Like many other matters, workplace benefits have changed under the influence of the COVID19 pandemic. How to adapt? Read here to find out more.
In a world where companies are fighting over good, talented, and loyal employees, offering your team everything they need to be happy with their employer is absolutely essential. Workplace benefits play a huge role in this -- but if there’s anything the COVID-19 crisis has shown, it’s that free coffee and unlimited baskets of fruit might just not cut it in a modern workplace.
What then, are some modern/ hybrid workplace benefits your employees would appreciate?
Employee Benefits in the Modern Workplace
Employee benefits are clearly important. Statistics show that 69% of employees believe that the benefits they receive make them more loyal to the companies they work for. Of course, benefit packages and the preferences associated with them can vary a lot from one company to another, and from one employee to another.
However, one thing is for certain: in a post-COVID19 context, where many companies are likely to set hybrid workplace strategies in place, adapting employee benefit packages to the “new normal” is a must.
What Are Workplace Benefits?
In business language, workplace benefits are what a company provides its employees to make them feel better or more comfortable. Benefits usually include things like:
• Health and injury benefits: free medical and dental services, and other health care insurance.
• Insurance: both paid and unpaid benefits.
• Retirement: retirement savings plans, pension plans, etc.
• Accident insurance: an employee’s life can be affected by an accident or other unexpected incident.
• Purchasing benefits (principally work-related) such as company clothing, equipment, etc.
• Other perks such as additional vacation time or cash bonuses, office snacks, wellness programs, and so on.
Benefits help employees feel valued and necessary – they’re a kind of reward for what they do, and also a factor of attraction for new recruits. As it turns out, the more you, as an employer, put into the benefits your company provides, the more likely you are to retain talented individuals who will work harder for your company, as some have argued.
Different types of benefits are provided by different kinds of companies. For example, manufacturing, construction, and mining companies are more likely to provide things like medical insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, or short-term disability insurance. Meanwhile, financial, professional services, and IT companies are more likely to provide things like retirement plans, health savings accounts (HSAs), childcare benefits, or pet care benefits.
To narrow the definition even more, workplace benefits refer to those employer benefits that are related to the workplace itself. Back in pre-COVID19 days, this mostly referred to office-related benefits (like free coffee, fruit, refreshing beverages, a certain type of office design, pizza days, and so on).
In post-COVID19 contexts, workplace benefits change in the wake of a new, modern, hybrid workplace model.
What Is the Modern Workplace?
From cubicles to open space offices and then remote and hybrid workplaces, the world of "office work" has changed quite a lot in the last couple of decades. The term "modern workplace" is generally used to define the type of work that takes place in modern offices.
The idea behind the open space model was that these types of workplaces are geared towards the needs of today’s employees. They are characterized by open communication spaces, collaborative settings, and frequent communication between colleagues.
However, in a world where the majority of employees say they prefer a hybrid working model (which allows them to work both remotely and in office, at their preference), the "modern workplace" is re-defined. Collaboration is no longer a matter of setting up meeting rooms that enable people to communicate in the same room, but also setting up technology (software and hardware) that enables people to communicate and collaborate in the same room AND from outside of it.
Hybrid Workplace Advantages and Challenges
The hybrid workplace is, quite likely, the future of work. Like everything else, however, it does come with its own series of pros and cons.
Advantages of a Hybrid Workplace
According to a survey ran by Accenture on more than 9,000 people, a staggering 83% of them find hybrid work as the ideal working model. Clearly, there are many advantages to hybrid offices, which include:
- Flexibility. Hybrid work environments enable employees to view their workplace as a part of their lives, rather than the other way around.
- Discipline. Hybrid work allows for flexible hours and a flexible schedule that can help improve productivity and help employees stay on track.
- Motivation. Employees are happier, they feel more valued, and they are more committed to their work when they can work from anywhere.
- Increased productivity. As the saying goes, "You're never more productive than when you're on vacation." Well, although remote work isn’t exactly “on vacation” (as we have all learned it in 2020), the fact that people have more balance in their lives helps them be more productive at work.
- Improved workplace culture. When employees are allowed to work remotely or in different locations, they are able to build better relationships with their colleagues, which is vital for good workplace culture.
- Improved employee satisfaction. The more relaxed employees are, the more efficient their work will be and the more likely it will be that they’ll stay loyal to your company.
- Efficiency. Employees are likely to be more efficient when they are not forced to work in an open space office, which can often lead to people being exhausted by the end of the day.
- Cost efficiency. As they say, there's no such thing as a free lunch. If employees are working from outside of the office, they might be spending more money on things like travel, meals, and entertainment. This can add up to a significant amount of money over the months and years. Furthermore, hybrid work provides you, the employer, with cost efficiency as well (as you will pay less on office spaces and all the utilities associated with them).
