The great Canadian hybrid work experiment is underway. Organizations large and small are rolling out new workplace policies and performance expectations tailored to the post-pandemic world—one where many employers will allow staff to continue working remotely, at least part of the time. There’s only one problem: most haven’t had the opportunity to properly review and revise their total compensation strategies.
That means that many organizations are delivering a potentially outdated workplace experience better tailored to a pre-COVID-19 world. But much has changed in the past 15 months. Many of the traditional perks and office features used to attract talent are old news. Nobody cares about free lunches, Friday beers and a foosball table outside the conference room when nobody’s at the office.
Employers need to act now to reimagine their total compensation strategies—everything from insurance coverage to salary structures and group benefits offerings—to compete for top performers and avoid a potentially costly surge in staff turnover. The reality is that in knowledge-based sectors, hybrid work is (probably) here to stay. If your organization falls into that category, your leadership group needs to be prepared.
Employees embracing remote work
A recent study by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) found that 74 per cent of small to medium-sized business owners plan to allow their employees to continue working remotely (not surprisingly, the proportion of SMEs that have at least half of their employees working remotely has jumped to 42 per cent from 21 per cent before the pandemic). A hybrid work arrangement was the preference of 55 per cent of employees surveyed, with workers citing several prime advantages: flexible working hours, improved work-life balance and reduced commute times. Not all were overjoyed with the idea of working from home all the time, however. Fifty-three per cent of employees lamented the loss of informal interactions with their colleagues.
Important for employers to note: 54 per cent of workers said their ability to work remotely would be a key decision whether or not to work for a new organization. And many simply won’t be going back, because 48 per cent of respondents who moved since the onset of COVID-19 did so expecting to be able to work from anywhere.
Now, the benefits of hybrid work arrangements aren’t all one-sided.
Of the 700 small businesses surveyed by the BDC, 27 per cent said that hybrid work arrangements have given them access to a far wider talent pool. They, too, have benefited from being able to offer flexible working hours, with improved employee retention and reduced operating costs delivering a new-found advantage.
A study by global co-working office provider WeWork on remote work trends found that “75 per cent of employees would give up at least one benefit or perk for the freedom to choose their work environment,” while 76 per cent of U.S. employers polled say they would likely give their employees a stipend to cover the costs of remote work.
More good news for employers: staff mostly managed the transition to remote work without any negative impact on their performance.
A Harvard Business School survey of 1,500 U.S. professionals who worked remotely since the start of the COVID-19 crisis found that for the majority, being out of the office made no difference to their collaboration with co-workers or trust in leadership. A third felt their overall performance, quality of work and ability to focus was actually better while working from home. Thirty-four per cent said they took online courses to enhance their professional development during the pandemic and 59 per cent made personal health a priority. Notably, 61 per cent expressed an interest in continuing their hybrid work arrangement by working from home for two to three days a week.
Tools to attract top talent
Employers can begin reviewing their total compensation packages and analyzing what may or may not be attractive to employees in the months and years ahead. A free parking space and subsidized transit passes may still hold some value, but likely not as much as before the pandemic sparked heightened interest in hybrid work arrangements.
The keys to optimizing your compensation strategy will be customization and flexibility. Talk to your people, get a feel for what matters to them after having been through the challenges of the pandemic and seek out opportunities to leverage group benefits programs and other offerings to improve retention and attraction. Most importantly, find innovative ways to promote and support their overall emotional, physical and financial wellness.
Specific tools such as health and wellness spending accounts and family assistance plans including virtual mental health, financial and physical support offerings are becoming increasingly popular as employees become more comfortable and accustomed to accessing healthcare resources online. Virtual courses can help ensure that employee professional development continues even remotely, while a bit of creative thinking and consultation can help highlight employees’ lifestyle needs and opportunities to provide support where they really want it—from subsidized gym memberships and enhanced parental assistance programs to tuition reimbursement and paid leave to volunteer at home or abroad.
The intensification of hybrid work may be new and potentially challenging for your organization. But you have control over the compensation and other enticements you offer employees. Now is the time to use these features to strengthen your culture and position for post-pandemic growth.
The Bridgewell Team
Contact a member of the Bridgewell team now to develop a customized group benefits program or discuss your insurance planning needs.