Many companies relied on their perks to attract and retain top talent. The days of free company lunches, stocked beer fridges, ping pong tables, and bean bag chairs in conference rooms seem like something from another time. Even as many companies have begun to the return to offices, the simple truth is that hybrid work is here to stay.
Prior to COVID-19, working from home one day a week or even a few days a month was a sought after perk that not many companies offered. Working from home felt like a mini vacation, you could sleep in longer, or work in your PJ’s, but now that working from home has become a reality, and often a necessity, it is no longer a perk.
Rethinking hybrid perks is not just an option, it's a must. Companies need to adapt their perks to meet individual needs, as the perks that will matter to one employee might not be fitting to another. Even though some large companies are trying to claw back perks as a shortsighted way to save money, the fact of the matter is that this genie is out of the bottle and won't be going back in any time soon.
So what can companies do to reevaluate their current perks and adapt them to hybrid and remote work?
The office setting allowed for employees to work in a similar environment, but working remotely means that each employee deals with a different set of circumstances and a unique environment. Corporate perks should reflect the diversity of employee workspaces. Options such as employer run online daycare, home office set up, dog walker services, and meal prep kits allow employees to choose what perks work for their lifestyle. If a company can't set up services, then offering stipends so that employees can choose their own, works just as easily.
Slack offers emergency time off to all employees so they don't need to rely on just vacation and sick days. At Weavy we cover the cost of home office supplies and equipment. This type of personal thinking sets companies apart in the world of remote perks. Smaller companies will have to think creatively if they want to compete with these perks.
Remote work can take a toll on everyone, especially the employees who are not used to working from home. It is crucial that companies offer mental health services in addition to other perks. This can look like anything from a mandatory wellness day once per week, to access to therapy, or group meetings where employees can share their difficulties with remote work. In order to facilitate openness and discussion on a topic that can often get stigmatized, leadership needs to be understanding of an individual's life outside of work.
It is crucial that employees feel safe discussing issues and hardships without the fear of retaliation or judgement from management. Creating spaces for employees only to chat and discuss any issues, or offering private sessions with licensed therapists are great options. Leadership is essential in the set up and launch of such spaces and programs, however after the set up stage, it should be hands-off for management. Employees can and should use these resources as they see fit and as often as they require them.
Aside from wellness support, the best way to encourage wellbeing in a work from home situation is to allow employees flexibility to do activities at home that need their attention during the workday. Whether it’s taking the dog for a walk, cooking lunch for their kids, having the flexibility to take a break from work to focus on other things without feeling guilty is important in maintaining a work life balance.
Through the years companies had firmly stuck with a 9 to 5 workday. This was rarely questioned - work had to get done in this time frame and any work that needed to be done outside of these hours was extra time you had to put in. But working from home changed all that, 9-5 has become antiquated and irrelevant.
In order to maintain a healthy work life balance while working remotely it is crucial to think about the structure of the working hours. A 9-5 work day may not suit everyone, especially not in today's environment. Today productivity often depends on personal situations, especially in a remote work environment. Many employees would benefit from a flexible work day.
The best way for employers to facilitate this is to focus on the work to be completed, instead of the specific hours within which it is completed, allowing employees to complete their work within the timeframe that best suits them. Although in most cases flexible working hours encourages work life balance and wellbeing, it can also inadvertently cause employees to spend more time working on projects than they would in a typical working day. Employers must keep this in mind when assigning work - flexible hours do not mean longer hours.
Working from home can also provide a lot of flexibility for anyone wanting to expand their skill set or venture into new areas of work. Companies can provide tools for employees to continue learning not only new skills as they relate to their profession, but have access to platforms where employees can learn a hobby they have been wanting to start or continue to learn in a field of study that interests them.
Subscriptions to platforms such as Udemy, Coursera or edX will allow employees to choose classes or certifications that make sense for them and give them a sense of ownership. Employees can use this to pick up a new hobby or get a certification to transition into a new role or team. This flexibility fosters creativity and continued learning which can be an outlet for many in times of adjustment.
Offering further education opportunities creates value not only for the employee but also for the company. Companies can retain their talent while allowing them to grow and expand their education, contributing their new skills to other projects or roles. Employees in turn will feel more invested in the company and its success.
Studies have shown that employees who work outside of the office, work longer hours, take less sick days, and are more productive than their counterparts who commute to the office. However it's also much easier to continue working while on “vacation” and to forget to disconnect. As an employer it's your job to encourage time off, and lead by example.
Employees will often feel guilty about taking fully offline vacation time or logging off at 5 pm. Many believe there is an unspoken rule that you should be “always on”, this can have detrimental results on health and wellbeing. Management needs to encourage logging off at 5pm by not scheduling late meetings and/or not writing or responding to emails after hours.
There are also ways companies can incentivize their employees to take that much needed time off. Some ways include offering discounts on airline tickets, hotels, or airbnbs. You can also reduce friction for employees by instituting an easy process for requesting time off, and allowing flexible PTO.
Owing to our Swedish heritage, Weavy gives all employees up to five full work weeks of paid time off. Rather than using an complicated accrual system, all PTO is immediately available. Employees are encouraged to use their PTO however they see fit, so long as they have approval from their supervisor. It's not unusual for a team member to take as many as three consecutive weeks off, though some have opted for more creative uses like taking off every other Friday.
Consistently ensuring that employees take time for themselves, plan vacations and log off when needed will foster a healthy environment and happy employees which in turn means more collaboration, more creativity, and better results.
For a long time companies treated working from home as one of the biggest perks, but that cannot be the case anymore. Adjusting to this situation is essential in continuing to be an innovative company where employees are excited to work. Employers need to take steps to consciously rethink benefits to employees and make sure that their perks correspond to their individual circumstances.
The companies that will continue to grow and succeed will be the ones that understand the new demands, and place their employees first.