- Better life/work balance. With a hybrid workplace, employees can find a productive balance between work and life.Consequently, their job satisfaction and productivity will be boosted as well.
- Better collaboration. Employees collaborate better when they are not in the same room, as they can communicate more freely and focus on what's important.
- Fewer distractions. Open office spaces often lead to employees being distracted by things like noise, awkward silence, or people looking over their shoulders at their screens.
Challenges of Hybrid Workplaces
All this sounds more than attractive both for employers and for employees. However, hybrid work is not without its challenges. Some of the most preeminent ones include the following:
Hybrid workplaces need to be managed carefully for best results. Some of the most important challenges that hybrid employers face include:
- Cultural acceptance. Let's face it, some work cultures are more accustomed to the traditional office model, and that's not likely to change very soon. While the hybrid working model still provides access to the "traditional" setting, some people (employees and employers alike) are simply not accustomed to the alternation between remote work and in-office work.
- Availability of technology. Hybrid work relies on a lot of technology and requires that the right systems and tools be in place (e.g., remote hardware, cloud solutions, and communications platforms). This can be challenging for employers who don't have enough money to allocate for this kind of thing.
- Remoteness. Working from home or from outside of the office is often associated with being disconnected from the team or other colleagues that are hard to reach or communicate with by phone or email.
- Anxiety. As remote work can be a new and unfamiliar way of working for many employees, there is a lot of anxiety involved: on the part of employees and employers alike.
- Concern on keeping everything up and running. As the aforementioned reality of the "good old days" is gone, employers need to be aware that some people might experience some problems with communication, as well as with productivity and results due to lack of communication between colleagues.
- Confusion leading to hesitation. As mentioned above, there is a lot of uncertainty involved in remote working – especially for those who have never done it before. At first, employees might feel a bit anxious about it all and worry if their colleagues will even notice that they’re not in the office.
Even with all these challenges, hybrid work is still worth it, and even more so in a post-COVID19 world, where people are likely to want "the best of the two worlds": the advantages of working from home and the things they've missed while being forced to do this in lockdown.
Why Are Employee Benefits Even More Important in the Modern Workplace?
The COVID19 world has definitely brought along many changes -- and one of them is how people have access to jobs, as well as how they perform at them. The world is now an open job marketplace for a lot of people (and the pool will probably continue to expand in the next few years as well). Combined with the fact that workplace benefits focused on "wellness at the office" simply don't make sense anymore, it is clear that adapting to the "new normal" workplace benefits is more important than ever.
Here are some of the main reasons you should consider rethinking your workplace benefits in the new context:
- Increase Productivity. If you want to improve employee productivity, rethinking your workplace benefits is one of the best ways. There are plenty of studies that show how traditional, office-centric benefits lead to many other problems, including higher turnover rates.
- Employee Appreciation. If you value your employees and you want them to be happy, it's time to take a look at your workplace benefits. With the COVID19 mindset taking over society, employees are wanting more control over their lives and more work flexibility.
- Increases Loyalty. If you want to enhance employee loyalty, it’s time to rethink your workplace benefits. It is a fact that people love benefits – and not just the obvious ones of being able to have a proper cup of tea or the constant cajoling of your team members about how your benefits are "the bomb." In the new world, people want more flexibility and control over their lives -- and they need these things from their employers.
- Decreased Stress Levels. Stressed employees are not happy employees, and unhappy employees are unproductive employees. It's a simple equation -- one whose result you can steer in the right direction with the right employee benefit package.
- Lowers Absenteeism. If you want to lower absenteeism, it’s time to reconsider your workplace benefits. As mentioned above, sickness is one of the biggest reasons for employees to miss work. So, if you can help your employees feel good in their bodies and in their minds, they are more likely to not feel sick (and therefore will be able to stay at work).
- Improves Recruiting. If you want to recruit the best talent, it’s time to rethink your workplace benefits. That can be challenging, as research shows that people are now looking for more flexibility in their jobs -- something that can be hard to achieve with traditional office-centric workplaces.
- Increases Retention. If you want to improve retention rates, it is time to rethink your workplace benefits. As with recruiting, people want more flexibility and control over their lives. They also love benefits -- something that helps them feel valued and appreciated, and helps them feel like they are making a difference in return for the work they do.
Key Strategies to Building an Effective Hybrid Workplace
Effective hybrid workplaces rely on small details Facility Managers and HR professionals have to consider thoroughly. For example, some of the things you can do to build an effective hybrid work space include the following:
Bridge the Physical and the Digital
One of the key elements you'll have to consider when putting in place a hybrid workplace is how you connect physical presence and digital presence. No matter where they choose to work from, you want your employees to feel included. For instance, the right technology (screens for video calls, quality sound equipment, and so on) can help with this.
