Rethink Work-from-Home Employee Perks

Working from home has become a new normal for many employers and employees. With that being said, it may be time to rethink employee perks that expand flexibility and customize work schedules. Read this blog post to learn more.


As working from home stretches into the summer and beyond at many companies, some firms are adopting interesting, innovative incentives to maintain engagement and productivity among telecommuting employees.

Most common among such perks is the expanded flexibility for personal time off and customized work schedules. But many employers consider those options to be table stakes and are raising the ante. Perks related to food and drink, camaraderie, dress code and new technology are being introduced as HR rethinks and adjusts company culture.

"Pre-COVID, working from home was considered a top employee perk," said Cheryl Fields Tyler, CEO of San Francisco Bay-area firm Blue Beyond Consulting. "Now, it's practically considered an entitlement. And with executives [seeing] how effective their home-working employees have been during this situation, it's likely to stick around even after the recovery."

At her firm, "our teamwork has really stepped up. People are supporting each other more and finding new ways to handle responsibilities to get through this, which will be the lasting benefit of this 'change'."

At IBM, CEO Arvind Krishna created and shared a special eight-point pledge that went viral as a model for other C-suites to follow, putting a "human touch" on his entire workforce.

"With employees and companies making such strides in work-from-home execution, there's going to be a massive rethinking of just how you build culture," Fields Tyler said.

Informality Catches On

Many companies are creating clever ways to connect remote employees during and after the workday ends, usually with fun in mind.

Tampa HR consultant Michelle May Griffin, SHRM-CP, has clients who have created a virtual coffee klatsch once or twice a week, designed with an impromptu gathering-in-the-breakroom feel. "Supervisors aren't invited," she said. "Staff can come and go. It's very informal. People can eat lunch or have a cup of coffee and just talk about anything they wish."

At Centurion, a health care company based in Vienna, Va., HR created a voluntary lunch-time video meeting for employees on Zoom to talk about things other than work, said Jennifer Tyrrell, SHRM-SCP, senior director of HR. ‎

"We did one that was called 'Get Up and Move' based on fitness videos so employees could be active, but that didn't draw a huge crowd," she joked. "Others had better participation, such as 'Just Social: Brown Bag Lunch Buddies' for remote workers to take a break and have virtual lunch to catch up with co-workers, and end-of-day Friday happy hours, including one where we played Pictionary."

Griffin shared another story of a small client. On one Friday afternoon, HR reached out to all employees and took drink orders. It then set up a virtual happy hour on Zoom where employees used their drinks—that the company personally delivered to their homes—to toast another great week.

"The company did a good job, packing them in baskets with other goodies," Griffin said.

As for food, some larger companies are offering stipends for daily lunch pickups or delivery, which has become an unanticipated expense for remote employees "now that they aren't able to take advantage of full cafeterias at work every day," said Chris Hoyt, president of CareerXroads, a membership-based talent community of more than 150 companies.

Zoom Fatigue

Virtual meetings have become so common at most companies that "there is more and more talk of blocking out meetings on multiple days each week to reduce stress and prevent 'Zoom fatigue,'" Hoyt said. "For some, there are entire days where either no meetings are called, or at least none that involve a video log-in. That's a well-being perk."

As for home offices, tech equipment stipends can make work and life easier. Hoyt said one organization gave its remote employees full access to a virtual ergonomic assessment that could help determine what equipment they would need to work most productively and funded those purchases.

At Iona, a social services group in Washington, D.C., employees were provided with office furniture and computer technology delivered to their homes, with set up-help provided, said Stacey Berk, a managing consultant with Expand HR Consulting in Maryland. "They bent over backwards to help their employees," she said.

At some companies, encouragement to take a summer vacation is a well-received perk. "Having spent so much time over the past few months working from home, [employees] are pivoting to summer rentals in remote places instead of theme parks or family reunions," Berk said. "Some employers are allowing staff to extend that time away if they split their work time, and may offer to pay for Wi-Fi connections, additional temporary office resources and supermarket gift cards for these types of vacations so that they can productively work in this capacity."

Wellness Well-Done

Berk sees a trend where clients are providing wellness "relief" to their workers by having group stress-relieving exercises, guest virtual speakers or even comic relief, such as themed summer dress-up days. Hoyt agrees that wellness has become an emerging front for many HR leaders.

"Some have been pushing for the ability to incorporate ideas and strategies for years and now are realizing that the pandemic [is the final catalyst] to get initiatives off the ground and running," he said.

"Some company fitness centers are offering virtual workouts much like commercial gyms do," Hoyt added. "A few employers' in-house trainers are getting creative with programs for people who may not have equipment at home but can do workouts with whatever equipment they might have around."

Personalized mental-health care program offerings also are gaining popularity, Hoyt said, such as LyraHealth and Headspace. Both focus on mindfulness and meditation for stress, anxiety, sleep, attention and fitness and enable participants to track their progress. Other popular programs include MeQuilibrium, a well-being and performance platform that helps employees identify and manage stress; and Sleepio, a digital sleep-improvement program featuring cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.

