Will employee perks evolve to support a work force that is mostly working from home? The future of employee perks may look much different than it does today as companies and employees are realizing this “WFH” thing is pretty sweet. What will work from home perks look like in the future?
Employees often get a bad rap. In fact, sometimes we act like a bunch of entitled prigs. Sort of. I say that with a tinge of sarcasm and a healthy dose of reality. Employee perks have not only reached epic levels (massages, scooters, endless meals, bocce courts, etc) but are now the cost of doing business for many companies.
Want to retain good talent? Compensation alone won’t do the trick and companies have gotten increasingly more creative in the types of perks they provide employees. I need my vegan snacks hand curated by free trade yogis from Chile!
For example, some companies now provide their staff unlimited vacation days, onsite workout classes, free onsite childcare, credits towards public transportation and of course the obligatory free snacks, drinks, and even meals sometimes.
And the perks get even better in some cases. Here’s a few interesting ones:
- Apple and Facebook will pay $20,000 of a female employee’s cost of freezing their eggs.
- Airbnb gives staff $2000/yr in travel credits
- Google gives employees free rides to work, death benefits, cooking classes and laundry facilities
What’s interesting about many of these perks (although not all) is they tend to be geared towards the onsite employee.
And that may be a problem going forward.
Everyone went remote — and few were ready
In a matter of weeks much of the world economy shutdown. Travel nearly all but ceased and millions upon millions of workers simply started working from home.
And many were not prepared.
Legions of employees suddenly adapted to working from their dining room table, the garage, an unfinished basement or even a child’s nursery (as one of my employees did).
Kid interruptions became the norm as both parents and kids and companies attempted to coexist. Take a call with your kid on your lap because your wife was also on a call? No big deal.
Dogs barking every time the Amazon delivery guy dropped off another pallet of toilet paper? Just a normal day.
But, we all settled in pretty quickly.
We started using virtual backgrounds, and green screens, we bought a few new accessories for our home office, we learned how to stay productive when working from home; we all chilled out a little bit about distractions and professionalism in the home. We even started making fun of working from home – the true measure of adoption: memes (LOL).
We figured out how to make it work; we adapted.
And we all realized we kinda like it. And so did our companies.
Is working from home a perk? Not anymore
For some companies, the ability to work from home was a perk doled out by stodgy HR departments who, in bequeathing to employees, felt a bit more modern. See we can change.
But, let’s be real. Working from home is not a perk anymore.
Companies are benefiting from increased productivity
If working from home still is a perk, it’s perk for companies who now report increased productivity from staff and lower labor costs.
“U.S. workers were 47% more productive in March and April than in the same two months a year ago through cloud-based business tools, chat applications and email, according to an analysis of 100 million data points from 30,000 Americans by workplace-monitoring company Prodoscore.” — MarketWatch
Indeed, many companies now report a notable increase in the productivity of their employees and some, like Twitter and Facebook have announced plans to let employees continue to work from home — perhaps even indefinitely in some cases.
In addition to the productivity gains, companies are lusting after the potential savings in real estate costs — particularly in high cost areas like Silicon Valley where real estate is at a premium. In fact, a Stanford study from a few years ago found that companies saved on average $2,000 an employee when letting them work from home. Wait, what?
Moreover, allowing a larger work from home workforce broadens the available talent pool which not only increases the quality of employees available for given roles, but also creates opportunities to drive down labor costs.
Why pay an engineer $200,000 a year to live in Silicon Valley when you can get the same productivity from an employee in Kansas City at $145,000 a year?
Not to mention all the onsite perks they suddenly aren’t spending money on anymore.
The big fear for many companies was that massive productivity losses would be incurred by firms who moved their workforce out of traditional brick and mortar offices and that morale or communication would suffer.
This has proven to simply not be true.
Companies are benefiting mightily from this forced experiment!
(PS…the environment is benefiting too…less commute, less congestion on the roads, less greenhouse gas, etc)
Employees are loving this too
Companies aren’t the only ones lapping up this new model. Employees are loving it too. And while many of them are tired of being quarantined and miss the social interaction they probably got at work that’s a COVID issue and not a long term problem.
