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Rethinking Employee Benefits in a Hybrid Workplace

September 09, 2022 Talent Management
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

Employers can motivate their teams in a number of ways, and many have gotten creative in doing so over the years — think ping pong and foosball tables a decade or so ago. Despite the hype (at the time), few of these superficial perks have seemed to make a long-lasting impact in the employee attraction/retention equation.

According to a 2016 Fractl survey of 2,000 people, one of the two most sought-after incentives was flexibility (second only to health insurance). Flexibility in where and when employees were allowed to work. Note again the date: four years before the pandemic set off the remote work frenzy.

Fast-forward to today. With the widespread adoption of hybrid working environments, the benefits of flex work have already been recognized, so what can companies do to innovate and improve their employees' experience on the job? 

Hint: The answer isn't always more money.

Psych 101

Some employers may think that offering remote work options is a strong enough perk on its own. After all, if flexibility is what employees want, then many now have it.

But remote and hybrid work models are no longer enough of a differentiator alone. Employees may seek out remote work possibilities exclusively when choosing an employer, but the competition in that area has gotten stiff.

Employers now need to go beyond this and look at how they can help employees improve their situation. It all comes down to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Flashy perks and group activities may be fun for a while, but employers that go to the heart of a person's basic needs stand to gain an edge. Flexible working conditions meet the second highest tier of freedom on Maslow's pyramid, but it doesn't fit all the criteria. Employers seeking to go a step further in their employee benefits program will consider how they can fill gaps on other levels. 

Related Article: Creating a Flexible Work Strategy That Works

6 Employee Benefits for the Hybrid Workplace

There are numerous benefits and perks to offer employees in remote or hybrid workplaces, but here are six that stand out as most important to today's workforce.

1. Medical Benefits

According to the National Health Expenditure Accounts (NHEA), the average person in the US spent $12,530 on medical bills in 2020. Based on salary data, this means the average American worker spends 21% of their salary on medical bills yearly.

Offering medical insurance or private medical care is often recognized as one of the most game-changing benefits. In fact, Fractl's research found that 88% of respondents said having access to better health, dental and vision insurance is a consideration in their choice of an employer — the top item on the list, before flexibility.

Offering medical coverage not only lends a financial hand to staff, it also helps organizations demonstrate that their workers' health is important to them. Companies that also provide life insurance may get an edge in that department.

Related Article: How Data-Driven Mental Wellness Gets Results

2. Childcare

Childcare can be one of the highest costs of working, with some employees spending most of their income on childcare to work. Childcare can be even more challenging in this post-pandemic environment, with higher costs, fewer facilities and increased safety concerns.

Employers that offer childcare vouchers or provide a childcare center to employees can find this benefit is an excellent way to attract and retain motivated employees. Organizations may even want to extend the benefit to fully remote workers, who may be interested in a quiet, kid-free workplace during the day to minimize distractions.

3. Health & Lifestyle

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of a healthy lifestyle to the forefront, and many now place significant value on health and well-being. Companies may want to poll employees how their preferences for staying active and healthy, but often offering options such as gym membership reimbursements can go a long way.

Investing in the long-term health of employees not only benefits them, but it also boosts morale at work. Companies with dispersed workers may prefer to consider a stipend attributed specifically to health and wellness activities.

4. Training Opportunities

According to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, self-actualization is vital to happiness. Providing training and learning opportunities to employees can be a great way to support them in their career development path.

Employers can offer staff the chance to gain more professional qualifications, learn new skills and participate in exciting cross-training experiences — all of which can also benefit the organization: the acquisition of new skills can improve the quality of work, increase efficiencies or help launch new products or services.

There are also opportunities for filling open positions with existing workers seeking to move up, reducing recruitment and onboarding costs and improving overall experience.

Related Article: Career Development in the Remote or Hybrid Workplace

5. Professional Memberships

On the heels of training and development benefits, companies may want to offer the reimbursement of certain professional association dues. Professional membership costs can be steep, which can deter employees from the start, but the expense can yield tremendous value for both the worker and the organization.

Professional memberships often include continuing education programs, tools and tips, networking opportunities and a host of other benefits that can support individual and corporate growth.

6. Free Food

Free snacks is an oldie for most organizations, and it certainly isn't what will make or break employee satisfaction in the office. Yet, if some employees come into the office, voluntarily or not, it's now become a staple for employers to offer free food and drinks.

 

Interestingly — and probably contrary to popular belief — free food and drink can help stimulate the mind and help employees perform better. And companies that want to be fair to their remote employees may consider sending food vouchers or food care boxes to even the score.

Forget the One-Size-Fits-All Benefits

One thing is for sure: in today's labor market, leaders can no longer settle for a standard set of benefits to attract and retain employees. Compensation, monetary and otherwise, should be more personalized.

"Deploying a one-size-fits-all work environment has the high-risk of alienating the very people you're striving to inspire," said Nate Pratt, vice president, business development of Atlanta-based business consultancy OneDigital.

Dragos Badea, CEO of Bucharest, Romania-based booking software provider Yarooms, recommends making a pool of various benefits employees can opt into based on preferences. "Making a basket of benefits and letting people pick and choose works much better than trying to guess what would be the best balance for your employees when all of them have very different working styles and hours," he said.

In the end, the key is meaning. Companies need to work with their HR leaders to understand what their employees need and value before laying out a benefits program that may completely miss the mark if it's not authentic and representative.

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