The ability to work remotely has evolved from a perk of the job to an essential feature businesses rely on for their survival. It’s now part of the furniture, and, going forward, employees won’t just see flexible policies as a bonus; they’ll expect them.
As human resource departments and team managers figure out how to keep current employees happy and attract a new workforce, here are some insights into remote work benefits that are great for employees and businesses alike.
Remote Work: a Gift and a Curse
Even prior to the pandemic, remote work was gaining traction. It helped all sorts of businesses widen their net of talented new hires and gave many employees more flexibility to how they work. From working remotely one day a week to doing it full-time, several studies have shown the positive effects of virtual work — as well with higher job satisfaction for employees, greater longevity in employee roles, lower overhead for businesses and so much more.
With COVID-19 expediting how remote work is conducted, both employers and employees are left to figure out what is next. With an estimated 42 percent of workers clocking in virtually, working remotely is no longer an advantage; it’s now the new standard for many industries.
However, as remote work continues to rapidly adjust to the current times, business leaders, IT departments and HR reps are left trying to figure out how to help their teams adapt.
5 Modern Perks for Your Remote Team
So how can businesses and employees get support when working remotely? And what kind of support do they need?
For people living with families to those living alone, the pandemic has brought challenges to everyone now working remotely. Trust your team and offer flexible hours. It turns out that remote workers work an average of 1.4 more days per month than their in-office counterparts, according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey conducted in 2019.
2. Remote Workspace Set-Up
At the office, many companies provided ergonomic desk set-ups, fast Wi-Fi and online security. Offering a stipend for employees to properly set up their home office or letting people pick up their in-office equipment can make a big difference.
Home internet is being dramatically overloaded, so consider offering financial resources to help employees upgrade their Wi-Fi (especially since many are sharing with other family members).
And don’t forget that home offices sit outside the company firewall. Offer cybersecurity support for all household devices, provide information about how to secure their home router and, of course, use multi-factor authentication (MFA) and a password manager or identity-management software.
3. Mental and Physical Well-Being
Instead of providing an office gym or covering a gym membership, consider subsidizing online fitness classes or apps such as ClassPass or Aaptiv. As teammates navigate this new reality, it’s not only important for company leadership to model taking time off, it’s also critical to encourage teammates to take days off before burnout.
Think about offering “mental health days” as PTO or providing memberships to the Calm mindfulness app; Ginger's behavioral health coaching, therapy, psychiatry and well-being content; Meru Health's digital treatment for depression, anxiety and burnout; or Modern Health, which covers a spectrum of well-being needs. Measures like these can go a long way.
4. Educational Support for Parents
Employees with children are not only navigating parenting in quarantine, they’re often also helping their kids with virtual school. You could offer subscriptions to TutorMe or Tutor.com, two on-demand online tutoring and homework help services, as an education-as-a-benefit vendor to provide homework help.
To support parents directly, Kunik’s “COVID Care” offers practical tools and emotional support caregivers need to juggle work, family and home responsibilities. Similarly, Care.com offers childcare services (including in-home back-up childcare).
5. Team Activities
Without the ping-pong tables, team lunches, or weekly happy hours, it’s harder for the team to feel connected.
To encourage people to meet with others outside of their immediate team, you could manually pair employees together for a virtual lunch or leverage a Slack app like Donut, which randomly connects employees for a chat over a midday beverage or snack. We found that setting up virtual hangouts (like happy hours or game nights) — while optional, of course — were very well received by the team.
Here are a handful of virtual team games and challenges my colleagues and I have organized:
- Mystery Escape Room was really fun for puzzle lovers. It felt a lot like an in-person escape room.
- My Free Bingo Card was an easy way to personalize a virtual bingo game. We made it all about company memories and trivia about our teammates.
- We organized a virtual scavenger hunt, where we split people into teams and then came up with 15 items they had to find in their homes within 30 seconds. In some cases, people’s kids helped too.
- We held a push-up challenge and a steps challenge, where teammates were paired up and had to log the daily push-ups or steps for a period of time — with prizes for the winning team and individual.
Working from home in quarantine means being more digitally connected, an increase in streaming, a larger device load and more people using the home network. While telework can enhance operational efficiency, promote program goals, enrich the quality of work and life and provide for a better balance of work and personal responsibilities, it does come with costs.
But if you take the initiative and offer benefits that fit your team’s new reality and update those perks on your website and job descriptions, new recruits will know you genuinely care about them today.