Across the United Kingdom, the cost-of-living crisis is having a tremendous impact on millions of people, with the prices of essentials such as food, electricity, and gas all increasing sharply.
Meanwhile, after two decades, salaries continue to stagnate up and down the country. Combined with inflation rates and escalating bills, our monthly and yearly income now needs to stretch further than it has before.
In the news, upon talking to other people, and across social media, we are witnessing the devastating effects that the cost-of-living crisis is having. Many people are experiencing debt, whilst others are feeling the consequences on their physical and mental well-being.
The ramifications of the cost-of-living crisis are also seen in the workplace. Leaders are witnessing increased stress among their people, not to mention reduced engagement and higher absences.
It can be challenging to gauge what you can do when it comes to supporting people through the cost-of-living crisis. In this blog, we share our thoughts with expert guidance from Director of Coaching Zoé Lewis.
How Can Leaders Support People Through the Cost-Of-Living Crisis?
With the cost-of-living crisis impacting people from all walks of life, you may have been approached by a member of your team about the impact it is having on them. You might also suspect that the crisis is affecting others. With this in mind, you may have begun to question supporting people through the cost-of-living crisis and what you can do as a leader.
Fortunately, there are many ways that you can support your people through the cost-of-living crisis. Below, we share some thoughts.
Embracing flexibility and offering flexible working arrangements is a great place to start if you are hoping to support people through the cost-of-living crisis.
As the average cost of travelling to work is as high as £1,738 per year, for some, increased flexibility may include working from home more often to reduce travel costs.
Meanwhile, as we use more energy in the home when working remotely, others may wish to work from the office more to reduce internet, gas, water, and electricity bills.
As you look to embrace flexibility, Director of Coaching Zoé Lewis shares that you could introduce this conversation by talking generally about the cost of living. In this, you could say you’re having one-to-one chats with people in your team to learn about what would work for them. Given the current challenges, asking what their ideal working week looks like and how can you support them to achieve this whilst managing the needs of the business to deliver the outcomes required by the individual in their role is a great place to start.
Provide Partner Benefits
When considering supporting people through the cost-of-living crisis, reviewing which – if any – partner benefits you provide to your people can be beneficial.
For example, some organisations offer:
Eye care vouchers
Discounted gift vouchers for supermarkets
Discounted vouchers for attractions such as theme parks
Access to Perkbox
Blue light card discounts
Cycle to work scheme
If you are currently unable to provide partner benefits, you could consider offering your people the following:
Travel and fuel allowances – monthly payments towards travel and fuel costs when employees are required to work from the office.
Car allowances – company cars for employees to travel to and from client locations.
Free onsite food and drinks – workplace canteens and cafes providing free food and drinks to individuals working from the office.
Financial support towards the cost of bills – organisations are able to provide employees with tax-free payments to cover additional costs of utilities such as gas and electricity that may not otherwise be incurred if the individual worked from the office.
Work telephones – if your people work from home and frequently use their mobile or home phone to contact you and their colleagues, offering a work phone can help reduce the costs of landline and contract phone bills.
Sharing her tip on this point, Zoé adds before offering your people benefits, communicate with them to see what support they may need. This might differ from person to person but asking before implementing shows that you care and want to support them as best as possible.
Communication is vital in the workplace. When we communicate frequently, we can better understand our people's needs, learn from others, build trust amongst our teams, and work more efficiently.
However, there are times when our people may not want to discuss their circumstances, such as how the cost-of-living crisis is impacting them, with us. People Management reiterates this with a recent poll that revealed that only a small number of employees are happy discussing their mental health and financial worries with their leaders.
As a leader, it is, therefore, essential that you take the required steps to create an inclusive and supportive environment where your people feel safe to speak about any challenges they may face, both inside and outside the workplace.
One way to increase communication and build trust amongst your employees is to share your own personal experiences. If your people know that you understand what they are going through, they may feel more confident in sharing their thoughts and feelings with you.
Zoé shares that to introduce this topic, you could begin by saying, “I’ve been having conversations with people and here are some of the challenges people are sharing just now...
Having to make tough financial decisions at home
Their family/children finding it hard to accept that money is tighter than it’s been before and how to have those conversations at home
Some are finding it takes its toll on their personal mental health and wellbeing
I want to open the conversation for those who want to talk about their concerns with no judgement and proper support. I’m here, but if you don’t feel you want to discuss this with me, there are also these options...”.
Additional Training and Development Opportunities
Providing additional training and development during the cost-of-living crisis may not seem like a beneficial way to support your people better. However, research shows that doing so increases employee engagement, enables people to expand their current skills, and, more importantly, can contribute to enhanced happiness and satisfaction.
You can also offer additional training and development opportunities to your managers and leaders to better equip them with the skills they need to support your people during crises.
To determine what additional training and development opportunities your people may benefit from, consider asking what they might find useful. You could start with a focus group to generate three to five ideas and put these out to people to vote on what would be most helpful, as well as other suggestions. For example, some might suggest:
Lunch and learn – feed the family for a fiver sessions
Financial well-being and living on a budget think tanks
Blog posts by individual contributors on their ways to help navigate the financial challenges
Share Support Services
If you're working from the office as you're reading this blog, take a moment to look around the space you're in. Do you have any information pinned on walls or pinboards that share where your people can seek additional support for the cost-of-living crisis?
How about your online communication? When emailing your team or sharing a weekly or monthly newsletter across the organisation, do you inform your people of the support available to them if they are struggling with the increasing cost of living?
If not, sharing these services can be highly beneficial if you want to support your people better. One service in particular that your people may benefit from is Help For Households.
Launched by the Government, Help For Households shares tips, guidance surrounding household costs and discounts, and information about the Cost-of-Living payment.
Adding her thoughts, Zoé shares that many people are still confused about how Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) work. With this in mind, be sure to share that these can be accessed confidentially and that the company doesn’t keep a record of those using the services and what they are using the service for. Assure your people that if they do reach out, even you, as their leader, wouldn’t know, whilst reiterating should they want to share there would be no shame in doing so.
As a leader, you may be your people's first point of contact, and you may also be the first person that is able to support those within your team. By learning more about supporting people through the cost-of-living crisis, you'll be better placed to support those who may be experiencing hardship.
At The Leadership Coaches, we hope the tips for supporting people through the cost-of-living crisis shared above provide you with the help you need. Do not hesitate to contact us if you'd like to learn more about supporting your people through training and development.
Co-written by Rebekah and Zoé Lewis.