian Hodson, Head of Reward/Deputy Director of HR Reward and Benefits at the University of Lincoln, spoke about Generation Z, our ‘Workforce of Tomorrow’, and presented some eye-opening research:

  • 62% of graduates prioritise a work-life balance
  • Graduates see themselves staying with a business for a maximum of 2 years.

There was a wealth of information provided during Ian’s presentation, but these two points stood out as key information for employers to take on board.

During the suggested two-year timescale, a business will spend a significant amount of time and money on employee training and development. It's an investment you expect to see a return on, but if you lose your rising talent because you’re not embracing a flexible culture, another company will reap the benefits.


Mental and Physical Wellbeing Benefits

Although Working Families heavily focus on parents and carers – it’s a juggle – flexibility benefits all employees, especially when individuality is recognised.

Monday 10th October was World Mental Health Day, and we gave you 9 reasons why mental health in the workplace needs to be a priority. Flexibility with working location is one of the ways you can support your employees’ mental health, but it doesn’t stop there.

Incorporating an annualised hours strategy can help your employees to create habits that will improve their mental and physical health and wellbeing. For example, an employee could start their day later or earlier, fitting in a trip to the gym before or after work.

Exercise boasts physical and mental health and wellbeing benefits, and with our Corporate Gym Memberships, you can pass on a saving of up to 25% to your employees.

Consider also that allowing for hybrid working will give employees the time usually spent commuting back to use – well; however they choose.


Financial Wellbeing Benefits

In June, the RAC reported that the average cost of filling a family car surpassed £100. According to SME News and data collected in 2019, the average daily commute was a 23-mile round trip. As mentioned above, take the commute to and from work away, and employees will have more personal time, but they’ll also save money by using less fuel or paying for public transport.

We’re going to expand on the National Work Life brief by exploring how work and life can connect financially – beyond the monthly salary - and how employers can adopt a cost-effective and flexible approach to providing employees with meaningful financial support.

Here at Sodexo, we offer several financial wellbeing products that you can incorporate into your business in place of cash bonuses and incentives. Our employee cashback card, also used as a prepaid recognition card, is powered by Visa and can earn employees up to 15% cashback when used to purchase essential everyday items.

Once incorporated into your business, you can gift cash bonuses by topping up the card, whilst your employees can use it year-round, adding funds as needed. Lincoln University is an excellent example of how our cashback card can be incorporated into already established schemes, ensuring employees make the most of the benefits provided.

Our eVouchers and voucher cheques are also great for a flexible approach to employee Christmas gifts and annual rewards and incentive strategies. They put the power to spend in the hands of your employees, thus making the most significant impact on their lives.

Create Balance with Sodexo Engage

Businesses need to create a flexible and supportive workplace culture, understand the importance of a work-life balance, and the positive impact it will have on physical and mental wellbeing.

It’s time to take a holistic view, which means also providing financial wellbeing packages to employees that will produce a return on investment by reducing workplace stress, increasing engagement and retention, and shortening the costly recruitment process.

We’ve been supporting employee wellbeing for over 60 years, and we’re ready to help you do the same and reap the benefits that go with it. Get in touch with our team today to find out how.


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