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7 quick culture fixes to help your teams fight inflation

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As the cost of living increases to its highest in 30 years, we roll into an energy crisis and inflation continues to increase, we’re all starting to see the upcoming pinch, and possibly feeling it already. With inflation currently sitting at over 5%, many of us who may have enjoyed disposable income may now be looking at tightening the reins.

The knock-on effect of having less money can negatively affect various aspects of our lives, especially our time at work. So what can employers do to improve the situation for their teams, while improving culture benefits at the same time? Here’s a list of some quick and long-term fixes you may not have thought about yet.

1. Pay people more

OK, this is the hardest one to do, and isn’t exactly a cultural benefit, but it’s the number one easiest fix for employees feeling the pinch. Review salaries and budgets, identify specific cases, and take action.

However, the bigger conversation isn’t just around increasing salaries, it’s about creating a culture where talking about salary isn’t taboo.

If you still insist on a contractual way of working, then remuneration will always be the number one reason for your people staying. If you can build a system where employees can confidently open dialogue with their manager about salary without fear of retribution, then they may feel more open about other things too, eventually leading to higher levels of engagement and trust.

Even if you can’t say yes right now, a promise to review or increase salary at a set date in the future can help employees to plan their finances and get through the coming weeks or months.

2. Offer food discounts or provide it for free

As the price cards on the shelf seem to be constantly changing, and more pertinently, we see food banks outnumbering McDonald’s restaurants, it’s time to think about whether your teams have enough money for food.

Food poverty is an often hidden problem that can easily be disguised by dieting or simply avoiding the lunchroom, so think about the relatively low cost vs. reward of feeding your staff.

If you can’t stretch that far, make sure it’s easy for teams to bring and store their own food, so they're not forced to buy lunches every day. Free tea and coffee is also a great solution to those expensive coffee shop trips.

It doesn’t need to equate to free meals every day; a team building trip out for lunch, or a handful of sandwiches available for anyone that needs them is a really cheap and easy perk that will make people feel like they’re cared for. And where has all the pre-Covid fruit gone? Add healthy snacks to your workspaces!

3. Ensure your paid perks are useful

Although you should never build your culture around the typical perks like gym memberships and the like, now could be the time where your people really start using those codes, discounts and childcare vouchers.

Review your perks system and check what’s on there. If people are struggling to cover huge energy bills, they're probably not going to be using those high-end fashion and cinema discounts. Pivot to useful discounts, like supermarket cashback or things like free eye tests or healthcare.

Oh, and don’t forget to make it easy to sell holidays back if employees would rather have the cash. Or, if you want to build a really great culture, develop a flexible holiday package instead of forcing the set 25 days on everyone, so your employees can choose how they use their holiday benefits.

4. Put in place further mental health support

Financial insecurity contributes massively to poor mental health. 46% of people in debt say it contributes negatively to their mental health in some way. This is where a strong mental health policy can really contribute to a great working culture, and prevent your people from disconnecting. Don’t forget to remind people of the support they have and that things like assistance programmes can often help with financial worries, as well as the usual mental health enquiries.

Set in place support sessions and train ‘mental health first aiders’, before reviewing your sickness policy to ensure time off for mental health is adequate.

If we’re struggling to make ends meet every month, someone to talk to about it can make a gigantic difference.

5. Allow more home working to suit

Although most of us are keen to be back in the office as much as possible, those hold-outs who still prefer their kitchen table may be doing it for a different reason.

With train tickets, fuel and public transport fares at their highest for a very long time (train tickets will go up by another 3.8% in March), the cost of commuting is eating up sizable chunks of our salaries.

Negate the need to spend money on getting to work by offering more time at home. Just remember to ensure those who stay at home know how to claim tax relief for home working and potentially offer to cover fuel and electricity costs as part of their package. Don’t forget to make sure they have everything they need to work from home properly too — make workstation assessments a priority and provide suitable seating and desk equipment available without question.

If you really need your people to be in the office or wherever they work, look into other benefits like salary sacrifice for rail season tickets, company-sanctioned discounts on tickets, or increased car allowance.

Flexible working can go a long way too. By offering later/ earlier start and finish times, or the opportunity to pick up the slack out of hours, those with kids can avoid the expensive out of hours childcare and the fines that come with late pick ups! It could also mean less time spent sitting in rush hour traffic, wasting fuel.

6. Make sure progression and growth are high on the radar

Hopefully, the current financial situation we face as a nation isn’t going to be too much of a long-term problem, so give your teams a light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of talking about performance and targets, pivot the focus to progression and growth.

If times are tough financially, the worry of losing a job can further compound stress, which leads to a whole host of problems at work, including time off. By keeping things positive and talking about your teams’ prospects, promotions and the future, your culture suddenly becomes positive, and you’ll get more from those who may have otherwise switched off and looked for something else.

7. Remind teams that it’s absolutely fine to have financial worries and provide support

There’s a certain stigma attached to not having enough money to make ends meet. As part of your culture, you could change this by providing an open forum where people can talk honestly about their ability to manage finances based on their salary, and that it’s actually very difficult to translate a pay cheque into a fulfilling and secure lifestyle.

You don’t need to do it either. Engage with institutions that provide financial support or support — banks and building societies often provide this service for free, so signpost people in the right direction and make sure nobody is dancing around the fact that it’s easy to rely on a credit card or miscalculate outgoings.

Despite the negative news stories and financial pinch, it’s also important to remember that not everyone is struggling financially and that it’s sometimes tactful to simply offer these cultural benefits, rather than making a big deal out of it. If morale is low anyway, compounding it by treating employees as ‘charity cases’ can have the opposite effect.

Instead, work towards a culture where those who need it know it’s there and available to them, so they can make their own choice. And guess what? Even if they’re doing just fine, some free fruit or a free lunch can quickly motivate and engage every now and again if you’re providing a whole range of cultural perks alongside these quick fixes.

Are you finding that your teams are struggling with energy bills or the cost of commuting? Or do you think you’ve nailed your financial and cultural benefits and everyone has the support they need? Engage with us on Linkedin and start the conversation!

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