Eleanor Hecks is the managing editor of Designerly. She’s also a mobile app designer with a focus on UI. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and goldendoodles, Bear and Lucy. Connect with her about marketing, UX and/or tea on LinkedIn.
As more companies offer remote work options, staying competitive to retain your top talent becomes more challenging. What employee benefits do most of your remote staff want and how can you find creative ways to offer what the bigger companies do?
Remote work has segued from something a handful of companies offered to many businesses providing at least a hybrid approach. The goal is to save money and appease an ever-growing workforce that wants to be home during the workday.
In the 2023 State of Remote Work survey, researchers found 98% of employees would like to work remotely at least some of the time. Respondents also listed a few concerns, such as staying home too much and not wanting to go anywhere, loneliness, lack of connection with co-workers and staying plugged in outside normal working hours.
The majority, around 68%, reported very positive feelings toward remote work. Some of the biggest benefits listed included flexibility, better focus, saving money and feeling safer. Here’s more on the reasons staff would prefer home-based opportunities.
Companies must understand that people see work-from-home options as a way to have more flexibility. If a brand institutes rigid work schedules between certain hours of the day, much of the flexibility of remote work goes away. One of the top employee benefits should be the freedom to choose your own schedule.
Another way remote work is flexible is that it can be completed anywhere. The family could go on vacation anywhere there’s an internet connection. The staff member completes their work outside of activities and still enjoys evenings and other times with family and friends.
Remote work can offer a shortened schedule that helps people get through a rough day or two. That includes those who’ve had a sick child or felt under the weather but didn’t want to use a personal day to take time off. Allow people to have some flex time to push half the day into the rest of the week or shorten their schedule to get through an emergency or rough moment.
2. Competitive Pay
People who live in small towns or locations with lower pay can use remote work to get a raise without moving. They can reach out to employers in big cities to ramp up the pay rate but can work remotely and stay in their current housing.
One thing to remember is that employees expect regular raises at least annually. Find a way to encourage career ladder progression, even for those working from home. Keep up with the cost of living so a raise doesn’t just keep up with inflation but betters workers a bit.
Keeping top-skilled workers on staff is a costly undertaking. Companies must prioritize retaining the employees they’ve poured time and training into for possibly years. However, there must also be a balance so the company remains profitable.
Crunch the numbers and be honest with employees about what you can afford. You can also offer other perks that spread out the cost throughout the year, such as paid time off or stipends for home office expenses, vacations and other desirable items.
Put yourself in the shoes of the remote worker. Feedback may be sparse. They might work for days and weeks without interacting with anyone other than a project manager or team leader. It’s sometimes difficult to figure out what they should do to improve their work.
Remote employees report a 20% higher happiness rate than office workers. That might be because brands are more aware of including them in rewards programs and keeping a connection open so they’re engaged.
Take the time to reach out to individual remote employees and let them know they’re doing an excellent job. Give them gift cards to restaurants in their area or an online store they might like and make it easy for them to access the rewards.
Since not everyone cares for monetary rewards, include accolades, as well. Start a “good job” loop for the company and shout out to those who go above and beyond. Seeing the praise might also inspire other staff members to try a bit harder.
As a brand grows, it’s natural to keep hiring new workers. Unfortunately, adding too many can water down the attention of long-time, loyal employees. People who feel overlooked often begin the hunt for a new position. Remember who understands your company best and who helped you build it. Reach out to them regularly with employee benefits such as bonuses, gifts and verbal praise.
4. Commuting Budget
Your company may have a hybrid approach, where you have people come in a day or two a week for meetings. How can you offset the expense and time of driving into the office? Offer a commuting stipend and pay for their fuel. Add an extra hour of pay onto the in-office days to cover expenses.
Recruit new employees by highlighting the savings of working remotely a few days a week. They won’t need as many work clothes, can eat lunch at home, and will save time and money on their drive. The average commute time is 28 minutes, so they could save an hour or more every day they work from home.
