How the Shift to Remote Work Is Revitalizing Employee Benefits

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Any disruption is a chance to evaluate and revitalize old processes. COVID-19 has been, for many companies, the catalyst to rethink benefits structures and compensation arrangements as employees adapt to an increasingly virtual work environment.

The dramatic changes to the way people work have given employees all across the country an opportunity to rethink their priorities when it comes to work/life balance and what they want to get out of a job. To attract and retain the best talent, companies have had to adjust their benefits to keep up with these shifting priorities.

Not that reshuffling your benefits is an easy process. Benefits and compensation structures are often ingrained in the very fabric of an organization, making them exceptionally difficult to change quickly in response to sudden disruptions (like a global pandemic). In fact, shifts in benefits infrastructure could have long-term implications for a company if they’re not properly considered beforehand.

So, while organizations have made a marked effort to enhance their benefits offerings, many companies have understandably taken a deliberate and patient approach to revitalizing employee benefits.

More Freedom Across Work Schedules

In response to the shift to remote working, one of the quick and somewhat painless adjustments companies made was introducing more freedom into work schedules. Many organizations transitioned to 35-hour workweeks and gave employees options to work more flexible hours every day, freeing up workers to address matters at home, cultivate their mental and physical health, or utilize their time however they felt necessary.

“We are definitely seeing a trend of companies offering more flexible work schedules to job candidates,” says Kristen Fowler, practice lead at Clarke Caniff Strategic Search, a boutique executive search firm specializing in the services, hospitality, luxury, real estate, and retail sectors. “Companies are cognizant of the changes that have been triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and how people’s preferences have changed [accordingly].”

In certain sectors, such as luxury, the pandemic has so thoroughly changed the way companies operate that they have no choice but to offer new benefits to remote employees to help them meet their goals in a healthy work environment.

Perks Designed to Augment the Work-From-Home Experience

Another area companies have invested in to make the remote work experience more enjoyable is perks that make it easier for workers to stay productive in a home office.

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For example, some companies bought their entire staff noise-canceling headphones so that employees could spend less time battling distractions. Some organizations invested in food delivery services so employees can remain focused without having to worry about what they’ll eat for lunch every day.

These small yet substantial perks can have an outsized impact on employee morale and motivation — especially if there is a corporate social responsibility component. For example, if a company buys its food delivery from a local business, it signals to employees and candidates that the company supports the community during times of strife.

Providing More Support to Employees With Families

Individuals with families, especially those with young children, were particularly affected by the sudden transition to remote work. Now that parents are working from home and kids are learning from home, employees with families are juggling their children’s school responsibilities, household upkeep, and work obligations all at the same time.

In response to these increased demands on employee time and resources, many companies have added to their benefits packages services designed to alleviate some of the load. For example, companies such as Amazon, Netflix, and Nvidia have started offering subsidized or free child care as a benefit during the pandemic.

While quickly changing your company’s benefits structure to meet the new priorities of employees is a good idea, not all organizations are in a position to make changes to their benefits packages — even if they really want to be supportive of their employees during these trying times. Often, whether or not you can adjust your benefits is a matter of your balance sheet, regardless of your dedication to employees.

However, it’s becoming common for organizations to make whatever tweaks they can, no matter how small, to ensure the safety and productivity of employees.

Cultures differ across companies, as do employee preferences and interests. This is why there is no one-size-fits-all approach to augmenting benefits packages in response to remote work. That said, as companies work to make remote employment a more permanent arrangement, expect to see more and more employers adjusting their benefits and perks to better compete for top talent in this new environment.

Kane Carpenter is the director of marketing for Clarke Caniff Strategic Search.

By Kane Carpenter