Embrace Technologies Supporting Hybrid Work
As mentioned before, technology plays a crucial role in making hybrid work actually...work. Some of the most important technologies are listed below:
- Collaboration software, such as Zoom for video or Slack for chat
- Virtual collaboration tools, such as GoToMeeting
- Workplace antivirus solutions
- Workplace scheduling software, such as YAROOMS
- Mobile apps for employees to see their performance instantly, without having to leave their desks
- Workplace VPNs that help people collaborate remotely
- Hardware that promotes collaboration and inclusiveness (screens, quality sound systems, etc.)
Rethink the Office Space
For years, open office spaces resumed to "open rooms" for individual work and "closed rooms" for meetings. However, with social distancing norms still in place, it's time for you to rethink this space and flip it around, making large open rooms the place for meetings and small, enclosed rooms the place for individual, focused work.
Your rooms don't have to serve the same purpose throughout the day. A large, open-space meeting room can be easily transformed into a lunchroom at noon and in an event room to let in the evening.
Workplace Benefits Changes in a Post-Pandemic World
As we were saying earlier, the post-pandemic world has changed a lot -- and workplace benefits are among them. It's not just that people are not in the office (as much as they used to be at least). It's also the fact that people's priorities and aspirations have focused.
You aren't alone in the endeavor of adapting your workplace benefits to the "new normal".
According to a study, 78% of employers are making efforts in this direction. For example, the same study shows that more than half of employees are now including maternity and paternity leaves in their packages.
Furthermore, stress management resources increased by 11%, personal and life coaching benefits were boosted by 7%, and meditation and mindfulness programs were increased by 7%.
At the same time, health insurance premiums for wellness programs decreased by 11%, and bonuses for completing health & wellness programs were bumped down by 9% as well.
Key Employee Benefits in the Hybrid Workplace
All this being said (and done), what are, in the end, the key employee benefits your hybrid workplace should include? Well, while the packages might differ from one company to another and even from one employee to another, the following benefits are more than worth considering:
Nothing is more counter-productive in the post-pandemic world than an employee who spends all day, every day working without taking care of their personal life. To combat this, hybrid workplace solutions should include maternity and paternity leave, telecommuting arrangements, flexible work arrangements, and work/life balance tools.
While it's true that the post-pandemic world has hampered the "old way" of doing things, it has also boosted the need for flexibility in pretty much everything you are doing. Working from home is nothing new to us today, but it's also reassuring that there are plenty of benefits out there that can help with this, including workplace flexibility that allows you to work from wherever you want.
Home Office Allowance
Employees today expect the right to establish a physical office from wherever they want. In order to meet those needs, hybrid workplace solutions should allow their employees to keep a working space at home as well as an office space on site.
Employer-Subsidized Internet and Work Setup
Since most employees will be working from home or from a non-traditional office, they should have access to all the tools they need. This includes an internet connection that is both reliable and fast enough to support their work requirements, as well as a desk setup that covers their needs.
Features that are good for one employee might not be so good for the other, especially when it comes to insurance. For example, some might require a higher deductible while others will want coverage for maternity leave -- and so on. Taking this into consideration, it's recommended you find an insurance solution that covers everything your employees need without limiting them to work locations or hours.
Since telemedicine is now an integral part of healthcare facilities, it's not a stretch to consider it as an integral part of the hybrid workplace as well. Telemedicine allows your employees to connect with their doctors online -- without ever leaving home.
Mental Health Benefits & Employee Well-Being
Stress is an unavoidable part of the lives of all employees, so it makes sense to have benefits in place that help them support their well-being. Whether it's access to mental health counseling or stress management tools, this is an important step all employers should consider taking.
By granting access to education benefits, you are granting access to opportunities for learning. This is essential in the post-pandemic world, where employees can take advantage of opportunities that will help them grow and learn something new at any time.
In the post-pandemic world, employees are expected not only to grow but also to take care of their children. That's why employers should consider giving their employees access to childcare benefits at work and at home. This will give working parents a more flexible way of managing their work and personal life balance, as well as help stimulate creativity.
The world has always changed. But never before have we had to face changes as swift (and sometimes shocking) as the ones produced by the COVID19 pandemic. From wearing masks to social distancing and lockdowns, this medical event made us all change our habits, our ways of working, and our very approach on life almost overnight.
Even if, as an employer, you might be able (or want) to ignore that the world around you has changed, your employees will probably not do the same. And that is exactly why you need to adapt -- sooner, rather than later. Workplace benefits are among the things you will definitely want to tackle first. Hopefully, our article has helped you with this!
What other workplace benefits adapted to the "new normal" would YOU add to the list mentioned above?