The New Age of Remote-First Perks
Prior to covid, perks were designed to physically keep you in the office as long as possible. The thinking, which I mostly agreed with at the time, was to free you of having to take time to focus on the lower-value tasks in your life to allow you to focus on what you do best. When it comes to on-site perks, I’ve seen it all…haircuts, meals, dog grooming, car detailing, laundry services, yoga classes, massages, and chiropractors.
Once the world went remote due to the pandemic and worked from their homes for 2+ years, employees realized what they valued and expected from their company had dramatically changed. Remote employees don’t need or want on-site services. In fact, for many companies those perks became irrelevant.
People’s engagement and retention are sparked by a new age of perks that focus more on overall employee experience, are designed to be delivered virtual-first, and create a unified, inclusive culture.
Remote workers (myself included) want…
Flexibility and trust to determine how and where work happens
Perks and resources to do our best work and show up as our best selves
To feel a sense of belonging and connection to the company mission and one another
Companies must adapt to the needs of their people and lean into this evolution. Today, we’ll deep dive into the perks and resources remote workers want and need to do their best work.
Bare Bone Basics
Pre-covid, employers viewed the ability to work remotely as a perk unto itself and would typically not provide any additional support. Those days are gone. Remote work flexibility is now not only expected but a requirement for many candidates and employees. Offering additional perks removes many of the barriers to making work-from-home work long-term so individuals are more focused on productivity.
After gathering benchmark data from 500+ companies, below are recommendations on the baseline remote perks packages companies can consider. The bare bones basic package consists of:
Basic Work From Home Tools - can include a company-provided laptop, monitor, keyboard, mouse, headphones, printer, and a webcam
One-time Remote Setup Stipend - get set up with an office chair, desk, internet upgrades, or other ergonomic office equipment to be set up to work from home or abroad
Ongoing Remote Work Stipend - support your unique needs as a remote worker. Can be used to purchase such things as additional home office equipment, co-working space, coffee shops, meal delivery, health and wellness, or learning and development
There are three package levels, organized from most generous to basic, depending on how competitive companies want to be and their available budget.
Basic Work From Home Tools
One-time Remote Setup Stipend
Ongoing Remote Work Stipend
Deeper Dive into Remote Work Stipends
There are pros and cons to remote work stipends:
PROS: They are the most flexible and scalable options for people teams to manage. You are able to define the eligible expenses as broadly as you want to ensure it’s available to everyone, regardless of where they work, and inclusive of the unique needs of each team member. Employees feel more empowered to use their stipend for their specific needs. This keeps the perk employee-focused rather than forcing employees to use it on a narrowly defined list of eligible expenses or receiving a shipment of what the company feels the employee needs. Broadly defined stipends also show employees you trust their judgment to use the funds wisely!
CONS: The negatives are that you lose the ability to know how the stipend is being spent unless you have perks software specifically designed to track this such as Compt. If automatically added to paychecks, it is human nature to forget about the stipend and view it as a guaranteed part of their pay. Ideas around this include: (1) companies can consider paying it separately through direct deposit so that it has more visibility (2) send email communication when it is paid with a reminder on how to use it (3) include the value in an annual total compensation statement. Just don’t set it and forget it, otherwise, the visibility around it may get lost in the shuffle.
Taxation Considerations: Some companies choose to break the taxable and non-taxable items into two separate stipends to avoid taxation on the entire stipend. As an example, creating two distinct perks:
“Remote Productivity Stipend” for business expenses, which are typically non-taxable items like internet, cell phone, home office upgrades, and coworking spaces
“Remote Wellness Stipend” for taxable items like fitness equipment, yoga classes, sports leagues, stress management, financial wellness, food delivery, coffee shops, nutritionist, and even travel! This stipend can be very loosely defined for employees to define “wellness” in ways that are meaningful to them
Explore Benefits Opportunities
What you add from here will rely heavily on your company culture and values. How do your values show up and what behaviors do you want to evoke? Below are some creative ideas for how you can add to your total compensation package to attract and retain your remote team.
There are many creative steps companies can take to ensure employees are taking the time off they need to rest, recharge, avoid burnout, and show up as their best selves. Some ideas include:
Flexible Vacation Policy with suggested time off ranges
All-company shutdowns throughout the year, so everyone can rest together, such as “Summer Fridays” or “Wellness Weeks”, practiced recently by companies like Nike and Bumble
“Workcation” policy to allow flexibility to work from anywhere, without the need to use vacation days
Sabbatical program, based on length of service
Consolidated work weeks by offering a “4-day workweek”
Health & Wellness
Health and wellness is important for everyone, especially for remote employees that can get tied to their computers for longer days. Remote work can bring up feelings of isolation and loneliness. As a company, find time to decompress, move, and focus on your mental health through programs such as:
Virtual on-demand mental health resources, such as Spring Health & Headspace / Calm
Virtual, healthcare services to support your busy, distributed workforce, such as Galileo
Host virtual wellness sessions, such as online yoga, meditation, or fitness classes
Encourage video off and walking meetings, when possible
Reward programs that get people up and moving such as Blueboard
Learning & Connection
Career growth and connection are key to long-term success for remote teams. Employers should design intentional programs around the way in which employees learn, grow, and connect with one another. A few ideas include:
Continued Learning and Conference Budget
Annual or Bi-Annual Company Retreats to fun locations
Team budgets for virtual trust building and fun, such as these creative ideas that aren’t a happy hour
Occasional care packages, gifts, and/or branded swag delivered to employee homes
The Rise of the “Third Space” Concept
Remote work opens endless possibilities for where and when work happens. If employees don’t want to work from the office, it doesn’t mean they always want to work from home either. Not all homes are designed for long-term remote work.
With the rise of distributed workforces where companies are hiring in states they don’t have an established office, “third spaces” are on the rise. Third spaces allow for a change of scenery, to get inspired and connect with others. Here are some creative “third space” solutions for your team:
Modern co-working spaces, such as Gable provide a more cost-effective and flexible way to provide local neighborhood spaces to your distributed workforce
Hotels, such as citizenM, are adding remote work programs, that include long-term stay discounts and remote work memberships
Kift has designed communal compounds where nomads can spend time together, using their community houses for co-working, cooking, and connection
Imagine if you could take your “workcation” time bopping to various remote-friendly hotels around the world. Sounds fun to me!
Remote work is here to stay. The benefits and perks designed for the office no longer serve remote workers. Companies need to redesign their benefits and perks to attract, retain, and motivate their employees in this new world of work. Being part of the remote work evolution will give companies a strategic advantage. The time for change is now!
Stuck not knowing where to start or how to balance your priorities and budget? I’m here to help.
Here are three ways I can help, whenever you’re ready:
Schedule an "Ask Me Anything" micro consulting session to get 1:1 advice
Buy a Remote Work Playbook to leapfrog your progress
Advisor to your leadership and people team to build a strong people operations foundation and best-in-class employee experiences