You could also reward those who carpool by giving them lunch on the company or other perks. Allow employees to tap into meetings via Zoom when they aren’t in the office so no one is left out.
5. Upgraded Home Office Setup
Having the right setup at home helps increase productivity and keep the company network secure. Train your tech team to walk new employees through onboarding by setting up software and security settings on their computers.
If you can afford it, you should offer a budget to buy a new desk, chair and other auxiliary equipment for the office. A second computer monitor can be helpful for design jobs.
If possible, supply a second computer so the employee doesn’t use their personal machine and put sensitive data at risk. Having a dedicated computer also separates work and fun time.
6. Company Swag
You could pass out promotional items with your company’s name and logo. Your loyal employees are your best influencers, so give them promotional items to talk up your brand when they’re out and about. Consider them your walking billboards, if they’re willing.
Build company swag into your rewards programs. Send employees a nice computer bag with your logo for the holidays or give them a travel mug, mouse pad or T-shirt at the end of each successful quarter.
7. Networking Opportunities
One of the challenges of remote work is fewer networking opportunities, but the online world allows people to connect in ways they never have before. Encourage a 5x5x5 method for short networking opportunities with impact.
Segment five-minute increments to equal 15 minutes a day. For example, employees might spend five minutes looking at other workers’ profiles, five minutes chatting with the company’s CEO and five minutes studying the competition. Typically, the method is used in job searches and expanding online connections, but the idea could be adapted for multiple uses.
You could also offer a short online video session highlighting three employees, giving them five minutes each to introduce themselves and share their skills and interests. The key is to keep it short and to the point.
8. Health Care and Mental Wellness
People want to have affordable health care. Offer health benefits to your workers so you remove that worry from their lives. No one wants to scramble for the funds to go to the doctor.
Encourage workers to set up their space to take advantage of natural light. One study found that controlling daylight improved eyestrain and headaches by 84% and boosted productivity.
Mental wellness should also be a top priority. Offer access to counseling when needed and encourage workers to take mental health breaks without penalty. Your staff is the best judge of when they need to step away, particularly during high-stress periods, such as in the middle of a huge project with a deadline. They’ll return refreshed, able to focus better and get tasks done on time and with quality.
9. Training and Education
Employees want to feel you’re investing in them. Offer a budget for them to take any workshop or class that applies to their job or your company in general. The added skill sets benefit the business. Offer remote learning opportunities to improve employee morale significantly with software that tracks and offers training ladders.
Also, provide companywide opportunities to learn new skills. Look for things that will improve work or increase understanding of existing tools. Vary the topics to boost productivity, honing in on specific skills and team building. Remote employees can join virtually and still get a lot from the experience.
In a survey of over 1,000 workers, Deloitte found about 77% say they've experienced burnout at their current job. Feeling overwhelmed and unengaged leads to more sick days and even voluntary separations. Preventing burnout is crucial if you want employees to work efficiency and stay with your company long term.
Encourage your workers to take breaks at certain points in their day. Don’t make them log out for a five-minute bathroom break. Understand that stepping away from the computer for a few minutes may make them more productive and they shouldn’t be punished by having to work longer.
Offer an extra paid day off that isn’t a holiday but can be used to get away from the day-to-day stress of work. Provide gift cards to go to a movie or dinner out. Offer a vacation stipend to ensure they use their PTO and get away instead of shifting to work mode around their homes.
Bonus: Offer Unusual Employee Benefits
You don’t have to offer the same perks every other company does. Some things are nonnegotiable for the average employee, such as competitive pay and benefits, while others are just nice to have, and mixing them up is OK.
Each employee has different needs. One may have a spouse with benefits and not need health insurance. Offer flexibility so they can use the funds for an education stipend, child care or whatever their needs might be. The cost is the same for you, but the benefits are defined by what your staff needs.
Offering perks no one else does and making them specific to your staff ensures they’ll take the position and stay for many years. Feel free to mix things up and try something new.