Relationships to work and the workplace have changed. Employees desire more balance in their lives and the wisest companies will assist them in achieving that balance, rather than stick to traditional workplace norms.
In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought significant changes to Americans’ work. Many professionals were ousted from their offices and 8-to-5 schedules, forcing them to work from home, collaborate digitally, and be productive amid whatever environment their homes provided—kids, spouses, pets, and all. Professionals in hospitals, civic offices, and essential services saw their schedules pushed to the max as overwhelming demand and inordinate risk caused grueling overtime hours and increased hazard pay. In both traditional office settings and frontline settings, the U.S. Government’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) mandated that companies employing less than 500 increase their paid sick and family-related leave.
As the pandemic raged on, layoffs occurred, and the stress of political and social unrest in addition to COVID isolation took its toll on employees’ well-being. To relieve burnout, many companies experimented with altered and expanded benefits, testing out shortened workweeks, more frequent office closures, updated dress code policies, and flexible working hours.
Although the proverbial “end of COVID” has not yet arrived, many pandemic precautions have lessened, allowing for employers to discontinue or reduce the altered schedules and benefits they offered in 2020. Professionals have gradually returned to their offices and many of those “pandemic perks” and hazard pay programs have ended. As a result, employees are placing higher value on employer-provided benefits more than ever before. Some professionals are switching jobs and bargaining their positions solely for the lifestyle benefits they grew dependent on in recent years, such as fully remote working setups and flexible schedules.
Upgrading and expanding your company’s benefits will not only make you more competitive for top talent, but it will also improve employee satisfaction and retention rates. In turn, you may find that your company’s objectives are met with more gusto, your colleagues have improved focus, and your entire workplace culture improves.
Below, we provide five ways you can reimagine your company’s benefits and workplace norms to promote employee well-being and improve culture.
Add specificity to your paid leave policy
When it first gained popularity, unlimited PTO seemed both utopian and impossible. Now that it has become common, unlimited leave policies have been criticized for their failure to set reasonable expectations. Employees with an unlimited amount of PTO may be confused about how much time is appropriate to take off and try to mirror the frequency and duration of PTO taken by their peers. This kind of groupthink can easily lead to a fear of judgment for taking time off. According to a study conducted by HR platform Namely, employees who have unlimited PTO actually take less vacation time than employees who have a finite allotment of PTO. Instead of leaving your employees wondering how much time is appropriate for them to be out of office, consider creating a minimum PTO policy. A minimum PTO policy, or MTO, requires employees to take a minimum number of vacation days per year. MTO is an emerging benefit that can demonstrate your company’s dedication to countering burnout and prioritizing your employees’ well-being. Some MTO policies even include a consecutive day policy—meaning that employees must schedule a portion of their MTO to take place over several consecutive days.
Shift to a shortened workday or workweek
Have you ever noticed that as a deadline approaches, your focus and productivity tend to increase? Has your calendar and the importance of its meetings ever come into sharp clarity when you have an abbreviated week? When we are short on time in the workplace, we often become more intentional about achieving our objectives. During the pandemic, many companies tested out a four-day work week to counter employee burnout, and some have even made the shortened workweek permanent. Last week, the New York Times published a piece declaring that the four-day workweek is more within the American workforce’s grasp than ever before. A recent Gallup study found that people who work condensed workweeks have significantly higher levels of well-being and are less likely to feel chronically burned out, which in turn increases employee satisfaction and retention. Consider trying out a shorter workday or workweek. You could also increase the number of office closures to relieve burnout and enhance employee focus.
No meeting days
Many professionals prefer to balance meeting-filled days with days reserved for deep work, or simply load one-half of their day with meetings and the other half with uninterrupted work time. Designating one day per week or a certain time of day in which your company does not schedule meetings can give employees more opportunity to dive deep into their work. Increased time for deep work will improve outcomes, boost creativity, and allow for more thoughtfulness in how employees approach their projects. When spontaneous collaboration is essential, pause before scheduling a meeting and consider using asynchronous communication tools like video notes, voice memos, and simple chat functions like Google Chat or Microsoft Teams. Your employees will be grateful for more time autonomy, and you will love how meeting-light your days become.
Expanded wellness benefits
The modern concept of wellness began in the 1950s. Since then, the wellness sector has ballooned to include exercise studios, wellness services like therapy, massage, and meditation, and countless tools and gadgets that help us feel, eat, and exercise our best. The pandemic, changes in the economy, and limited resources have increased stress for many professionals, in addition to the stress that comes with their jobs. Companies are wise to recognize the value their employees place on their well-being and adjust their benefits packages accordingly. Some employers are now including stipends in their healthcare packages for therapy, meditation, meal planning subscriptions, and even home gym equipment. Other companies are offering enhanced benefits for employees who are caretakers for elder family members, and some are even offering childcare services and extending employee benefits to employees’ spouses. When planning your company’s benefits package, consider not just your employees, but their families, health, and stressors outside of work that make it harder to take care of themselves.
When the pandemic sent millions home to work remotely, many professionals found pockets of time during the day in which they could empty the dishwasher, do a load of laundry, or even run an errand. There are many benefits of flexible working hours, not limited to tackling quick chores during idle parts of the workday. Not everyone works best between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Forbes mentioned in 2021 that instead of mandating that employees work the traditional 9-to-5, it would make more sense for companies to ask their employees what type of schedule would work best for them. Some may elect to begin their day later and stay online a few extra hours past EOB. Others could request coming in early and leaving around 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. to get a jump start on their evening. Some employees might be most refreshed by spreading two days’ worth of PTO over an entire week, allowing for flexibility and autonomy over their time.
Above, we offer just five areas in which your company could alter its employee benefits and workplace policies. You can also consider changes to your company’s dress code, pay scale transparency, and hybrid and remote work options.
It seems like companies are getting increasingly creative with the benefits and policies they offer to their employees. And as more perks are offered elsewhere, your staff may start wondering if your company’s offerings are meeting or falling short of the benefits their friends and family members are enjoying.
Sifting through which expanded benefits and policies would be feasible for your company to implement can be daunting. It requires lots of time, attention to the needs and desires of your staff, and an assessment of what will and won’t affect your bottom line. Employee preferences are influenced by lifestyle, generation, family size, and health, of which your staff could have a vast array of differences. When your executive team decides to expand and alter your workplace’s offerings, the written policies that give structure to your benefits need to be edited, published, and explained. There is a myriad of benefits that come with expanding your company’s perks, but the road to doing so requires lots of due diligence, thoughtfulness, and attention to the traits and preferences of your staff.
As the experts in executive office advisory services, Prime Chief of Staff is uniquely positioned to assist your executive team in deciding which workplace benefits would be most valued by your staff and offer the most benefit to your bottom line and workplace culture. With over 35 combined years of experience as Chiefs of Staff, our team of advisors has the tact and savvy to survey your teams on their needs, preferences, and shifting priorities. Our firm’s breadth of experience in change management and internal communications allows us to partner with your executive team to enact new and updated policies in a way that suits your employees and their lifestyles, with a tone of understanding and collaboration, and a keen focus on your company’s goals and culture.
Change is inevitable, but effective, top-notch change management is what will increase employee tenure, promote workplace culture, and drive your business to be one that recruits top talent that delivers results. With the right team of advisors, your executive team can lead your staff into the new era of workplace setups, schedules, and benefits.