A year and a half into the global COVID pandemic, one thing is now absolutely clear. Expectations workers have of their employer have changed, probably for decades.
You only need to read the sudden tsunami of consultant articles talking about the 'hybrid workplace' to know that things have fundamentally changed.
What is a hybrid workplace? Simply put, a workplace that blends working at a specified workplace, with working from home. Whether bosses like it or not, the workers have made their point of view loud and clear. Forbes research indicates that over half the US workforce want to retain the ability to work from home, even after the pandemic is over. Trends are similar worldwide. The desire to retain flexibility in work location skews even more heavily with younger workers.
Top 5 employee benefit perks
Leading HR company myHR have recently outlined what they see as the Top 5 perks employees are seeking.
1. Pay increases and performance bonuses
2. Work-life balance
3. Professional development
4. Increased leave
5. Discounts and freebies
While the pay packet still leads the list, next in line is 'work-life balance'. Workers have had a taste of having more control over their work location and work patterns, and they like it. They are also looking for more 'full life' support from their employers, be they mental or physical wellness programs, more flexibility around taking leave, and so forth.
Work-life balance is really code for employees saying 'I would like more control and influence in how and when I work'. Employers who can develop workplace cultures and working norms that acknowledge this powerful need will be more successful attracting and retaining staff.
Employers who dogmatically insist on a return to the workplace as it was pre-Covid may be in for a very rude surprise. We are already seeing signs of 'The Great Resignation' - when workers are instructed to go back to the old work practices, they resign and change jobs instead.
What it means for employers and employee benefit providers
At Sentro, we talk to insurers, benefit providers and employers every day. We believe that not only is the hybrid workplace here to stay, we think that workers will increasingly have multiple employers and multiple work locations.
This has some quite large implications for employers who need to offer benefits for their team in order to compete for talent.
Does your employee benefit rely on a specific location for your team to enjoy the benefit? Free fruit in the office cafeteria is nice, but if half your workforce is working from home, what are you doing for them? Look for benefits that your team can enjoy regardless of their work location.
Think about administration as well. Do any of your staff miss out if they aren't on the shop floor for a briefing about the new benefit arrangements? Think through how you administer benefit plans and communicate information to your people. Don't inadvertently disenfranchise parts of your team because they aren't in a specific location.
Benefits that are ideal for an employee in their early 40s with a family of four may be less ideal for a single employee in their early 20s or an employee nearing retirement age. Look for benefit providers and group insurers that can offer your people some choice and flexibility. Also, look for providers that can give your employees this kind of experience without burying the employer with administrative complexity.
The challenge when offering choice and flexibility is being seen to be fair and equitable to all staff. Try to involve your team in the discussion on what kinds of things they value. Done well, your team will understand that different people have different needs, and they will appreciate the efforts you take as an employer to address employee needs more personally.
If you listen - really listen - to what your team is telling you and respond positively, you will gain the benefit of a happier, more loyal workforce.