Written by: Beth Mowbray
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of employees working remotely has increased across the U.S. According to Ladders, only 4% of jobs with North America’s largest employers were remote before the pandemic. This increased to 9% by the end of 2020 and more than 15% by 2021.
The 2021 Business Response Survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed similar findings: Approximately 1 in 3 employers increased remote work during the pandemic. Nearly 13% of jobs reported were fully remote, and almost 22% involved some remote work.
Many employees have embraced the flexibility and benefits that come with working remotely. People working outside traditional office settings report increased motivation, more flexibility, less stress, and higher job satisfaction. Employers are also providing unique new perks to entice potential new employees and retain existing employees.
Firmspace compiled a list of these unconventional perks, focusing on those benefiting remote workers. Keep reading to learn 10 ways employers are compensating remote employees.
Setting Up Your Home Office
Working remotely requires the same equipment as working in an office—a functional desk space and chair, high-speed internet, phone, computer, office supplies, etc.—but not all employers provide financial assistance to help employees set up or maintain a home office. According to the 2020 Owl Labs State of Remote Work Report, only 20% to 25% of employers pay or help pay for home office essentials.
Whether monthly, annually or a one-time amount, a stipend to establish a functional workspace is a definite perk for remote workers. For each employee, employers like Twitter, Google, and Facebook provide a one-time payment of $1,000. Basecamp, a project management software company, gives employees $100 monthly to rent a coworking space. Other employers offer a monthly allowance for internet and other operational expenses.
Companies like Blueboard think outside the box by offering fun experiences instead of traditional employee benefits like monetary bonuses. Employees are more likely to stay engaged and satisfied with their jobs by providing recognition for employee milestones and hard work and making these benefits more personalized and meaningful for individuals.
Experiential benefits are an especially good fit for remote workers, as they offer in-home options that are convenient for those already working from home and adventures near and far for those seeking to see somewhere new.
Examples of in-home perks include DIY home improvement classes, golf simulators, wine tasting, and virtual reality games. Some options for more adventurous employees include traveling, attending professional sports games or concerts, and even ziplining or skydiving.
Many employers already offer traditional tuition reimbursement, but some companies also expand to cover online courses. Online courses soared in popularity during the pandemic, and they continue to be much easier for remote workers to access than in-person training.
In March 2022, Fortune reported that approximately 14% of employees are offered some form of reimbursement for online courses. Companies like Chipotle Mexican Grill, The Walt Disney Company, Starbucks, and T-Mobile cover 100% of tuition for certain online certificate or degree programs at specified institutions.
Some employers also choose to offer online courses that are not job-related but rather focus on areas of personal interest. For example, Masterclass has a variety of online courses that employers can offer as perks, ranging from business strategy and entrepreneurship to creativity and meditation.
Child Care Benefits
Childcare benefits are an important incentive for many working parents. Some employers offer on-site child care, but since remote workers can’t access such programs, employers may offer a stipend to help offset or cover childcare costs. For example, Aflac offers up to $1,800 per year toward childcare for their remote workers.
Companies have also gotten creative with other perks related to child care. Adobe offers priority placement on childcare waitlists and benefits for before- and after-school programs and summer camps. Companies like Best Buy, Intel, and Major League Baseball even provide backup child care to help cover days when schools may be closed or unexpected events occur.
To strengthen company culture and job satisfaction, employers look for ways to keep employees engaged from a distance. Fun perks that are not directly work-related, like subscription benefits, are one way to do just that.
Information technology and consulting company Accenture participates in Spotify for Work, which allows employers to offer the audio streaming service as an employee benefit.
Go Fish Digital—a mostly remote company—offers all employees subscriptions to Netflix and Spotify, a choice of one magazine and one newspaper subscription, and a Kindle e-reader with one e-book each quarter. Why? They believe these perks build a positive work culture by recognizing what is important to employees and enhancing creativity.
Smaller perks can have a big impact on remote workers. Gathering around the office coffee pot in the morning is a tradition remote workers miss out on, so some companies are finding ways to incorporate coffee as a unique employee benefit.
Buffer is an international company of remote workers that offers up to $200 each month in reimbursement for food and drinks. This supports employees who prefer to work from a coffee shop rather than from home.
Think Coffee offers a Coffee-Break-At-Home program where coffee is shipped to remote workers. Employers can help feed their employees’ caffeine cravings with boxes of fresh ground coffee or cold brew delivered directly to their homes.
Mental Health Support
A February 2022 survey conducted by The Harris Poll for Fortune reported that approximately two-thirds of employees find mental health services offered by employers to be valuable. Yet this is not a frequently offered benefit, with only about 1 in 3 employees reporting their companies to provide such support.
Allowing employees to work remotely can itself help improve employee mental health by increasing job satisfaction and flexibility, saving money, and creating a better work-life balance. According to Fortune, employers are also beginning to offer mental health benefits like employee assistance programs, educational resources, and extra time off work.
Telehealth appointments, virtual yoga or meditation, and virtual events for socializing are fantastic mental health perks for remote employees as well due to ease of access from a home office.
Many employers hold company retreats, but this perk offers a unique opportunity for remote workers to socialize and build relationships in a way that cannot be done virtually. Without such a gathering, remote workers may never meet face-to-face, they may feel isolated or may lack a positive sense of the company culture.
Company retreats should focus more on team building than getting work done, so the more creative the experience, the better. For example, software company Salesforce hosts employees at its 75-acre California ranch, where they can commune with nature or relax by meditating. Candor, a social networking company, took the concept of company retreats to a new level in August 2022 by flying employees to Portugal for a weeklong stay.
Employers like Microsoft and Unilever are expanding their fertility benefits to include both in vitro fertilization and a broader range of options like surrogacy and egg freezing. As of 2020, more than 2 out of 5 employers in the U.S. covered IVF, and 1 in 5 covered egg freezing.
Many parents, or those who wish to become parents, benefit from increased flexibility to plan around their family’s schedules when working from home. Flexible work schedules and leave policies are often needed to support fertility treatments and ongoing childcare needs, so many employers are taking this into account in addition to providing much-needed financial support for these procedures.
Helping Pay For Vacations
For remote employees who spend every day working in the same place all alone, time off for vacation is an important benefit. Some companies now go above and beyond to help pay for their employees’ vacations.
These benefits can be quite unique and varied, depending upon the type of employer. Tech company FullContact gives employees an annual vacation bonus, starting at $2,000 and reaching $7,000. Airbnb employees receive a $2,000 credit each year to use for booking stays with their company. In addition to discounted tickets, United Airlines employees get unlimited standby flights.
This story originally appeared on Firmspace and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.