Easing of Lockdown: What does it mean for employee engagement?

On 8 March, all pupils in England returned to in-person schooling after what is hopefully the final period of COVID-related blanket school closures. Wales and Scotland will also soon be opening up their schools. These are the first steps on the road to the easing of lockdown and a return towards full economic activity over the coming months.

The challenge for businesses is to pick up lost growth and activity. The Bank of England in their Decision Maker Panel (DMP), which is a monthly survey of Chief Financial Officers from small, medium and large UK businesses, found in February, that businesses estimated that their sales in 2021 Q1 would be 22% lower than they otherwise would have been because of Covid-19.

They also found that employment would be 10% lower and investment 22% lower (1). The near-term sales expectations have barely changed in February compared to January.

Looking at the longer term, the impact of Covid-19 on sales was expected to ease during 2021, from -22% in 2021 Q1 to -11% in 2021 Q2 and -6% in 2021 Q3 and be around zero from 2022 onwards. The budget announced by the Chancellor last week aims to produce a kick-start to the economy so as to accelerate the business growth activity through the £65bn that is being injected into the economy (2).

Whilst it is good to look at these macro level changes the impact at the individual business level needs more careful managing. Business growth is largely dependent on the performance of individuals within the business. It is dependent upon their engagement and motivation.

Focusing on building employee engagement

While some employees have enjoyed working from home, many will feel less connected to their employers as a result of being away from the workplace for such a long time. We’re all hopeful that as 2021 continues, the economy will improve, and the employment opportunity for those in the sectors that have been most affected, such as retail and leisure, will see a welcome uplift.

However, as we enter this next phase of the Covid-19 cycle, there are already signs that there is an appetite for change among employees. A quarter of Brits are looking to change careers in 2021, according to new research from job search engine Adzuna (3). This equates to 2.2 million UK workers out of 32.5 million people in employment, according to Office National Statistics (4).

If businesses want to hang on to their best people, and even attract new talent, they need to consider the employee experience and engagement they offer through the employee benefits schemes that are attached to their pay and rewards. If HR and benefits leaders don’t understand how employees are engaging with their employee benefit programmes, they won’t offer relevant support.

Getting the benefits package right for HRs, therefore, is critical to providing a great employee experience to workers.

Reward and Recognition

The hard task for businesses is to ensure that working teams, whether they are in a workplace or working remotely, are engaged with one another. Creativity and successful growth delivery depend on spontaneity and repeated unplanned iterations.

Delivering employee recognition programmes through an online portal allows employees to recognise another employee for a job well done. This type of programme can also be aligned with business values, making it a good solution for many businesses.

The adopted reward and recognition platform should include a range of options to reward employees including peer to peer, manager to employee and employee to manager. It should also allow businesses to incentivise outstanding efforts with monetary rewards or perks. Rewards can be given in the form of an e-voucher code to spend on a rewards catalogue, where employees get to choose from a wide variety of brands. The platform should allow personalisation of the look and feel so that the company brand and values are reinforced to all employees.

Business owners need to remember that a reward and recognition solution is separate from the pay package, although it can also be monetary in nature. Reward and recognition programmes aim to provide a psychological benefit to employees and make them look good in front of their peers and teams.

Bravo Benefits helps companies across the UK to attract, engage and retain their best people with an employee engagement platform that brings employee benefits, discounts and perks, reward and recognition, employee wellbeing and employee communications into one Smarthive hub solution.

Prioritising your greatest asset

If 2020 was the year our world turned upside down, 2021 will be about new ways to organise. Business owners and their managers should think twice before reverting to old norms and ways of working.

Now is the time to really consider whether the old way of rewarding employees is still fit for purpose. If not, it’s time to change your employee benefits for good.


Wojciech Dochan

Managing Director, Bravo Benefits

Provider of the SmartHive Platform

Smart Hive is an integrated, cost effective employee benefits platform that provides your employees with access to all their health and wellbeing benefits in one place. Talk to a member of our team today or book your very own demonstration.



1.The February DMP survey was conducted between 5 and 19 February and received 3,023 responses. The February fieldwork was carried out prior to the Government’s 22 February announcement on the roadmap out of lockdown in England.

2.Guardian 4th March Budget summary.