With 77 per cent of remote workers wanting to stay home once restrictions are lifted, employers may think telling people they don’t need to return to the office will result in a big tick in the employee satisfaction box.
For years, organisations have attracted people with the promise of an amazing array of perks – onsite catering, gyms, wellbeing centres, socials – giving employees a sense of community and making them feel like they’re getting a ‘great deal’ (when in actual fact all they do is make you stay at work for longer). If their workforce is going to be predominantly home-based, corporates will need to think more like start-ups when it comes to employee benefits. Here’s five areas they need to focus on:
Once upon a time all you needed was a flash smartphone or an iPad to signal what a great company you worked for. With remote working, significant funding will be needed for employees to equip a dedicated home workspace. Google is being applauded for giving its employees $1,000 for homeworking tech but I think that’s pretty tight – have you seen how much a set of noise cancelling headphones costs? Expect demands for ergonomic chairs, standing desks and serious tech. And when it comes to the exec team, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them wanting a shepherd’s hut built into their contract (if you’re curious, David Cameron’s set him back £25k).
Even when gyms are finally allowed to open there will be people that don’t want to go back to them. All that wiping someone else’s sweat off a seat before you use it, and can you imagine doing a HIIT class in a mask? Given that many people already use Cycle to Work schemes for bikes that they will never commute on (only 4% of people ride to work) it would make sense to see this kind of scheme extended or adapted to include kit like Pelotons, online workout subscriptions and running gear.
Onsite catering is a big draw – especially when it’s subsidised. A major attraction to reluctant chefs like me is that it means *you don’t have to cook*. While I’ve seen lots of posts on LinkedIn of people showcasing the basket of goodies their employer has sent them, we cannot live on gin and Graze boxes alone. Expect to see partnerships with Deliveroo or restaurant vouchers to keep employee energy levels up and avoid the lost productivity associated with gazing into the fridge for the 23rd time trying to figure out what to have for dinner.
With the WHO and UN highlighting the negative impact of COVID-19 on mental health, organisations that switch to remote-first working policies will have an even greater duty of care to look out for their employees. But it’s a delicate line to tread – you are already in your employees’ homes every time you ask them to switch the camera on for a meeting so where do you draw the line between being an employer and being downright invasive? I have seen great examples of businesses partnering with Mind and wonder if we are now at a point where provision for mental health will become part of our shopping list for what makes a company an attractive employer.
Don’t you miss those moments of grabbing a coffee or having an impromptu chat with a colleague? Or of driving an hour to a client meeting and stopping off to do some shopping at Bicester Village on the way back (What? You’ve never done that?!). No-one wants to be told they need to be sat at their desk ready for video calls every hour, on the hour and given what we know about online meeting fatigue it would be unfair for employers to expect this. With 70% of UK employees feel flexible working makes a job more attractive and 30% preferring the offer of flexible working to a pay rise, businesses are going to have to be a bit more bendy when it comes to how employees spend their time.
In the space of three months, we’ve seen seismic workplace change enacted that will have an impact for generations to come. Remote working is here to stay and it’s time that benefits caught up. Let the battle commence!
About the author:
Toni Kent is an experienced writer and performer who is trusted by large corporate IT organisations to represent their business leaders and brands through a mixture of ghost writing, coaching and motivational speaking.
With twenty years of experience in technology and as an advocate for women supporting women, Toni is frequently booked by Women in Business networks and organisations that want to promote gender parity. With lived experience of how work transforms the life prospects of women from disadvantaged backgrounds, she is proud to be the official event compere for Smart Works Reading – an organisation that helps women return to the workplace via free interview coaching and work-appropriate clothing.
Toni is also a columnist for Berkshire Life and has written three books of humorous reflections on what it means to be a woman: Reasons to be Cheerful Parts One and Two and I Need a Wife. Her books are all available via Amazon.
You can follow Toni on Twitter and LinkedIn at @tonijkent
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