The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated a remote working trend that had been slowly gaining momentum over the last few years. By now, it’s clear that many companies plan on adopting some form of remote working model on a permanent basis, whether it is full time remote or a hybrid approach.
It’s not hard to understand why remote work is here to stay. Many employers have discovered unexpected benefits associated with a remote team, including a dramatic reduction in overhead expenses associated with maintaining a large office space and an ability to leverage a wider talent pool to hire the best people, regardless of where they live. In addition, initial concerns over productivity turned out to be unfounded, as many employees have been even more productive from home without the distractions associated with working in a more social environment.
Similarly, many employees have enjoyed the improved work-life balance associated with working remotely. Eliminating a lengthy commute can free up a significant amount of time each day that employees can now devote to their personal lives. In addition, a more flexible schedule has made it easier for many employees to juggle the needs of caring for a family with their work responsibilities. Others have found it easier to fit exercise and other important activities into their lives due to the flexibility offered by a remote work environment.
All of these advantages point to the remote work trend being here to stay. In fact, a recent survey from the staffing firm LaSalle Network found that 77% of corporate executives expected that some form of a remote working model will remain at their company on a long term basis.
As companies shift to a more permanent remote working model, it will be important for employers to think about the ways that their benefits package must change to accommodate this new system. Some employee benefits, such as healthcare, will still be important, but may need to be modified to accommodate a team living around the country. Other benefits that made sense to cultivate a positive work environment at an office, such as catered lunches or weekly happy hours, may need to be replaced with perks that are tailored to the needs of a remote team.
If you plan on keeping your team remote on a permanent basis, you should consider the following ways to reimagine your employee benefits package in a way that will more effectively address the needs of a remote workforce.
One of the most important aspects of an employee benefits package is health insurance. This won’t change with a remote workforce, but what might need to change is the specific coverage you offer. If you have a remote workforce living in different regions of the country, you may need to provide health insurance coverage that gives your employees a greater ability to access the best doctors in their location.
Certain health plans may only contain in-network providers in specific regions. It’s crucial that your health insurance plans include in-network providers in every location where your team members reside. Otherwise, certain employees will be forced to pay the higher costs associated with out-of-network healthcare services. To ensure you’re choosing the appropriate plans to address the needs of your entire team, make sure all employees notify your HR team about any relocation plans as soon as possible.
Depending on where your employees live, you may need to explore one or more of the following health insurance options:
While there are many benefits to working remotely, this model creates certain challenges as well. The increased social isolation associated with working alone at your home can increase stress and make individuals more prone to depression. In addition, some employees may struggle to compartmentalize their work and home lives, resulting in an increased likelihood of working extremely long hours that may lead to burnout. For these reasons, mental health services are becoming more important than ever.
Make sure you offer health insurance plans that include mental health benefits. These benefits should include access to in-person therapy and counseling as well as telehealth services that will address mental health issues. In addition, you may want to consider offering employees stipends for gym memberships since exercise has been found to strongly contribute to improved mental health and wellbeing.
These mental health and wellness benefits are now a crucial component of a good employee benefits package. A recent survey from FinanceBuzz indicated that 54% of respondents with access to employer-sponsored mental health and wellness benefits experienced an overall improvement in their mental health last year. This figure dropped to 22% for employees who didn’t receive access to these programs as part of their benefits package.
During the pandemic, many remote workers with young children have found it challenging to juggle their job responsibilities with the need to watch their kids. As an employer, you can reduce this burden on your team and improve worker productivity by providing assistance with childcare. One way to do this is to offer a stipend that can be used to defray the costs of monthly childcare expenses.
In order to make sure these benefits are fair to all employees, you may want to consider offering a stipend to all team members which can be used in a variety of ways. For example, parents with young children may choose to put this stipend towards childcare, while other employees may use this money to subsidize their gym membership.
When your employees work in the office, you typically provide them with all of the equipment necessary to perform their job. This may include:
To help your employees make a smooth adjustment to remote working, you may want to consider offering a stipend to pay for some of this home office equipment. This stipend can be used for additional monitors, purchasing the software programs necessary to do their jobs, or ergonomic equipment such as a stand-up desk. If you prefer, you can allow your employees to use some of the equipment from your old office instead of providing this stipend. Whichever option you choose, it will play a crucial role in ensuring your team has all the gear they need to do their job to the best of their ability.
It is critical that you document any equipment that you may allow employees to use in their homes. When employees worked in an office, the equipment stayed in the office and when employees left, it was very easy for you to maintain control over these office items. But once you allow desks, chairs or monitors to leave the office and your employees take them home, you need to create policies for their return in the event an employee leaves. Consult your HR team to determine the best method to accomplish this so that you are not having to buy new furniture for your company because former employees kept things they took home.
While many people still prefer working the traditional 9-5 schedule, it’s not as essential to keep these hours when you work remotely. This is especially true if your team is spread across multiple time zones and don’t keep the exact same hours. Offering the option of a flexible schedule can be an attractive perk that makes your company more appealing to employees.
Giving your employees the option to work early in the morning or later at night can help parents navigate the needs of their kids. It can also help employees build time for exercise into their lives since it may be easier for them get to the gym in the middle of the day while kids are at school.
The key to a successful flexible schedule program is establishing clear expectations for your employees. This should include which communication channels they must monitor during breaks in the middle of the day and a policy about the importance of attending all scheduled meetings. By implementing an effective flexible schedule policy, you can significantly improve the quality of life for your team, and this can help improve your employee retention rate.
Offering your team professional development opportunities can be an important way to improve employee engagement in a remote setting. An increasing number of individuals have indicated that they value professional development. Not only will this help your employees grow their skills and advance their careers, it will also provide you with a more highly skilled team that can deliver better results.
If you’re considering implementing a professional development program at your company, reach out to your employees first to find out what types of opportunities they’re interested in. Providing a stipend to attend a conference or paying for online courses can make your team feel more fulfilled at work.
Choosing the right benefits package to address the unique needs of your employees can be challenging and overwhelming. Fortunately, you don’t have to make these decisions on your own. At PassioHR, we offer robust HR consulting services to help you make the changes to your employee benefits package necessary to more effectively cater to a remote workforce.
You’ll benefit from our Elevated Engagement Plus™ approach which is focused on helping you create a more successful and inspired organization. As part of this approach, we work closely with you to understand your specific goals and the unique challenges facing your team. We’ll then collaborate with you on a customized benefits program that addresses the specific needs of your remote workforce.
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