In recent years, companies were offering a suite of in-house perks to entice new talent and retain existing employees. These services ranged from free on-site lunch services, pet-friendly offices, ping pong tables, and, at times, even cocktails and draft beer for employees to enjoy after office hours.
However, the traditional workplace has been dramatically transformed due to the coronavirus. Over the last few months, organizations around the globe have transitioned from the in-person office to the virtual workspace. While organizations may have originally viewed this as a temporary, short-term solution, some companies are embracing remote work in the long term.
“Many US businesses are seeing the key benefits to remote work, such as cost savings and increased efficiency, and as a result, are opting for distributed workforces permanently. However, with the massive shift to remote work, many of our traditional office norms and perks will have to evolve to address new employee needs,” said Zoë Harte, SVP, head of human resources and talent innovation at Upwork.
As employees continue to telecommute in the future, the classic perks and benefits package may need to adjust to the new normal of business operations. Here are some of the perks and benefits telecommuters should consider during the negotiation process.
SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)
Stipends for home office setup
At the onset of the pandemic, some companies offered their employees stipends to set up their home offices. Shopify in particular offered its employees a “one-time remote allowance” of $1,000 to create their home workspaces. Such a stipend can help telecommuters buy all of the essentials for a day at the virtual office including standing desks, ergonomic chairs, dual monitors, headsets, external microphones, webcams, and more.
The physical setup of the office is one perk to consider, the resources needed to maintain a virtual office is another. At a standard office, employees typically are supplied with employer-provided electricity, water, Wi-Fi capabilities, etc. At the home office, remote workers are often responsible for these utility expenditures.
In recent months, residential energy consumption has increased in some markets. According to Columbia University research, residential energy usage has increased by as much as 20% in California compared to the same time in 2019. Moving forward, employees may want to consider negotiating utility and Internet usage stipends as part of their employment package.
As for the operational burden of conducting business remotely, there are other less tangible factors to keep in mind. With the workday squarely situated in the middle of the home for many employees, the line between work and personal space is at times obscured. As a result, Harte suggests perks related to accommodating work-life balance.
“With remote work becoming the new normal, employees should consider perks and negotiations which help create a healthy work-life balance and work-from-home environment,” Harte said.
Harte noted that employees may consider negotiating “the ability to create calendar blocks designated specifically for personal time.” This would give telecommuters the ability to add structured guidelines to their day-to-day work life and more aptly set boundaries between work and their personal lives.
Nontraditional business hours
It’s also important to remember that it’s not only employees who are operating remotely during the pandemic. Many schools have adopted non-traditional instruction to enable remote learning for students around the country. As a result, many telecommuters are tasked with managing not only their at-home workday but also their child’s distanced education. To assist with this multifaceted workload, Harte suggests that remote employees could negotiate flexibility as a scheduling perk.
“Every remote employee’s work-from-home environment looks different; some are parents juggling work and homeschooling their kids, while others live with someone who is immunocompromised. Employees should consider asking for a flexible workday schedule, outside the traditional 9-5, in which they can dedicate time to care for loved ones and work during times convenient for them,” Harte said.
SEE: Return to work: What the new normal will look like post-pandemic (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Enhanced medical benefits packages
As a modern plague continues to spread around the globe, healthcare remains a critical perk for many employees. In recent months, we’ve seen a surge in telemedicine visits to accommodate public safety and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Harte posed the idea of employees negotiating telemedical benefits as part of a larger employment package.
“In terms of healthcare, encourage your business to partner with a telemedicine company to provide remote consultations without the risk of COVID-19 exposure and offer access to on-demand mental health support through providers such as Ginger.io,” Harte said.
Remote learning opportunities
Tuition reimbursement is a popular perk for employees across industries. Interestingly, this particular perk is a bit of a win-win for both organizations and employees alike. This allows companies to invest in their existing talents while also empowering employees to upskill in classes or micro-courses of interest.