Do work perks need to change in a post-COVID world?
The working world has changed dramatically since the dawn of the coronavirus pandemic. Does that mean that work perks need to change too?
Work perks have been a staple of the HR agenda for decades: from providing free lunches to employees, to helping working parents with childcare responsibilities. And whilst perks may seem an unnecessary indulgence to some, statistics show that they have a drastic impact on employees. LinkedIn data found that companies which rated highly on their compensation and benefits offering saw 56% lower attrition. Separately, 72% of respondents to a Zoro survey said having more work benefits would increase their job satisfaction. This has ramifications not just for current employees but prospective candidates too, as 55% of employees would be somewhat likely to accept a job with lower compensation but a more robust benefits package, according to Aflac research.
However, the work landscape has changed significantly in 2020. Robert Half research from 2019 noted that top requests for work perks included subsidised travel and lunches at work, on-site childcare and gym memberships. For a vast proportion of workers, none of the above would currently serve to improve their working lives at all.
So, given that the situation has changed, how should work perks adapt to service the 2020 workforce? It’s a hard question to answer for many reasons; for one thing, remote working, which has become a massive thing in 2020, is very new. Previously, perks were crafted and honed based on years of experience, while accommodating the needs of workers in central locations.
So, pondering the issue whilst speaking to HR Grapevine, Nicki Sahota, Head of People at Tortilla, was somewhat stumped. “Obviously we’ve based our benefits on a working world that is now unrecognisable. As for what companies should be offering employees – that’s a hard one as one of the most common requests in the past has been access to remote working. I really don’t know that I could suggest anything new or innovative to replace many of the perks that people have gotten in the past,” she says.
However, Dan Godfrey, VP of HR for global hotel brand OYO, says that for many, a hotly-requested perk has been granted on a national scale – access to flexible working. “I think the biggest thing workers have been requesting for years is the ability to work from anywhere, and maybe to meld their schedule around their life, this is something we’re now seeing on a massive scale, so in reality one of the biggest perks is now the norm,” he explains.
Stuart Bagnell, Chief of Culture at Lastminute.com, agrees with this tack, telling HR Grapevine that the biggest current perk for many has been the ability to spend more time with family and friends, or simply doing what makes them happy. He says: “Everything is going to centre around flexibility. Now that people have gone through what they have gone through, I think people have re-set their values and I think that they have appreciated having more time to do the things that they want to do, so their wellbeing has been super important, having that level of flexibility.”
Looking after workers
However, as Sahota notes, some previously common perks have gone from a ‘nice-to-have’ to gaining more meaning. With many employees now based primarily at home, and some on less-than-desirable circumstances, ensuring that physical and mental wellbeing is maintained has become a more pressing issue on the HR agenda. “We already had access to mental health support across the company before coronavirus, but I think that has become so much more important, as has communicating that the benefit is there and open to everyone,” Sahota shares.