Gifted and Talented

At BHI Insurance in Newark, Del., which boasts 28 employees, HR Director Maria Clyde, SHRM-SCP, offered everyone a list of electronics to choose from as a thank-you gift for adapting well to working from home. She budgeted $40 to $60 per gift.

"We thought that was fitting since everyone who is working remotely is looking to make their lives (and their kids' lives) easier," Clyde said. "I've also seen companies providing headphones and streaming services like Netflix or Disney+ for the kids. People are getting really creative!"

Charitably conscious, Hoyt said some companies are matching or double-matching employee donations to local organizations or for anything related to front-line workers and PPE creation and distribution.

Other benefits that companies can define as perks, Berk said, are a relaxed summer dress standard and the ability to work outdoors, which shows up as an employee's background in virtual meetings. "By not having to wear a blouse or dress shirt, think of the money employees are saving in dry cleaning because they can dress casually," she said. "It's not a lot of savings, but it helps."

Giving employees a greater voice can be considered a perk for some employees. Organizations that previously conducted one employee survey a year—or even every couple of years—are now conducting them more frequently, Berk said. "This gives employees more of a chance to be heard and to have a voice in some policy decision-making, which is one perk you cannot put a price tag on."

Tyrrell said Centurion has conducted more employee surveys recently and found that 90 percent of employees expressed confidence in how the C-suite has been dealing with the crisis, while at-home distractions ranked second lowest among employee challenges.

Many companies are creating incentives for work-from-home employees to voluntarily return to the office. Campus Advantage, an owner and manager of off-campus university student housing, has 70 employees assigned to its Austin, Texas, headquarters.

"Many workers are still afraid to come back," said Angela L. Shaw, SHRM-SCP, vice president of HR. "Our office has a mojo committee that creates fun office events, and we've offered those in the office breakfasts, Taco Tuesdays and yoga classes. On average, we'll have about five employees come in. The others are happy to continue working from home."

Perks on the Chopping Block

Many companies are planning for the next wave of the coronavirus, one that is expected to hit them hard financially during the second half of 2020 and beyond, Berk said. Traditional employee perks likely will be impacted, at least for the short term.

"Expect perks like traditional staff-wide wellness benefits, such as gym memberships, discount programs and celebratory gatherings, will be cut or eliminated and replaced with more modest offerings," Berk said. "Companies are quickly adjusting forecasting and budgeting for the coming year based on the realities of the pandemic. The reimagined office layout and sanitation will be at the forefront for HR and executives, and you could see companies reducing employee benefits, eliminating increases, bonuses, education stipends and executive perks. With the post-pandemic workforce, they have to account for a big in-office sanitation budget and potential reduced profits."

SOURCE: Bergeron, P. (01 July 2020) "Rethink Work-from-Home Employee Perks" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/rethink-work-from-home-employee-perks.aspx


What Benefits and Perks Do Employees Actually Want?

What employee benefits does your organization offer? Today's benefit offerings have grown to include much more than just healthcare benefits. Read this blog post to learn what benefits and perks your employees want.


With open enrollment just around the corner for most companies, employee benefits are top of mind. Today’s offerings have grown to include more than just medical, dental, and vision coverage. Companies are now including perks like scheduling flexibility, tuition reimbursement, and even parental assistance as part of their overall package.

Let’s cut through the hype: what benefits and perks do employees actually care about? As someone who has administered his fair share of open enrollments, I’ve wondered the same thing. But over the years, I’ve learned that you sometimes just need to ask. By running benefits “pulse” surveys, HR teams can get the data and perspective they need to tailor their company’s offerings.

It’s also important to research what’s happening in the marketplace and what your competitors are doing. When was the last time you spoke to your benefits broker? They’ll have the greatest visibility into what types of claims employees are filing and where you might have coverage gaps. Working closely with your broker is one of the easiest ways to ensure you’re meeting employees’ expectations and the job market’s standards.

While studies have shown that traditional medical, dental, and vision coverage are still employees’ top priority, here are some non-traditional offerings that your employees may be clamoring for:

  • Parental assistance and leave: Companies are now enriching their policies with tools that assist new parents, including everything from post-birth specialist care to reimbursements for newborn necessities.
  • Virtual medical care: One of the hottest trends is virtual medical care. Employees can have access to a doctor 24/7 via a laptop or smartphone, all in the comfort of their own home.
  • Tuition reimbursement and assistance: Today, Americans owe over $1.3 trillion in student loans. That’s more than twice what they owed a decade ago. Needless to say, young employees are looking for companies that offer some type of student loan assistance.
  • Mental health: Over 18 percent of adults in the United States experience some form of anxiety disorder. Given the growing national focus on mental health issues, it’s no surprise that workplaces are joining the conversation. Increasingly, businesses are offering workers better access to mental health therapists and coaches.
  • Physical wellness: Two words: gym reimbursements. Sometimes the motivation to work out can be hard to muster, but when your gym membership is paid for by your employer, why not take full advantage? Healthier, more active employees could lead to lower medical insurance costs, too!

