- 1 in 5 companies have implemented some form of hybrid work.
- With more people working remotely, businesses might want to consider other ways to keep employees engaged.
- From commuter to childcare stipends, here are some ideas businesses can float around.
A permanent transition to remote and hybrid working arrangements can be a boon for employers and employees alike. But to make such models successful, it’s not just a matter of changing the location of work.
Research shows that remote and hybrid workers who feel supported by their companies—with strategies to support connections between colleagues, work-life balance, and reduce burnout—are more productive and successful.
Transitioning to flexible work has required a rethink of all aspects of office life, and this should include a reexamination of the perks and benefits companies extend to improve the employee experience.
As you consider how to best support remote and hybrid workers, here are several uncommon perks to consider:
1. Commuter stipends
Working from home can make concentrating easier, but at the same time, workplace relationships are still important. For teams that work a hybrid model, it’s a good idea to have employees come into the office once in a while.
What’s stopping them? Commuting is a big one. After all, who wants to spend time in traffic when they could wrap up their work day and already be at home?
That’s where commuter stipends come in. Many companies already offer employees a stipend to use on public transportation every month, such as Uber, Lyft, or the local rail. Others might also have free electric vehicle charging stations and valet parking services. Anything that eases the burden of driving for employees will encourage them to visit the office.
2. Lunch stipends
Cafeterias have long been a mainstay of office life, and we at RingCentral have enjoyed it for years. They also drive better engagement and productivity, which is why tech companies like Google have famously invested in their employee food programs. But cafeterias will likely change—and some may close altogether—as companies return to the office post-pandemic.
To maintain the benefits of workplace lunches, hybrid and remote companies may want to consider lunch stipends or reimbursement. For example, during COVID, some organizations offered $20 reimbursements on Fridays to cover Postmates deliveries for employees.
3. Home office reimbursements
Many workers’ home office setups this past year have been less than ideal. Janky chairs, dining room tables that don’t align screens to eye level, closets turned into workstations—these ad hoc transformations were necessary.
But they also caused a world of pain: sore backs, repetitive strain injuries, and so on. These can erode productivity, reduce job satisfaction, even cause longer-term health issues for employees. But home office allowances can dramatically improve people’s working arrangements—and perhaps reduce other costs.
For example, giving 350 workers the funds to buy ergonomic chairs works out to roughly the same as a single annual workers’ comp claim, data shows. Meanwhile, the productivity gains of covering sit-stand desks are sufficient to cover the cost of the furniture within just 143 minutes of use. In addition to desks and chairs, companies may also want to consider extending such stipends to computer monitors, Wifi boosters, and other such equipment.
4. Mental health benefits
While productivity has largely increased during work from home, so have issues such as burnout and social isolation. This can in turn increase the risk for mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and stress.
But employers can mitigate these risks by reassessing their existing mental health benefits and ensuring that they sufficiently cover options for both prevention and treatment. This includes things like meditation and stress management programs, therapy and personal time off.
5. Wellness funds
Mental health isn’t the only type of wellness that can take a dip if not proactively addressed. From strain injuries due to poor office setups to a reduction in physical activity from moving around less, remote and hybrid work can take a physical toll on employees too.
Perks such as gym memberships and flexible health spending accounts can help in this respect.
6. Vacation time
The links between remote and hybrid work and productivity have been well-established—but so has the resulting burnout. This may be because when the lines between home and office are blurred, workers have a harder time switching off. Most employees weren’t doing a great job of using their vacation time before the pandemic, but time off is even more of an imperative now.
Extending vacation can be a powerful and important benefit because it allows workers to restore and recharge. Accordingly, unlimited vacation time has become an attractive and growing perk. But whether your company is still measuring out days or allows workers to take off as much time as they need, it’s important to back up PTO policies with a culture that encourages time away from work.
7. Childcare stipends
Much was made of the burden of childcare during the pandemic—especially on women. And only 45% of workers polled in a survey by PwC said their companies did a good job during COVID of extending childcare benefits. Inadequate childcare can decrease the effectiveness of remote and hybrid work because it diverts parental resources away from their jobs. But by enacting benefits to better support parents, businesses can better free up their time and attention during working hours—and improve overall work-life balance.
Originally published Jun 03, 2021, updated Nov 03, 2023