For the last 30 years or so, companies have been trying to find unique benefits and perks that will help them hire and retain a strong workforce. We’ve seen ping pong tables, nap rooms, on-site cafeterias, on-site daycare, concierge service, fitness centers, popcorn machines, beer - the list goes on and on.
But with many employees getting used to working at home due to COVID-19, remote work has become a new long-term consideration for both employees and employers. Some employees may find they want to continue working remotely in some capacity after the pandemic. And some employers are finding that not only is remote work a viable way to do business, but it results in a much larger available talent pool and can allow significant savings as office footprints are reduced.
So what happens to all of those on-site perks? If you continue to have in-office employees, they are still important. But for your remote employees, it’s time to look at alternatives.
1. Office setup – The first step is to help your employee set up a home office space that helps them be productive, creative, and healthy. Remote workers will need appropriate technology and equipment to be successful. Starting with the basics, employees need a comfortable and ergonomically adjustable office chair. Sit/stand desks are gaining in popularity, and are as important at home as in the office. Remote employees may also want or need subsidized or upgraded internet or cell phone service, printers, or a second (or third) monitor. Having the right technology, equipment, and environment will help your employees remain productive and engaged.
2. Flexible scheduling –Based on individual needs, a person might prefer working 7-4 instead of 8-5, or taking a longer lunch, but working later into the day. Some people might find they are most creative at 11pm. And Summer Fridays might still be important for some, but might need a little tweaking for others if they are on a non-traditional schedule. As you have more employees working remotely, you may find the need to be more flexible in your scheduling arrangements.
3. Professional development – Remote workers still want and need to keep their skills current. They still want to learn and grow professionally. When allocating budget dollars, or deciding who gets to attend an education event, don’t forget your remote employees. And consider whether they need a larger share of the budget for travel expenses, especially if they must come back to the “home office” for training.
4. In-person interactions for local staff - Some remote workers may feel disconnected from the team. They miss out on the hallway chats in the office that help build relationships. Intentionally supporting their social needs is critical. If your remote staff are geographically close, they might enjoy meeting at local restaurant for happy hour or lunch on a regular basis. Or maybe something active like a bowling league or volleyball team would be of interest. And annual holiday parties or family picnics are a great way to get to know each other.
5. Events go virtual – Many in–office events can include remote workers, you just have to get creative in making it work. Some ideas for virtual events might include: an online gaming group, a book club, guided meditation, an exercise group, or wellness challenges. Be intentional in helping employees form activities that fit a variety of interests for both in-person and remote workers.
6. Home services – Instead of a cafeteria at work where meals can be purchased, you could arrange for a food service/delivery to employees on occasion. This is especially important if you have in-office people who are enjoying a lunch meeting (with company provided lunch), and eating in front of the remote employee who is eating leftovers. You can also consider cleaning services, laundry services, or even gardening services to show appreciation for your remote staff.
7. Mentorship – For both in-office and remote employees, this can be an invaluable resource for employees who are earlier in their career, or looking for a partner in their long term development. Mentors and mentees can meet virtually. If distance is not an issue, they could also meet for coffee or lunch on occasion.
8. The EAP (Employee Assistance Program) is still important – Regardless of where an employee works, the EAP is still a valuable benefit that should be touted often.
9. Recognition – Out of sight should not be out of mind. Be sure to recognize achievements and milestones in group virtual meetings, on the company intranet, and maybe send a small gift to the home. Remote employees don’t benefit from the daily feedback inherent from in-person interaction, so recognition and appreciation should be more intentional.
10. Branded items – Branded items such as cups, shirts, pens, etc. help the employee feel a part of the organization.
Traditional benefits like pet insurance, identity theft insurance, paid leave, and student loan assistance are all still good choices for in-office and remote workers alike.
As our workforce continues to adjust to the pandemic and life after, we will need to reconsider the needs of our employees, wherever they are working. Building and maintaining a strong workforce is still important for every organization, but how to go about that might need to look a little different. Think creatively, ask your employees what they need, and be open to new ways of doing things. You’ll be prepared for whatever the new normal looks like for your company.