What Benefits Do Employees Want as They Return to the Office?

The pandemic has upended the workplace in countless ways and compelled people to re-evaluate what they want from the workplace. The era of flashy, Silicon Valley-inspired offices with ping pong and free beer on tap is over. Today’s workers, shaped by a year of working remotely, have different priorities.

For instance, Millennials and Gen X are digital natives, and they’re more concerned about giving back to their communities and maintaining work-life balance than previous generations. Modern workers are less likely to be enticed by the snacks on offer than by a flexible working policy, especially now that most are accustomed to living without commuting, and have complex lives with numerous responsibilities outside of work.

Do people care about fancy perks? From working with businesses of all stripes, I have found that people generally don’t care about perks – they may be nice, but they cannot stand alone. Employees want to be around people they like as part of a supportive culture, work for an organization that makes a difference, and balance their work and personal lives. Anything else is just a pleasant bonus. Conversely, a toxic, stressful workplace boasting plenty of shiny perks may lure people in, but they rarely stay for long. No amount of fancy coffee or free concert tickets will make up for a culture that makes you dread going to work.

Even in the pre-pandemic era, research from Aviva suggested that work-life balance was as important as salary to prospective employees. Even money, it seems, isn’t enough to attract people to businesses with missions or cultures that don’t fulfil them. Fundamentally, people want to be happy at work – and to not think too much about work when they’re not working. No number of perks will change their minds, and it is recruiters’ responsibility to help bridge that gap with their clients.

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What people like about WFH. Working from home has certainly been a challenge, but few people would deny that it has plenty of advantages. Even in the pre-Covid world, working from home was a particularly popular perk, with around 80% of job seekers seriously considering the option, according to the Harvard Business Review. However, recruiters must ensure that businesses are not confused about what people like about working remotely. It’s not the novelty of working outside of the office, but the autonomy, lack of commute, and greater flexibility to attend to other responsibilities while remaining productive.

Some businesses are already blazing a trail in the world of remote post-pandemic perks. Fintech company Revolut, for example, just introduced a policy permitting employees to spend two months of every year working from overseas. Similarly, Nationwide has announced that its 13,000 employees are free to “work from anywhere.”

Popular perks. There are few things easier to spot for a prospective employee than forced fun. Honesty is the best policy, and recruiters should encourage businesses to focus on what employees genuinely like about their work. Share testimonials from existing employees about what makes a workplace culture great and let them highlight the benefits, as this will sound far more authentic. Your people are your greatest assets and your greatest ambassadors.

In terms of the types of perks that employees tend to like, measures on health, safety, wellness, and mental health are always popular – and the coronavirus has only made them more critical. Professional services firm Aon found in their 2021 survey that 90% of businesses are already stepping up mental health support for employees, which is definitely something that recruiters should promote as an increasingly popular benefit.

Rethinking benefits for the post-pandemic era. Ultimately, employees want benefits that affect their life in a meaningful way. While free donuts and fizzy drinks are certainly nice – at least in the short term — they can’t hold a candle to flexibility, generous parental leave, and mental health support. While many businesses may feel uncertain about attracting employees in a radically reshaped landscape, recruiters are well-positioned to assure them that it is quality of life, not bells and whistles, that really matters to candidates.

Ginger Maseda

Ginger Maseda
Ginger Maseda is head of global talent acquisition for Bullhorn.

Ginger Maseda

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