The New York Times recently addressed employee sentiments on working from home and noted:
Working at home can also improve how employees feel about their jobs. Historically, “research has shown a powerful correlation between telecommuting and job satisfaction,” says Timothy Golden, a professor of management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who has studied telework for two decades. People tend to prize the greater flexibility in setting their work hours, the additional time with family members, the reduced distractions. Even with the onslaught of online messages confronting teleworkers, “no one’s stopping by your cubicle standing over you saying, ‘Hey, I need this,’ or ‘I need your help right now,’” Golden told me recently. — NY Times
The reality is that employees, for the most part, enjoy working from home — if not permanently, at least some significant part of their week. This combination of employee desire and company interest have created a sea change in how society is thinking about the modern workforce.
Working from home is not only here for now (thank you COVID) it is likely here forever.
But, at some point, employees are going to demand new types of perks designed for work from home employees. It may not be immediately as the labor force is unsettled right now with massive and crippling unemployment, but as the economy recovers and talents becomes scarce again, the perks will perk up. It’s basic supply and demand.
What might work from home perks look like in this new world?
So, what might work from home perks look like in this brave new world? We’ve done a little thought experiment here that considers what some “normal” (aka non-lavish) work from home perks might look like as well as went even further and thought about what the “silly” perks might look like.
Here’s a few work from home perks that might start to take hold in the workplace. These are rooted in practicality and/or are extensions or modifications of onsite perks or previously provided company perks with a twist for the work from home employee.
- 100% coverage of internet — not just a stipend as some companies offer — but the whole thing
- 100% coverage of phone bill — again, not just a contribution, but the whole thing.
- Unlimited mobility – work from anywhere and different places (and feel free to workation whenever you want!)
- Some contribution to outfitting your home office (e.g. $1,000 to spend on whatever you need — such as a new desk or a new desk lamp, etc)
- Dual monitors, wireless headsets — a full home office setup for productivity — not a token effort, but an “all-in” approach by the company that focuses on getting staff the right equipment to maximize their productivity
- Stand-up desk kits— employees want to be healthy in the office or not
- Snack stipend — since you aren’t eating granola bars or drinking our coffee, here’s a few shekels to supplement your
- Snack or coffee subscriptions like Bean Box , Snack Nation
- A total embrace of digital nomad lifestyle. Not only can you “work from home” but we don’t care if it’s a different home every day or halfway around the world. Just get the work done.
- Far more flexible hours — again just get the work done. If you need to home school your kids for 2 hours in the middle of day, fine.
- Gym memberships to your local gym
Note: Some companies already provide some of these perks for their WFH teams.
The Nutty Perks
Since all things are competitive and often companies will use extreme perks to attract talent let’s inject a little silliness into our thought experiment and consider the potential ways companies might go-big on their work from home perks. Free your mind, if you will, for a moment.
- $10,000 towards a home office conversion / remodel project
- $3,000 high end desk chairs — that you can keep
- Complete coverage of your families wireless plans
- Travel vouchers for your family to accompany you to the once-a-year company meeting that you have to travel for
- In-home nanny or Au-pair services to allow two spouses to work from home during the summer months
- A housing stipend above and beyond an employees basic salary
Are you serious?
Is this for real? Some of the old timers reading this article are spewing coffee out of their mouths right now. These insolent, entitled Generation Y…
Pump the brakes Gen-X, pump the brakes! (or, “OK, Boomer…”)
Sure, some companies will always use extreme measures to attract talent? Why? Because they can, usually. Or because they are in market segments that are uber competitive. And yes, a subset of talent will come to expect these lavish gifts (just like the onsite massages in silicon valley).
Most companies, however, will find a reasonably-minded happy medium that attracts enough decent talent to keep the staff interested and engaged and telling their friends about it.
Markets shift and ebb and flow. Supply and demand shift. The market will settle in to a new normal where the appropriate level of work from home perks are extended to the demand and the outliers will be just that: Click bait titles on Yahoo’s home page.
For now, those of you now running companies with work from home staff, stop being a-holes and give your staff some decent monitors. And then think about how your might use new Work from Home Perks to attract and retain talent in your company in this new world we are all living in.
PS, if you are looking for interesting home office gifts for your staff consider our guide.
Jeremy runs a large IT organization, is of the Generation X, and spends a ton of time in an airplane (well, used to anyways pre-pandemic). He has 200 employees all of whom are working from home right now. This post was originally published on Medium.
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