Those are just some of the unique benefits that you should consider offering employees. At the end of the day, I’ve learned that each workplace has different needs and wants. Be sure to regularly survey employees on their preferences and keep tabs on what peer companies are offering.

SOURCE: Cosme, J. (14 November 2018) "What Benefits and Perks Do Employees Actually Want?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/what-benefits-and-perks-do-employees-actually-want


Job satisfaction beats salary

Workers willing to exchange money for being happy on the job

Originally posted by Andrea Davis on http://ebn.benefitnews.com

Even in the face of a turbulent economy and competitive job market, 68% of working Americans would be willing to take a pay cut to work in a job that better allowed them to apply their personal interests to the workplace. Moreover, almost one-quarter of workers (23%) would take a pay cut of 25% or more. The results come from a survey of 1,000 working Americans conducted by Philips North America. (see the infographic on page 41 for more survey results.)

Old paradigm gone

"Seven percent were willing to take a 50% pay cut. That's a life changing number but it's something people were willing to give up to have a career opportunity that was really consistent with their passions and goals," says Russell Schramm, Philips' head of talent acquisition for the Americas. "The whole paradigm of getting your degree, getting a job, making money regardless of what you're doing, is gone."

Forty-eight percent of workers who are able to leverage personal interests in the workplace say they are very satisfied, according to the survey.

"In talent acquisition, we talk a lot about what makes a person accept a position or leave a position and we're seeing, more and more, that meaningful work and work that is relevant to them and their personal passions is becoming more prominent," says Schramm, adding that one of his biggest challenges is being able to identify those personal passions and interests in the candidates who come in for interviews.

"Empowering my team to look at not just what's on the résumé, but [to] look at beyond what's on the résumé [is important]," he says. "What is the motivating driver? What is this person interested in? How are they going to apply that to Philips?"

Talent acquisition is rapidly shifting, he says, "from a transactional, requisition-based process to a much more qualitative process where we're looking for people with a deeper set of skills above and beyond the hard skills that are just required to do the job."

Career path regrets

Forty-one percent of those who don't apply personal interests through their work regret their career path, whereas only 23% of workers who are able to do so regret theirs. More than half (51%) of those surveyed have never changed career paths to integrate their work and personal life in a more meaningful way.

"The survey was our way of understanding what motivates people in the labor market," says Schramm, of the reasons for conducting the survey. "We wanted to understand some of those things that really drive talented individuals in the labor market so we could develop and deliver a workplace reality that would be attractive to those folks."

 

 


9 ways office food fuels employee satisfaction and productivity

Food can play an important role in motivating employees to spend more time in the office, work more effectively while there and generally view their workplace more positively, finds a nationwide survey of nearly 1,100 full-time professionals across more than a dozen different industries. The survey by Seamless, the leading service for ordering delivery and takeout from restaurants in the U.S. and U.K., also reveals the importance of food as a means for building and fostering relationships with clients.

Since the average employee works more than 40 hours a week, “food remains a relatively untapped perk that companies can use to measurably improve employee retention and happiness and show their appreciation, while separating themselves from competitors. Free food all the time is unrealistic for most companies, but the occasional pizza party or afternoon treat goes a long way,” says Nick Worswick, vice president and general manager of corporate at Seamless.

Here are nine positive ways food can be used to inspire healthy eating in the workplace and foster higher productivity levels among employees.

1. Employee Satisfaction

While a majority (60%) of employees say they are satisfied with their current employment situation, 69% feel that more perks – including gym memberships (40%), stock options (22%) and food perks (20%) - would have a direct positive impact on their job satisfaction.

2. Recruiting Advantage

Nearly half of the respondents note that the availability of free lunch would strongly influence their decision to accept a job offer.

3. A Pat on the Back

Sixty percent report that having more food at the office would make them feel more valued and appreciated by their employer.

4. Team Building

More than 60% of respondents agree that company-provided lunches would encourage them to eat with their colleagues, fostering more internal collaboration.

5. Motivation and Productivity

One-third of the employees surveyed divulge that it takes food to make them show up to optional meetings – and another 20% admit to making their decision after knowing what’s on the menu.

6. Client Camaraderie

Forty-three percent of employees say sharing food or a meal with clients helps foster a better working relationship. Food also tops the list in terms of the best client gifts, with 41% noting that food is the very best option for corporate gifts.

7. Time to Spare

More than half of employees say they would spend less time away from work if food were available. Half of the respondents (51%) report spending more than 10 minutes per day picking up lunch or other food outside the office.

8. Healthy Choices

More than half of employees also say having food perks in the workplace would help them eat healthier.

9. Peace of Mind

Nearly half of respondents feel that more food perks in the workplace would make them more satisfied with their employer, in turn reducing 40% of respondents’ personal stress.

Source: http://ebn.benefitnews.com/gallery/ebn/9-ways-office-food-fuels-employee-satisfaction-productivity-2731438-1.html