Free coffee and tea are no good for those working from home, so what’s new when it comes to employee benefits and perks?
The pandemic shook up the way we work and with that, employee expectations and needs changed too. Employers and companies have had to reevaluate the perks they have on offer and consider what will attract the right people to work for them in a post-pandemic world, and, at the same time, support and maintain the happiness of their current workforce.
Pre-pandemic, complimentary tea and coffee, snacks, and company drinks on a Friday afternoon were popular and common features in many offices. But what now? The elements of sharing and togetherness that were once easily achieved by food and drink-related perks will not likely fly anymore.
Companies know they need ways to draw people into the office, with the little things that can make a difference. Incentives like providing in-office lunches and snacks are still welcome, and free parking, for example, still goes a long way. But this is unlikely to be enough to satisfy the post-pandemic workforce, especially with 52% of office workers not ready to go back to the office*.
For businesses to stand out as an employer of choice in a candidate-driven market, perks need to factor in completely remote, hybrid, and fully in-office staff. While also appreciating different personality types, situations, and lifestyles of individuals.
As more workers adopt hybrid and flexible remote working patterns as a welcome norm, how can companies offer meaningful perks that complement this new way of working?
‘Soft perks’ are those that employers can offer staff to complement their compensation and benefits packages. Offering these are natural happiness boosters in the day-to-day life of workers, the power of which shouldn’t be underestimated.
Typical ‘soft perks’ can include;
Prizes and monetary incentives
Prizes can be small, and are not intended to detract or be in place of bonus schemes or incentives within career development frameworks. Instead, monetary rewards in the form of gift vouchers for small, localised targets, or expenses paid for a meal out if an individual or team reaches a collective goal.
While the money or equivalent is appreciated, it is often the fun and light-hearted competition that drives people to engage with these perks and can be a relatively affordable morale boost that can be implemented regularly. Employers can also encourage employees to create competition and targets within the workplace, which brings about a sense of belonging and contribution.
Team building and away days
Large or small, bringing teams together for a day of fun or dinner after work is a valuable perk to all parties. Employees appreciate recognition for their hard work and it is a great way to break the ice for new team members and soften barriers with more introverted individuals too. Team away days and time out from the office are another great way to include employees in creating the perk itself, encouraging team spirit and inclusion.
Late start, early finish
Simple, yet effective, finishing early on a Friday or starting late on a Monday, for example, was always a welcome perk pre-pandemic. While work adapts to hybrid and remote working, this is still an easy one to offer that will be appreciated by employees – simply by adapting it to their job role and chosen schedule.
It’s not all about money and, where appropriate, gifts are a wonderful perk. Food, home, and wellbeing hampers and experiences are well received and can be gifted for any reason. Employers can tailor gifts to specific employees which shows an understanding and appreciation of them personally, and that they are listened to.
With a new subscription service launching every week, it seems, there are many services and products employers can tap into and offer to their employees. Here are some of the main subscription types that can be used to engage employees and, given the wide variety on offer, businesses can tailor perks in an easy yet rewarding way. Or, even better, give employees the choice of several subscription-style perks to choose from themselves:
Mental health and wellbeing apps
Access to mental health, wellbeing information, and self-help has improved thanks in part to mobile and desktop apps.
In a survey conducted by the Mental Health Foundation in November 2020, 25% of UK adults were experiencing feelings of loneliness, and only 63% felt they were “coping well with the stress of the pandemic”.
With the pandemic piling immense pressure on people both inside and outside of work, employers can show great awareness and compassion by providing and funding access to apps such as Headspace, CALM, Happify and more. A fantastic perk to work alongside a company wellbeing scheme, employees can feel comforted that their employer is mindful and proactive about positive mental health.
These would be a welcome perk for people who perhaps are wary of going back to the gym or have just become accustomed to working out from home. With big brands like Peloton and ClassPass – ideal for this kind of perk – through to local gyms, studios, and personal trainers diversifying to accommodate online classes and subscriptions, this is another easy and thoughtful way to reward your employees and see a positive, productive output as a result.
If you have people returning to the office, their commute might be longer, they might have childcare to factor in, or they just like the menus on offer! Whatever the reasoning, meal subscriptions or restaurant meal kits can be a great perk to offer, either as a one-off or a regular bonus. And, with so many options available, employers can cater to employees’ different tastes and benefit from the personal touch that brings.
Not to be scoffed at; these are again a great way to allow employees to tailor their perks under subscriptions. The adage is true, a happy worker is a hard worker, and what better way to help someone feel good than with a gift in the mail each month subsidised by work. It beats a bean bag and foosball, anyway.
But it’s not just subscriptions and snacks
As perks get bigger, they venture into benefits, which together all form the complete package of a desirable place to work. Increased annual leave entitlements (though not necessarily unlimited), enhanced childcare benefits, medical and life insurances, and official wellbeing programmes are the practical emotive perks. Combine these with the day-to-day and cultural extras and you’re onto creating a winning benefits package.
While the little things count, it is now more essential than ever for companies to think more deeply about their employees’ needs and wants. With many forced to spend prolonged periods working from home during the pandemic, people have benefited from more time and a more fluid way of working – something that people won’t want to give up anytime soon.
Although flexible, hybrid, and remote working have traditionally been seen as high-ticket perks, businesses should now expect to offer them as a core part of their offering – especially if they’re looking to hire.
Jobseekers that use Reed.co.uk’s work from home filter (to search for jobs that offer remote working options exclusively) are more than twice as likely (114%) to apply for a job. Companies need to present real value to stand out and not lean on hybrid or flexible working as a perk of the job. Employers have, and can continue to benefit significantly from, the sense of responsibility and confidence they instil in their employees by supporting a new normal at work – and offering attractive perks along the way.
* Survey of 429 respondents conducted by Reed.co.uk on Twitter and LinkedIn polls between 19/07/21 – 26/07/21, asking: ‘Office workers – how do you feel about the prospect of returning to the office after Freedom Day?’