This year has seen a remote working revolution. Lockdown restrictions meant that more of us than ever before were forced to work from home. In businesses that had not stopped trading during lockdown, 36% of the workforce were working remotely, according to the latest ONS figures. Despite this, we're still faced with outdated attitudes when it comes to how we treat remote workers. The culture in many organisations still fails to recognise their contribution, and this has to change.
"The benefits of having a remote team cannot be denied. It's time we changed the way we think about staff benefits to incorporate remote workers".
Every time we give staff benefits that are only really available for people in the local office, we're sending a not-so-subtle message that our team members in other locations aren't as highly valued.
Remote employees already have a tendency to feel left out and mistreated, yet more and more of our teams are likely to comprise people working partly or completely remotely. So it's important that we truly consider all of our workforce when designing staff benefits.
Remote team members are part of the workforce too
Today's workforce is very different from the workforce of five years ago – and this year's events have accelerated that change even further. In a recent survey by Whereby, 82% of businesses said they are considering changing their future working practices to allow more staff to work remotely, due to the success of remote working during the lockdown. Plus many companies are hiring people located outside the country – sometimes as contractors, but also as full-time team members.
Although teamwork online can be challenging at times, the benefits of having a remote team cannot be denied. It's time we changed the way we think about staff benefits to incorporate remote workers.
Design staff benefits for remote workers first
When thinking of employee benefits, the most important thing is to make a proactive decision that you'll design your rewards for the remote team first. Naturally, this will mean that your benefits will work for the whole team. Of course, there are a few more challenges associated with benefits for remote workers, but they're certainly not insurmountable. Here, we've put together a collection of ideas for rewarding remote (and all) employees.
1) Technology perks
The tools people use for work can make a huge difference to their job satisfaction. Having an extra monitor, a tablet, better headphones, a laptop upgrade, or a new app might seem a bit boring, but these things are important. Instead of trying to choose them though, consider giving employees an annual technology allowance.
2) Home service perks
Providing services that will help your team keep things running smoothly at home is also a great idea. This can be cleaning, gardening, or even a food or meal delivery service. Laura Roeder from MeetEdgar says that their team members list having a clean and comfortable workspace as a big part of their "ideal workday", so they cover the costs of a monthly house clean for all staff.
3) Workspace upgrades
Having the right chair and desk for work is also high on the list for remote employees. The local office benefits from a refurbish from time to time, so when you do that, offer your remote team a budget for upgrading their home office. Some members might like a standing desk or even a treadmill desk. You could also give them the option to use a workspace allowance towards a shared office or membership for a co-working space.
4) Health benefits
Keeping your team healthy is in everyone's interests so why not align some of your benefits with employee health? Health insurance may be boring, but is still highly valued by most people – especially those with families. Or you could give your team a health budget they can put towards a gym membership, yoga classes, new running shoes, setting up a home gym, or a meditation course.
5) Learning and development
Most people want to keep developing and expanding their skills and it's another area that can often benefit the organisation. These days there are so many online training courses available, so why not encourage your team to take advantage of these? You could have a membership that gives everyone access, or you could allocate a training budget that the team can use towards courses of their choosing. A book allowance is another way you can reward your team and encourage their development.
Making it easy for your team to take breaks away from work is also a great idea. One of the best ways to do this is to give your team extra vacation days. Holiday allowance is often a talking point between friends so this will position your organisation in a good light externally. If your team travels frequently, you could also give them a subscription to a travel lounge or a pre-check authority to make travelling more pleasant.
7) Special treats
Every now and again it's nice to give your team something personal that they'll remember. You can give vouchers to a nearby restaurant, for a massage or facial, or for an online store. Alternatively, you could even arrange for a surprise delivery to your team member's home – a cake, pizza or a bunch of flowers, perhaps.
8) Team building event
Many businesses also run an annual event or retreat as a workplace perk. Many of these have been cancelled this year, but when they are back up and running again, instead of making this all about the work, add in some team building activities to ensure that your people look forward to next year's event. Some ideas could include a sporting event (for attending or participating), a fancy dinner, theatre show, day trip out of town, or an internal competition (bowling, escape games, dodgem cars, etc). To further increase the appeal, you might also want to think about holding the event in a desirable location and perhaps allowing spouses/partners to attend. Yes, this is costly, but if it becomes an event that helps your team bond, solve some problems and keeps motivation high, it might be worthwhile.
9) Positive recognition
Of course tangible rewards are nice, but let's not forget about positive recognition. This is an incredibly powerful (and often underutilised) reward and it's easy to adapt so that it benefits local and remote team members alike. Perhaps you could recognise one team member a month, highlighting their accomplishments in front of the whole team. Or perhaps you could interview a team member and feature them on your blog, intranet or newsletter. Although people won't usually ask for this, public recognition goes a long way.
So you see, rewarding remote team members is actually not that difficult when we approach benefits with the whole team in mind.
About the author
Perry Timms is the Founder & Chief Energy Officer of PTHR, with 30+ yrs experience in people, learning, technology, organisation change & transformation. His personal mission is to see more people flourish through their work, and help shift organizations as a force for societal good (not just profit machines). PTHR's mission is defined as "Better Business for a Better World". In October 2017, his first book, Transformational HR - was published by Kogan Page and the Energized Workplace published in August 2020. He was an extremely proud new entrant to the list of HR Most Influential Thinkers for 2017 and again in 2018 + 2019 (in the top 10 both years).