Katrina McMahon at Personal Group explains why HR should be looking after the ‘jam sandwiches’ – and not just at lunchtime!
Just when you thought you had got to grips with the Boomers, Gen Xer, Millennials and Gen Z’s, HR experts identified a host of new groups of employees facing very particular challenges in your workforce.
Although it can be difficult to keep track sometimes, it is so important for business leaders to be aware of each distinct group of employees that make up their staff. When you are tailoring your employee benefits package, it is crucial to understand the different needs of different groups. A one size fits all approach doesn’t work.
Both the ‘JAM’ and ‘Sandwich’ generations are troubled with money worries, the pressures of managing the day-to-day while also trying to plan for the future. These financial and mental struggles affect them outside the workplace but this can also have a detrimental effect on their performance at work. Those who are preoccupied with worries and stress are more likely to suffer ill health and are likely to be less engaged at work – which isn’t good for business. So, who are the Jam and Sandwich employees and how can organisations help these employees when they need it most?
Who are the sandwiches?
The Sandwich Generation, in their thirties and forties, are sandwiched between raising their own children and caring for ageing relatives. With an ageing population, this group is growing fast. As well as the pressure of caring for family, they are also faced with juggling longer working lives, increasing costs of children’s education and adult social care as well as the stresses of everyday life. With 1 in 4 UK adults suffering from Mental Health problems in the UK (Health Assured, 2016), employers need to consider the external pressures, both financial and emotional, that could be having a serious impact on their employees.
Our own statistics reflect this; in 2016 27% of calls to Personal Group’s Clients’ EAP helpline were in relation to mental health issues, as opposed to only 2% concerning physical health. It is clear that employees across the UK need support and if this support is not available, it can result in absence rates rising and productivity levels dropping. The UK’s productivity is already lagging behind that of our European counterparts and a lack of a focus on the mental and financial wellbeing of the Sandwich Generation could be a big part of the problem.
Employee Benefits that focus on Mental Health are much more than a helpline. Giving employees access to a counsellor, CBT sessions or a wellbeing blog is a massive step in the right direction to supporting staff both inside and outside the workplace. Offering these benefits through an app on the individual’s own phone is a way to ensure that they will have access to these services when they need them most and at their own convenience.
And what about the JAMs?
Another growing employee demographic are the JAM’s, or those Just About Managing. This group were highlighted in the Chancellor’s 2016 Autumn Statement. These are the hard working families who have enough money to cover day-to-day essentials but have little left over for anything else. There are 6m working age households on low to middle incomes in the UK (REF BBC) and more than two thirds have less than a months’ worth of savings. This means they may not be financially prepared to deal with unexpected occurrences, be it a busted boiler, a prolonged absence from work or a broken down car).
The JAM’s are faced with persistent financial worries which can cause a rise in stress levels. This, understandably, can mean employee’s heads are elsewhere whilst they are at work. Embracing a holistic wellbeing programme could allow organisations to help, from providing financial education to affordable lending solutions and access to resources to help address legal, relationship or health questions. All of these kinds of employee services can help those staff who are just about managing.
Consider physical wellness, too – for everyone
One area of wellbeing that affects the entire workforce is physical wellbeing – yet it often gets overlooked in favour of benefits that promote mental and financial wellbeing.
Regardless of age, experience or job title, physical wellness plays a massive role in how happy and engaged staff are at work.
All three elements of wellbeing are as important as one another and organisations need to consider them all when introducing wellbeing benefits to staff.
We are not just talking about discounted gym memberships here. Stress management, introducing fit bits and organising team activities can all release some tension to help staff work out their minds and bodies. Even if it is just a distraction from the stressors at home, physical wellbeing can have a lot to do with how staff perform at work.
It is so important that employers take the time to understand the JAMs and Sandwiches in order to help them where they can.
Taking the initiative to introduce a holistic wellness programme that can be used anytime, anywhere, by all staff, can help your employees take a step in the right direction.
If you can help them tackle the problems they are facing both inside and outside the office then you will create a much happier team. And when we’re happier, we’re more productive so it’s a win-win for everyone!