Your colleagues are feeling the financial pressure. Help their Christmas sparkle.

Posted on September 27, 2022 by Roshni Patel

The ongoing cost of living crisis has been a daily talking point – and a daily source of stress – for millions of Britons. Soaring inflation and energy bills have combined with stagnating wages to create a perfect financial storm. 

In its recent report on the crisis, The Office for National Statistics found that 89% of UK adults reported that their living costs had noticeably risen – up from 64% of UK adults, when the same question was asked in November 2021. Increased food pricing was the most commonly reported strain on respondents’ finances, with 94% saying that they’d noticed their weekly shop had become less affordable. Rising energy bills and fuel costs were also cited as major financial pain points by, respectively, 82% and 77% of Britons. 

With such a huge proportion of UK workers feeling the pressure right now, it’s unsurprising that PAs are increasingly paying close attention to the crisis – and adjusting their approaches accordingly when it comes to selecting Christmas gifts for colleagues (and clients, too).  

“There’s been a lot of discussion around it amongst my PA peers,” says Anna, a PA working with the directors of a leading UK telco. “A lot of talk around spending plans in the context of cost-of-living challenges. I’ve felt the financial pressure on a personal level, too – fortunately, us PAs are naturally pretty organised, so I’ve got ahead with batch cooking and stocking up on certain products before price-rises kick in, that kind of thing. 

“ I don’t think the directors who I PA for have felt the effects too heavily, to be honest. The price rises and energy bills, they’re having a bigger effect on colleagues on lower wage bands with big families, and therefore lots of mouths to feed. More junior employees are feeling the pinch too now, I think.”

The cost-of-living crisis has, indeed, particularly affected junior – and therefore lower-paid – workers. A recent report by Deloitte found that Gen Z and millennial workers are using all their monthly incomes on living expenses, with no disposable income left over for mood-boosting, but financially unjustifiable, treats. This daily pressure has led to Gen Zs and millennials citing the cost of living crisis as their number one concern – overtaking climate change, which took the number one spot in Deloitte’s 2021 survey of the same cohort. 

“We’re doing what we can to help them,” says Anna. “For example, I’m on our company’s sustainability committee, and we’ve devised some guidance for employees who want to reduce their energy bills this winter, using tools that they already have at their disposal in their homes.”

Gifting colleagues permission to treat themselves

Anna is tasked with organising employee gifts and rewards – which are now being disseminated more regularly as the cost-of-living crisis bites into her colleagues’ finances. “We’re definitely showing appreciation for employees more often,” she says. “£50 vouchers here and there. To be honest, we perhaps weren’t expressing gratitude frequently enough. So this new frequency of giving out vouchers is here to stay.” 

With far less disposable income available, Anna’s colleagues are finding that treats and little luxuries are being erased from their household budgets. Gift cards grant them permission to reinstate those treats – something that may seem inconsequential on its surface, but can actually have a profound effect on an employee’s wellbeing, particularly as the approaching festive season heightens the sense of enforced frugality.

In fact, as research showcased by Harvard Business Review demonstrates, gifts – whether gift cards or food-and-drink gifts – go further in improving workplace morale and productivity than straightforward cash bonuses. Obviously, everyone likes free money, and nobody is likely to turn it down. But workers report that receiving a gift from their employer goes further in making them feel appreciated and ‘seen’. It really is the thought that counts.

In fact, the above study showed that productivity increased by around 25% when employees were given just a small gift. When the same employees were given a cash bonus, they were grateful, but this gratitude was not reflected by a noticeable uptick in productivity. Small gift? Big morale boost. Cash bonus? Minimal impact.  

All of which is worth bearing in mind when sourcing corporate gifts – or corporate gift cards – this Christmas. Give colleagues permission to treat themselves, and your thoughtfulness will pay dividends for you, your boss and your business.