woman working from home
From wellness services to home office equipment, companies are taking unique twists on changing their benefits to give employees what they need now. — Getty Images/filadendron

As COVID-19 continues to change how companies operate, many employers have greatly expanded remote work opportunities for employees. Plenty of employees who previously worked standard 9-to-5 jobs at the office now work those jobs at home, either until it’s safe to return to the office or permanently in some cases.

With this dramatic shift to work-from-home, companies should think about changing benefits to accommodate remote workers. For example, if a company’s benefits included a catered lunch during select days of the week, then it would make more sense to replace this with something more relevant for at-home workers.

Here are six types of benefits businesses can offer to better accommodate remote employees.

Child care assistance

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, parents who work remotely are struggling to do their jobs, watch their kids and, in some cases, help teach their children if they are participating in online learning. Companies can help parents alleviate the load somewhat with child care assistance. This can be in the form of offering a stipend to parents who either have a child who is either too young to go to school, has had their school closed or is immunocompromised and can’t return to school yet.

Some notable companies that have added child care has a benefit during COVID-19 include Amazon, Netflix and Nvidia. These tech giants pay for their employees to be members to services like Care.com, which uses its Care@Work program to help parents with backup child care.

Digital wellness services

The transition from office work to remote work has not been an easy one for many employees and, as such, offering mental health and wellness benefits may help those who are still adjusting to the remote work lifestyle. Several large U.S.-based companies including PwC, Salesforce and Target began offering new or expanded mental health benefits to help those adjusting to life in the coronavirus era, and this is something smaller companies can add to their benefits portfolio as well. Additionally, companies may also encourage wellness by offering a stipend that can be applied toward a gym membership, online yoga courses, workout apps and more.

With many workers not planning to be remote employees when 2020 started, there’s no question a lot of them did not have dedicated home offices.

Flexible schedules

Even before COVID-19 hit, remote workers appreciated the benefit of flexible schedules. Having the opportunity to work earlier or later can help parents, caregivers and others with less traditional schedules still contribute to their teams. During the pandemic, the ability to offer flexible schedules becomes a more attractive benefit as many office workers continue adjusting to working from home. Additionally, companies can also experiment with offering more paid or unpaid time off as a way to help workers who need more flexibility.

One notable company making these changes in a big way is real estate listings app Zillow, which is allowing most employees to work remotely even after the pandemic ends. “We've done diligent work for every job in the company to be as flexible as possible to give our employees the ability to line up a schedule that works with whatever their needs are,” Zillow Chief People Officer Dan Spaulding told CNN. “And that may mean some people need to start later, some people need to finish earlier in the day, some people prefer to take a later shift on their customer calls.”

Food delivery

Companies that previously offered free food in the office — whether it’s catered lunches or free snacks — no longer have office workers to feed. However, with so many workers doing their jobs remotely, companies can shift from office food to food delivery. Workers can be given a stipend that can be used for grocery delivery or restaurant delivery services. Alternatively, businesses can offer a free subscription to a meal kit delivery service in order to help workers make quick meals at home.

One such company making this transition is New York-based business app Teampay. “Instead of us bringing a catered lunch into the office, we used our product to give every employee a $20-a-week delivery stipend so they could order lunch,” Teampay CEO Andrew Hoag told Fast Company.

Home office allowances

With many workers not planning to be remote employees when 2020 started, there’s no question a lot of them did not have dedicated home offices. To help workers adjusting to working from home, companies including Google, Shopify and Basecamp have offered workers a stipend to pay for home office furniture including desks, chairs and accessories that can help workers be more comfortable and productive. Some companies are paying for new equipment such as laptops or desktops for newly home-based employees as well.

Noise-canceling headphones

Some offices offered noise-canceling headphones to workers to help minimize distractions. But in some ways, it may be even better for companies to offer this for at-home workers. Those at home may have to contend with distractions from family or neighbors, so headphones can help bring more focus to work. While free headphones may seem like a small benefit, it can be a great help in the long term.

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