By Tracy Hill
Remote work during a pandemic is an unprecedented situation. As employers extend their work from home plans through the end of 2020 (or beyond), HR teams are seeking additional ways to support their new remote workforce.
According to the 2020 Impact of Behavioral Drives in a Remote Workplace report issued by the Predictive Index, 33% of employees hadn’t worked remote before COVID-19. And, many of us are still trying to find our groove.
There may be more than one adult working from home (at my house, the kitchen table was put into storage so that space could become an office), young children to attend to, internet connectivity issues, or competing bandwidth needs.
Here are the top WFH perks, benefits, and resources to help your people acclimate:
- Flexible hours
- Workspace Setup Reimbursement
- Physical Wellness
- Financial Wellness
- Professional Development
- Meals & Snacks
- Charitable Donation Matching
- Homework Help & Support for Parents
- Perk Software
1. Flexible hours
When possible, allowing employees to shift their hours from the standard “core” work hours can go a long way towards balancing the new work/life demands.
2. Workspace Setup Reimbursement
[Legal alert: note that California and several other states have enacted reimbursement laws to prevent or limit employers from passing on their operating expenses to employees].
Furniture and Accessories
Consider reimbursing employees for technology and office accessories that help them work from home more comfortably and productively. Desks, chairs, monitors, noise-cancelling headsets, webcams…
GitLab’s guidelines on Spending Company Money may be a helpful benchmarking resource. They’ve been all-remote for years, and their 2020 Remote Playbook is the most comprehensive guide I’ve come across.
If your budget is small, you could allow employees to take home desks, chairs, monitors, etc. from the office. Be clear if you expect these returned when the office reopens, and track via a check-out sheet.
Consider covering any additional internet plan extensions needed to support remote work.
Here are some free ergonomics resources to share with your people:
Online Collaboration Tools
3. Physical Wellness
Online fitness classes or apps such as Classpass or Aaptiv.
Examples include Calm mindfulness app, Ginger behavioral health coaching, Meru Health digital treatment (for depression, anxiety, and burnout).
There are also free take-a-break apps like Time Out or Stretchly to encourage healthy remote work habits. Also, consider implementing meeting-free blocks of time on everyone’s calendar, so everyone has a chance to unplug and recharge.
Group rates are available for MasterClass. There are more than 85 expert-led courses in multiple categories (music, culinary arts, business, film, writing, sports & games, design/photography & fashion, lifestyle, and science & technology).
While fostering connection is important for all employees, keep new hires in mind, too. Provide opportunities to meet casually. GitLab formalizes informal communication for its all-remote team since it cannot happen organically in the office.
The Donut Slack app randomly pairs individuals from that channel on a consistent basis (you can choose weekly, bi-weekly, etc) or you can schedule virtual online happy hours or game hours that are optional to attend. At Lumity, we have happy hour Thursdays.
- Kahoot! is a trivia game for e-learning, interactive presentations, and training. It can also be repurposed for new hires.
- Brainstormer is a fun, pub-like trivia game moderated by a professional host. It’s corporate-friendly and ideal for groups of 20 - 200+ people.
- Trivial Dispute (based in NY) is reasonably priced and can accommodate customized themes. It’s hosted over Zoom, and teams can be set up in Slack.
- AirBnB Online Experiences offers cooking classes with Michelin chefs (up to 10 people) and other learning opportunities (for larger groups, too).
- JigsawPuzzles.io is free and makes it easy to start a puzzle and invite team members.
5. Financial Wellness
Check out student loan repayment vendors such as Gradifi, CommonBond, and SoFi. Or a financial education vendor like LearnLux.
For free financial education in layperson language, I regularly share and read the 20 Something Finance blog.
6. Professional Development
Consider annual stipends for ongoing education such as virtual conferences, manager training, professional classes (like Lynda.com or Udemy), books, and software.
There are also career coaching vendors (like BetterUp and Bravely).
7. Meals & Snacks
Meals or healthy snack delivery such as Blue Apron, Purple Carrot, SnackNation, and Thrive Market.
8. Charitable Donation Matching
A passion for a cause can reignite our professional passion as well.
9. Homework Help & Support for Parents
Homework help for Kids & Teens
These education-as-a-benefit vendors provide homework help!
- TutorMe is an on-demand tutor
- Tutor provides 24/7 online tutoring and homework help services
And these are some free resources to share with your people:
- Quarantunes provides online music lessons for kids (ages 4 - 14). Lessons are free although donations are welcome.
- Quarantunes also offers art classes (ages 9 - 14)!
- Explore.org has live wildlife cams!
- Scholastic offers lessons for four age groups: pre-K and kindergarten, grades 1 & 2, grades 3 & 5, and grades 6+.
- PBS Kids Daily Newsletter provides ideas for learning activities at home.
- Circletime educators host free, interactive videos in their areas of expertise (ages 0 - 8).
Support for Parents
- Cleo is a family benefits platform with a network of local guides supporting families in 55 countries.
- kunik "COVID Care" family-support solution (practical tools and emotional support caregivers need to juggle work, family, and home).
10. Perk Software
Here are a few vendors to ease the administration of stipends and allowances:
- Compt enables employers to develop multiple stipends, and employees can choose what perks best meet their needs.
- ThrivePass offers a marketplace for health & well-being stipends
- Zestful provides a debit card for perks and vendor marketplace. You set the guidelines and balances
There are also rewards and recognition vendors (like Bonusly and Fond).
Keep reminding your remote people that their health and families come first. We’re all adjusting to the new way of working, and HR teams and people pros are at the forefront, leading and iterating as we move forward. (Remember to practice the same self-care you’re providing to your people)...
And, if my list has left you wondering how you’ll find funding for investing in your people—during a pandemic when companies are looking to stabilize cash flow—I encourage you to look at your health plan. Even in a year of COVID-19, it’s possible to reduce health care costs by 15-20% without compromising coverage.
About the Author
Tracy Hill is an Employee Benefits Communication Strategist at Lumity. Her days are spent crafting materials to help employees understand their health plan options. She taps into 17+ years of marketing experience at high tech companies where she focused on explaining complicated systems in layperson terms, and now she applies her communication skills to unraveling the mysteries of health insurance. She's also a community steward and steering committee member of the HR for HR online community.