With youth can come a feeling of invincibility and that can wrongly influence the employee benefits decisions made by Millennials and Generation Z. The earlier a young workforce appreciates how employers can support them, beyond the paycheque, the better for their overall health and wellbeing.
While there’s definitely a place for benefits that give immediate gratification, such as discount vouchers and shopping rewards, the less immediately attractive benefits can provide longer-term support. Yet, employers can struggle to know how to best communicate this: raising different scenarios with younger employees, can steer them towards benefits which have longer term value when life takes a turn for the worse.
1. How would you cope if you were recently bereaved?
Similar to being convinced of their own immortality, younger members of staff may be taken by complete surprise when it comes to the death of people around them – be that grandparents, parents or even people their own age. Now as young adults and often living away from home for the first time, this can be a difficult time emotionally, and having access to independent support immediately and over the long term can be beneficial in helping them come to terms with their loss.
2. If you were diagnosed with a serious illness, would you want a second opinion on the diagnosis and treatment?
Having grown up with the internet, it’s the first port of call for Millennials when they want information, and queries about health are no different. The danger is that there are many horror stories and much misinformation online. Having access to a qualified medical professional who can provide relevant clinically validated information and a second opinion on a diagnosis and treatment, both accurately and without delay, can offer peace of mind for the young employee.
3. If you had to go in to hospital and were debilitated - would you get by at home?
Being medically well enough to leave hospital is not the same as being better, and in shared accommodation, friends cannot always be relied upon as much as mum and dad when at home. Extra practical and emotional support in the first few days and weeks after being discharged is really helpful and avoids the employee feeling like a burden to those with whom they share a house. Personal care such as help with washing, dressing, meal preparation and collecting prescriptions also aids recovery. Having access to such support can be a god-send for those living away from home without parents to support them.
4. If you witnessed or were involved in a traumatic situation either at work or in your personal life, would you need specialist support and therapy?
Harrowing life events such as bombings, severe car accidents, fire & flooding and violence can cause a range of emotions in those affected including shock, denial, numbness and a difficulty in getting on with everyday life. If these emotions are not processed, they can cause lasting damage to the individual early on in their adult life and may cause longer term consequences. Having access to professionals that can support them during such times can be a great help, and, just as importantly, mitigate the long-term effects.
5. Mental health issues can arise from any of the above but would you turn to your employer for support?
The young have quite specific challenges, from the financial stress of paying back university debt to the emotional stress of dealing with pressures from social media and concerns about how save for their first home.
It’s important to make support available that’s independent from the employer; ideally hosted via personal technology so it can be accessed conveniently and confidentially; and continually promoted to ensure uptake when it’s required. Don’t assume younger employees know that employers have services in place to support them with practical and emotional support at difficult times in their lives. Offering access to support can fall on deaf ears until it is really required.
Health and wellbeing is a subject that wasn’t on the agenda for previous generations of employees and it certainly wouldn’t have been a topic for discussion at interview – but Millennials and Generation Z are now more demanding of employers in wanting to know how their employer is going to look after them.
That said, we also know that a younger workforce is often lured in by attractive incentives such as gym vouchers and high street discount codes but when life takes a turn for the worse, these sorts of things are irrelevant. Employers need to be frank with their younger employees and spell out how benefits that can provide rehabilitation support in a number of situations can add real value, and this can help them make more informed decisions about their employee benefit choices.
Employers also need to ask themselves why they’ve chosen to offer particular benefits in the first place. Those who want to go beyond a tick-box exercise and seek out services that deliver meaningful solutions, and then really communicate those benefits to their staff, will be rewarded with a loyal workforce who understands that their employer truly has their best interests at heart. In addition, by offering such benefits, employees will be back on their feet and back at their desk in a shorter space of time than otherwise, so it really is a win-win situation!
About Christine Husbands
Christine Husbands is managing director of RedArc, a service that provides personal nurse advisers for people experiencing illness, disability, trauma or bereavement.
Christine spent the initial part of her career in financial roles and she has held several board positions in Financial Services and is a Chartered Director. During her time working on the acquisition of RedArc, she fell in love with the business and was delighted to pick up the reins in 2010.