Helping employees to customise what they receive in the way of rewards is proving increasingly popular, as Kimberley Dondo explains

The digital age has introduced a multitude of personalised solutions that simplify our lives. Customisation is an essential part of most consumer products, so it is no surprise that employees expect the same from their benefits packages. This is where voluntary benefits step in.

Voluntary schemes allow the employee rather than the employer to pay for the cost of the benefits at a discounted rate or through payroll deductions. The landscape is changing so rapidly, that things employees would have traditionally bought as consumers are now readily available through their employment at a for a fraction of the cost. These benefits can include shopping discounts, gym membership and insurance products.

Alan Smith, UK managing director of One4all Rewards says: “Voluntary benefit schemes are a great way for employers to reward their staff. These schemes are often simple and low cost for a business to set up, but they are highly valued by staff.

“Packages can include a wide variety of products and services: anything from discount schemes such as childcare vouchers and cycle-to-work schemes to medical cover and life insurance plans.”

When it comes to what employers can offer, the possibilities are endless. Recent research from One4all Rewards made it clear that employees crave recognition from their employers. In fact, a simple ‘thank you’ from business leaders results in 83% of workers feeling more loyal to the company, while 1 in 4 (24%) workers say it would make it harder for alternative job offers to tempt them.

Voluntary benefits schemes can be a simple way to show appreciation. A key point to consider when creating an effective benefits package is to make sure you offer something that will appeal to everyone.

Schemes offering staff discounts are often well received by employees as they provide unlimited access to discounts and the option for staff to choose the rewards they’ll value most.

Voluntary benefits do not need to be lightweight. It’s also possible to offer rewards that are aligned with health and wellbeing programmes. However, perks that are linked to wellness need to be delivered in a way that is accessible to all staff, and this is where technology can be of assistance.

Gethin Nadin, director, global partnerships, Benefex, concludes: “Health and wellbeing strategies delivered via seamless technology will be a great tool for helping tackle stress and even depression. You may not necessarily be a mental health expert, but someone else is!

“Mindfulness programmes and access to helplines and online doctors are increasingly popular with employers.”

Simon Andrew, Insight and Engagement Director, Benefex suggests five benefits that can work as part of a wider wellness strategy:

- Animal therapy. Animals (specifically dogs) offer non-judgemental support. Plus, they’ve been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower the risk of heart disease, improve communications – the list goes on!

- Gym classes. Exercise promotes changes in the brain including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and patterns that promote calm and wellbeing. It also releases endorphins, and is great for self-esteem.

- Colouring in. Activities like colouring in focus our minds on the calm, and it can reduce our stress through rest and relaxation.

- Healthy food. Feelings of wellbeing can be promoted by ensuring that our diet provides adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and water.

- Massage. One of the chemicals in the body widely responsible for stress – cortisol – has been shown to be reduced by up to 53% following a massage. It is also reported to have an impact on dopamine and serotonin levels.