When searching for jobs, most applicants research the company and what the benefits and perks are of working for that company. They are lured by rooftop Yoga, SoulCycle Wednesdays, beer on draft at the office, ping pong tables and virtual reality rooms. But COVID hit and most of the workers went virtual. For HR and People professionals, the way we attract candidates had to change in this pandemic world. How are companies pivoting with their benefits and perks packages?
Before COVID hit, the ability to WFH (work from home) or remote work was considered a perk by most organizations and their employees. Thus, a company with a WFH policy was more attractive to candidates versus a company that was 100% on-site. When COVID hit, WFH was no longer considered a perk and flexibility became expected by most employees. A recent Harvard Business School study of 1,500 remote workers reveal that only 18% of employees want to go back to the office full-time; 27% want to go permanently remote and 61% want a combination of both – primarily at their own discretion and on their terms.
Some companies have embraced the fully remote model and started incorporating new strategies and policies into their culture and into their Employee Handbooks. As companies switch to a fully remote or hybrid model, we are seeing a new trend of employee benefits and perks moving towards reimbursements for home office, internet and utilities usage, and food delivery allowances. One must not ignore, however, that this global pandemic brought about a mental health decline for most workers – with blurred boundaries between work and home – people ended up cutting commutes and working all the time. HR and People experts responded by looking into expanding employer-sponsored health insurance packages to include Telehealth, Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and/or virtual counseling and hosting wellness workshops. An increase in childcare support is also a valued benefit to employees and some companies offer stipends for babysitting. PSI-CRO, for example, introduced virtual wellness classes, virtual art and cooking classes as connection or team-building activities from companies such as Bluefire Leadership, and various contests to engage their employees while remote.
James Kinney, Global Diversity & North American People Chief at Ogilvy Advertising, talks of how it takes immense energy to always be “on” and feature day-in-day-out in our social media “people contest” way of life. Kinney challenges companies to intentionally set aside time to allow people to “get out of our heads”. He inspires his 10,000 worldwide colleagues with the idea of 2 hours a month doing something purely creative as a corporate sponsored self-care activity.
Danone Simpson from Montage Insurance Solutions has created a virtual health fair website allowing clients their own private page for their benefit programs, webinars, access to exercise, meditations and vendors offering a variety of services for employees. With Zoom burnout and employees feeling they are working in a silo, allowing employees to pace themselves and connect live to their peers with fun times together telling stories that help them bond is enabling a better culture. Quick Teambuilding activities for Busy Managers by Brian Cole Miller has become a favorite to further engage and build company culture. Partner with your broker to see if they offer wellness services such as sound baths, healthy doc talks, virtual yoga or any other free services for your employees.
Sarah Prince of United Agencies Insurance and host of Spotlight with Sarah notices that “as we emerge from this pandemic, employees are hungry for quality of life benefits”. Work life balance is desired more than ever and companies who understand the correspondence between an engaged employee and increased productivity are those winning by being more than happy to offer their employees these types of benefits. Whether it is food delivery every Friday at their staff’s homes or the ability to work from anywhere in the world like PwC announced earlier this month, the best companies are letting go of old paradigms and evolving their benefits and perks to offer those that embrace diversity and inclusion (flexibility) and improve their workers’ current standard of living!
According to Brian Lacher of Nielsen Benefits Group (NBG), the latest benefits extend beyond our employees and into expanded families. Brian explains that since the beginning of COVID-19, it’s no secret that the utilization of virtual healthcare has erupted to historic levels for people all across the US and the world. But what is lesser known to the public, is that there are virtual healthcare resources for employee’s fur-babies as well. Animal virtual healthcare providers like Airvet are a great resource to employers looking to enrich the employee benefit offering by giving their employees nearly instant access to veterinary support for animal medical needs. At NBG, says Lacher, we’ve witnessed virtual animal healthcare emerging as a lesser known resource that goes a long way with improving an employer’s benefit offering.