Our regular Columnist Steve Herbert considers how the current crisis is highlighting the value of each individual in the workplace
“a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”
Lady Windemere’s Fan, Oscar Wilde
If the “lived experience” of shopping in coronavirus-crisis Britain tells us anything, it’s that we really don’t know what we value until it is no longer there.
My local supermarket the other day was a case in point. The store had taken on a genuinely post-apocalyptic look since my previous visit, and most of the mundane and low-cost items were completely sold out. Conversely, where stock was still available, it was generally items that would usually be considered more exotic and expensive.
So what do we value?
And this really does tell us something about the things that we as a society often think we value. Ordinarily the high-end items are those that are sought out and cherished. Yet when the chips (also sold-out) are down, we start appreciating the everyday things without which society just can’t and won’t function.
If you doubt me, you need only think back about a month (although it feels much longer) to the unveiling of the UK’s proposed points-based immigration system. The often repeated headline message then was “no more routes for cheap, unskilled, labour” into the United Kingdom. Yet just five weeks later and some of those workers in “unskilled” jobs might now be classed as “key workers” in the government’s coronavirus crisis-plans. And the need to keep those same workers fit and well (and of course in the workplace) to undertake their duties and keep the country safe and well has never been more apparent.
The New Normal
And of course there is a useful lesson for employers too here.
At some point the worst of the current-crisis will be over, and eventually usual working practices will resume for most organisations across the United Kingdom. When this point arrives – and with the lessons of the crisis fresh in all our minds – it’s quite possible that employers will take a subtly different view of their employment practices. So it follows, as I covered in my last Employer News post, that there may be a shift in behaviours as employers and employees establish a “new normal” on so many levels.
And I would hope that one of those key changes will be the wider democratisation of employee benefits provision across entire workforces. For even in 2020 it is not uncommon to find better benefit offerings provided to senior staff than more junior workers. This suggests that some employers know the price of every employee, but perhaps may need to more readily recognise the value and importance of every job role too.
The coronavirus-crisis really emphasises just how important every single worker can be to the successful operation of any organisation. It follows that providing universal access to physical, mental, and financial wellbeing support will benefit employer and employee alike, and I really hope this becomes part of the “new normal” for many more employers in 2021 and beyond.
Here endeth the lesson. Now I’m off to do battle for the last of the cling-film.
Stay safe and well all.
Steve Herbert is Head of Benefits Strategy at Howden Employee Benefits