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6 Ways to Retain Top Talent (and Enjoy Work) in Times of Crisis

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In a recent Cpl survey of over 1000 people currently working remotely it was apparent that benefits that allow people more personal time and flexibility are the new non-negotiables for 2021.

44% also say their priorities have shifted since the pandemic, with a better work-life balance (31%) and option to work remotely (27%), now outweighing both compensation (19%) and career progression (13%) now all top of the list.

How can employers tap into these new expectations and adapt policies and ways of working to retain top talent, and enjoy work at the same time? Below we look at our own data on the topic as well as information from other leading sources to help you retain your best employees and ignite a sense of fun and purpose in 2021 and beyond.



Flexibility is the number one requirement from employees at the moment. In fact, 1/3 of workers would consider the same or even a lower salary for the opportunity to work remotely indefinitely.  

This is nothing new, and employers who are ahead of the curve will likely have offered flexible working option long before now, but has been exasperated by Covid-19 and the surge in remote work.

Flexibility allows employees to feel they have control over their schedule and facilitates a better work-life balance. Flexibility is also a must if you want a gender diverse workforce. Particularly working parents who often require flexible work hours that allow both genders to further their careers while equally distributing the work at home.

Updated benefits

If you haven’t already updated your benefits to suit a remote working world, now is the time. After all how useful is a subsidised canteen if your employees can’t make it to the office? 67% of workers state they expect their employers to update their benefits package if remote work continues. The favoured benefits according to our survey include:

  • Subsidised utility bills (29%)

  • A home workstation stipend (26%)

  • Updated health and wellness benefits (18%)

Some other options include vouchers, emotional support such as a good online EAP program, childcare supports, financial wellbeing initiatives, pension or stock options, paid sick leave, bonus entitlements and upskilling or e-learning allowances.

A good manager

Good benefits and wellness initiatives will only go so far. A bad manager can quickly drive out top talent, while a good manager can be instrumental in retaining employees. To maintain a good relationship with employees have regular one to one conversations (weekly is recommended) and go beyond chatting about deadlines & projects to ask how employees are.

This will help build trust, empathy and keep you informed on your employee’s wellbeing. Ask how an employee’s evening was, or how they are managing home-schooling and you might just get the answer for why performance has dipped. If you manage a large team where this isn’t possible our MD Lisa Holt has some great tips.

Practice empathy and understanding of their situation. If they’re overworked offer to help and find a workable solution. Our personal lives and work lives have never been more intertwined and it’s important to recognise this if you want to keep your team intact.

For employers, consider investing in managerial training – particularly for any newly appointed managers or managers with less experience.

Policies for the future

How can an employee truly commit to a business or role if they don’t know what’s next? Uncertainty is the buzz word of the moment, but we need to give employees an outlook for the future they’ll have something to work towards. Happiness is the key to success, so how can you create an work environment where happiness thrives?

Even if it’s not too detailed. For example, this could be a new product launch, plans for remote working policies post-covid or a roll out of new benefits. Show your employees you are prepared and have things under control. This will create a more stable environment.


Wellness days or extra annual leave allowances

CitiGroup recently hit headlines for declaring Fridays ‘Zoom free’ (for internal meetings.) The move was cited as an attempt to combat fatigue and the relentlessness of remote working. The group also announced a company-wide holiday day or ‘wellness day’ as many other companies are calling this type of allowance.

These initiatives are responding to employees need to switch off. any companies are designating a wellness day or extra annual leave to help employees switch off and spend time away from their screens. Other more extreme examples of this are the four day week which is being trialled in a pilot project in Spain. On the more modest side, other ideas to retain employees include wellness seminars, walking challenges to boost camaraderie and spot prizes for achievements.

Whether it’s an extra day off or a day dedicated to employee’s mental health, the goal is the same – to improve employee wellbeing and ultimately increase productivity and profits.

Celebrate & collaborate

Without breaks or reason to celebrate monotony will set in amongst teams and team spirit will begin to wane. Celebrate achievements and milestones with small celebrations and recognition of hard work. Here are some simple ideas from our teams:

  • Celebrate employee birthdays with a small gift or virtual team celebration

  • Exchange postal addresses and reward successes with a gift card virtual team celebration

  • Encourage regular peer to peer recognition and positive feedback on good results

  • Plan fun activities that encourage team involvement and virtual bonding – quizzes, wine tasting, seasonal activities such as a pumpkin carving or easter themed bake along (choose simple recipes that don’t require hard to find ingredients or equipment)

  • Recognise meaningful dates that are important to your team

  • Schedule coffee breaks with other team members – we have a virtual café that’s been a great success

If you’re unsure how to celebrate or encourage a fun remote team culture reach out to your people and ask for suggestions. A poll in MS Teams, Slack etc. can also be a good idea and encourages buy in from the start.

Covid-19 has changed the way we work and live and we must update how we manage our teams to match this. To retain talent in 2021 and beyond managers and employers must be open to change, listen to employees, maintain clear communication, and maintain a focus on meaning and a sense of achievement and purpose.

Sometimes it takes a crisis to force change. Let this crisis change the way we work for the better. Learn more about worker preferences and download a free remote working policy template in our Remote Future Working Report: How to Win & Keep Talent in a Remote Working World.