Navigating Benefits

How to Replace Employee Fringe Benefits During Remote Work—and Why You Should

  • Employee fringe benefits help with retention and morale; however, traditional offerings aren't always valuable to a remote workforce

  • Assess creative and practical options as replacements, leaning into online team-building opportunities and considering what your employees will value most

  • Incorporate employee input through polls or digital meetings to land on the best array of offerings in light of the times

    Posted by September 10, 2020

    Innovative companies have long been lauded for their extensive, and often highly creative, employee fringe benefits, such as free lunches, ping-pong tables, workout facilities and more. But with much of your workforce no longer physically at the office—and perhaps not due to return for some time—these benefits aren’t providing any current value to you or your employees.

    This begs the question: What will, or should, replace the fringe benefits you offer while your employees continue to work remotely?

    Consider Creative and Practical Options

    Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, lifestyle benefits such as monthly allowances for app purchases and subscriptions were creative offerings that appealed to employers and employees alike. So as you look to replace your employee fringe benefits during this period of remote work, it’s a good idea to consider options that are both creative and practical. For instance:

    • In lieu of on-site gym or fitness equipment access, offer a stipend that can be used for local gym memberships (if they’re open) or subscriptions to online wellness services.

    • In place of providing snacks and food options on-site, send treat boxes or food baskets to employees’ homes as a sweet surprise.

    • Instead of gathering employees for physical games or activities, organize online competitions such as trivia nights to bring everyone together while staying socially distant.

    Remember, many of your employees are likely sharing their space right now, either with partners and roommates also working remotely, young children and aging parents who need care, or all of the above. Fringe benefits such as credits for music- or movie-streaming services are sure to be appreciated by employees who are cohabitating with multiple people.

    Get Input From Employees

    Instead of speculating about what matters most to your remote employees or what benefits they might value, you should just ask them. With their input, you can choose employee fringe benefits that are more likely to be valued and used.

    Distribute a simple poll where employees can rate various benefit options and offer additional suggestions in an open-ended field. You can also convene a group via Zoom or Google Meet to discuss options or chat with employees one-on-one.

    Keep in mind, as with your traditional benefits, offering a one-size-fits-all approach to fringe options isn’t likely to work—even if your organization is very small. Instead, strive to offer a variety of options that are likely to appeal to most of your employees. Listening to and taking action on your workforce’s suggestions can help you land on the best options while also boosting employee morale and engagement.

    Learn as You Go

    TeamBuilding, a company that provides guided team-building events to other organizations, operates remotely. In doing so, its leaders have learned a lot about choosing the right fringe benefits for their remote workforce.

    “Early on, we made the mistake of covering specifics like gym memberships and massages,” said Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding, in an interview for United Concordia Dental. “We quickly learned that what our remote workers needed was flexibility. So now, we provide a ‘healthy lifestyle credit.'”

    While some team members do use this money for gym memberships or yoga classes, Alexis noted, others use it for everything from aromatherapy to house-cleaning services. “This customization means that the credit covers a lot of bases when it comes to offering benefits that our people actually want and use,” he said.

    A little experimentation is never a bad thing if it means presenting better benefits to your workforce. And as we all grapple with the uncertainty COVID-19 presents, your workforce will likely appreciate employee fringe benefits even more if they’re catered to their new remote lifestyle. So be proactive, seek feedback and make adjustments to ensure your offerings are just right.

    With United Concordia Dental’s Employer Toolkit, running your small business is a whole lot easier. With expert guidance on benefits and educational newsletters, this resource has everything you need to keep your office informed and in control of their health.

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