March 31, 2022 | Austin Herrington

Future perks: 5 employee benefits that hybrid workers actually want

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Austin Herrington, Vice President of Product Management

Austin Herrington

Austin oversees Windstream Enterprise’s voice product strategy and roadmap. He and his team develop, manage and market advanced products and services. Austin holds an MBA from the University of Arkansas’ Sam M. Walton College of Business.
Summary: Remote and hybrid work is here to stay. With workers no longer dedicating their full work weeks to the office, employers need to spruce up their employees’ benefits and perks. Here’s a list of benefits that employees really want.

Change in the workplace is happening faster than ever before, and hybrid work is becoming the most popular business model to come out of the pandemic. But the past two years have caused many to rethink other parts of work too—specifically, the role of work in their lives and what they value most about their jobs. 

Employee perks have always been an important way for employers to show appreciation to their workers. Now, it’s the responsibility of leaders to figure out what these benefits look like in a hybrid environment, especially when many of these perks are meant for those who are in the office full time.

What benefits are out of style?

In a pre-COVID era, employee perks were increasingly common across all industries, through the form of company cafeterias, stocked pantries, onsite gyms, game rooms, and commuter stipends. In a time when employees spent their entire work week at the office, such benefits were a complete win-win. But what used to attract workers may now look like encouragement to spend longer hours in the office—and in a hybrid world where there is less of an emphasis on coming into the office, these investments don’t offer the same value for many employees. 

What do employees really want?

With more people working from home more often, companies should shift gears by offering a new set of perks and benefits. These types of incentives play an important role in employee satisfaction, which contributes to improving workers’ productivity and leads to workers feeling more appreciated.

What do these new-age benefits look like? Here are a few.

1. Flexibility

A WeWork study found that 75% of employees would give up at least one benefit or perk—including cash bonuses and paid time off—for the freedom to choose their work environment. That number is pretty astounding, and goes to show the immense price that employees are willing to pay to ensure flexibility in how and where they work. Simply put, flexibility of hybrid work is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a shoo-in. 

By ensuring flexibility in their locations, and even wiggle room around their dedicated work hours, employees will undoubtedly reveal their best work. In fact, Gartner found that employer-controlled workspaces aren’t important to their productivity or engagement. According to Gartner’s 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey, 43% of respondents said that flexibility in working hours helped them achieve greater productivity, and 30% of respondents said that less or no time commuting enabled them to be more productive.

2. Wellness

While productivity may have thrived in the work-from-home era, employees’ well-being hasn’t. Worker burnout is at an all-time high, contributing to the Great Resignation, bad home office setups have led to a rise in strain injuries, and it doesn’t help that employees are prioritizing fitness less than they did pre-COVID. All of these elements together is a recipe for physical and mental health challenges that can greatly affect work quality and productivity and employee morale. 

Today, we are seeing wellness touted as a major post-pandemic priority, both at the workplace and in personal lives. And since the lines between work and home are blended in remote and hybrid work environments, employees are hungry for wellness benefits (e.g., subscriptions to meditation or mental wellness apps, discounted gym memberships, etc.) to combat these negative trends and help employees feel and perform their best. 

3. Better collaboration

According to Gartner, 71% of HR leaders are more concerned about employee collaboration last year than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. In remote environments, employees lack a watercooler to gather around, interactions are more scheduled than spontaneous and those interactions almost always occur through screens. “To unleash innovation in this context, leaders must empower employees to collaborate more intentionally,” said Gartner’s Director of Research Alexia Cambon about the matter. “Teams of knowledge workers who collaborate intentionally are nearly three times more likely to achieve high team innovation than teams that do not use an intentional approach.”

What we’ve learned over the past two years is that hybrid work models offer new ways for employees to collaborate productively, but leaders are responsible for helping to create those opportunities. Workplace collaboration is fundamental for enabling the seamless, virtual sharing of knowledge between people and organizations and there are numerous use cases that showcase how different collaboration tools can benefit different businesses.

4. Food stipends

One of the best perks of working from home is that employees can set their own schedules. This includes the ability to eat whatever and whenever they want. A survey conducted by DoorDash found that 85% of employees said regular food delivery would increase their job satisfaction, and 9 out of 10 employees missed at least one food-related benefit now they work from home. And honestly, who doesn’t miss the race to the conference room for perfectly good, abandoned sandwiches and snacks, or celebratory birthday sheet cakes?

Whether it’s sending your teammates brownies for a virtual bonding session, recognizing hard work with a Starbucks gift card or providing takeout when everyone is buried under a big project, food stipends can replace the perk once found in office settings. Better yet, they’ll feel much more deliberate and meaningful. 

5. PTO perks

No wonder workers are experiencing burnout: The average employee clocks an extra 2.5 hours per day at home since the onset of forced remote work during the pandemic. Giving workers time back is an impactful way to reward hard work and dedication, while restoring their motivation and wellness at the same time. 

Tackling PTO policy reform is a big conversation that might take time to change. At the very least, try to be understanding to workers when they need to log off early to pick up children after school, ask to work remotely from an Airbnb for a week or request a couple hours during the day to accomplish something personal. Doing so enables flexibility and the show of trust pays off with happy workers and deadlines met. 

Trend toward hybrid

It’s clear that hybrid work is becoming a permanent—and positive—part of our lives. 83% of employers say the shift to remote work was successful for their companies; now they just have to figure out how to make hybrid work as productive as possible. Rethinking traditional workplace perks is a critical way to generate a more individualized, respectful and employee-centric environment. 

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Key takeaway: Many of the pre-pandemic benefits that companies offered are no longer relevant in hybrid and remote workplaces. Consider these hybrid employee benefits, which can contribute to greater job satisfaction, productivity and retention. 
Vice President of Product Management

Austin Herrington

Austin oversees Windstream Enterprise’s voice product strategy and roadmap. He and his team develop, manage and market advanced products and services. Austin holds an MBA from the University of Arkansas’ Sam M. Walton College of Business.