The pandemic has created a demand for certain employee perks. As an employer, here are some ideas for your company’s 2021 perks offerings.
It’s officially the New Year, and employees at the tail end of a tough 2020 are looking for workplace perks focused on flexibility and wellness. Many employees want the added control over their own schedules they’ve had from working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic to be permanent, allowing them to better balance obligations at work and home.
One recent report shows that after COVID-19, 1 in 2 people won’t go back to jobs that don’t offer remote work, while 81% of respondents believe their employer will end up supporting remote work after the pandemic.
“The main perks I’m hearing about now are freedom and flexibility and having a good office set up,” said Director of Collaboration Superpowers and remote work expert Lisette Sutherland. “People want comfortable workplaces and flexibility so they can deal with everything that’s happening at home.”
Also, employees want the flexibility to be able to focus on their well-being, “because at the moment, most people seem to be overworking instead of underworking,” Sutherland said.
As you plan for your 2021 benefits, consider the following possible employee perks.
A remote work option
“People want comfortable workplaces and flexibility so they can deal with everything that’s happening at home.”
After months of working from home during the pandemic, many employees want to keep that option. While some employees prefer to work from home full-time, others enjoy time in the office too and want to be home just a few days a week. Letting employees make the choice can save time on commutes and lead to significant savings in terms of real estate expenses. More and more workers also want a remote work policy that specifies that employees who choose to work from home won’t be penalized when it comes to work relationships or promotions.
A shorter workweek
Employees feeling burned out from a difficult year are looking for perks that give them more down time. Options might include giving workers Fridays off during the summer, or a shortened workday on Friday. In recent years, Shake Shack shortened managers’ week to 4 days, while companies in Russia and New Zealand have also switched to a 4-day week. The shortened schedule can increase productivity, boost morale, and even help profits.
A work-from-home stipend
With many employees working remotely for the foreseeable future, ensuring they have a proper workstation setup at home can be an attractive perk. Companies might offer a work-from-home stipend that allows employees to purchase items like ergonomically correct furniture — a standing desk or supportive chair — an extra monitor, or a headset. You might also include a session with an ergonomics expert to make sure employees’ home setup is ideal.
Some companies give employees a mobile stipend, reimbursing them for when they use their personal cell phone for work. With employees working from home, you could also reimburse for internet expenses, or necessary equipment like a home office printer.
Mental health afternoons
One novel idea to help boost well-being is to let employees who’ve finished their work for the day early take a mental health afternoon. The employee could choose to spend the time how they like — a walk in the park, a nap at home, a yoga class — as long as it contributes to their well-being.
This past year has highlighted the importance of reliable childcare for working parents. A major benefit — if you can swing it — is providing working parents with onsite childcare so they can rest easy when there’s a school or daycare cancellation.
Generous paid parental leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act mandates 12 weeks of unpaid leave for new parents, but many employees would prefer a more generous policy that includes paid time off. Many major companies give employees up to 16 weeks of paid parental leave.
Paid COVID-19 leave
With the coronavirus pandemic unlikely to disappear in January, offering paid leave for COVID-related reasons can help employees in these unprecedented times. Consider paying workers for COVID-related emergencies like taking care of a loved one who’s contracted the virus or childcare changes due to a virus-related school shutdown.
Many companies reimburse employees for a gym membership or subsidize yoga studio fees. With more employees working remotely, you can still offer fitness benefits, but make it more flexible. You might pay for employees to take online yoga classes or help them purchase home exercise equipment like a stepper for their home office.
Mandated wellness breaks
In addition to a fitness reimbursement, you might also give time during the workday to exercise — such as going on a run or taking a yoga class. A specific policy or mandate from above to take time out for exercise sends the message that you care about your employees’ health and wellness.
Especially with more employees working away from the office these days, a mentoring program led by senior leaders within your company could help workers to feel more connected to your organization.
A mentoring program led by senior leaders within your company could help workers to feel more connected to your organization.
Giving workers their birthdays off each year to spend as they like can be an inexpensive perk that employees will appreciate.
A coworking membership
Reimbursing employees for a coworking membership is a great benefit for remote workers who can’t, or prefer not to, work from home.
A mask policy
Masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 aren’t required by law everywhere. For some employees, nervous feelings about coming back to work are tied to coworkers who refuse to wear masks. Implementing a clear mask policy with repercussions can help make employees feel more comfortable returning to work.
Designated no meeting days
Deem certain days as meeting-free to allow employees to catch up on work or brainstorm and collaborate on new ideas.
Regular access to executives
Keep employees in the loop by holding a weekly Q&A with company leaders or the executive team. Workers will feel more connected to the business and more invested, and feel like their voices are heard.
Work-life balance policy
With the line between work and home now blurred for many more workers, many would welcome a strict policy that supports balance.
With the line between work and home now blurred for many more workers, many would welcome a strict policy that supports balance. Some companies specify that workers on vacation should not be disturbed while they’re away (after the worker briefs a back-up person). Others are clear that they don’t expect employees to work nights and weekends, with the exception of a true emergency.
The pandemic has unfortunately been a grim reminder of the value of life insurance. Offer a policy if you don’t already, and if you do, add to it if you can. Laurie Roberts, VP of finance and HR at the Silicon Valley-based Bridgepointe Technologies, is adding both long-term disability insurance and 1x salary life insurance for 2021. “Long-term disability would help if anyone had any lingering COVID symptoms,” Roberts said, “and, god forbid, there were any deaths, at least the family would have some short-term cushion.”
As you plan your company perks for 2021, keep in mind that workers at the end of a difficult year are prioritizing flexibility and health and wellness. Even if you don’t have a huge budget for benefits in 2021, there are plenty of low-cost perks you can offer employees in the new year to help boost morale and productivity.