Remote work served as a life preserver for many amid the turmoil of 2020, protecting the health and business interests of entrepreneurs, employees, stakeholders and the communities within which they live and work. And already in 2021, businesses’ reliance on remote work has continued, with 56% of US workers still working from home in January, according to survey data from Gallup.

Although the percentage of remote employees is down from its peak of 70% in April 2020, the demand for virtual work options continues to rise among employed adults. In fact, the number of adults who want to continue working from home has increased from 37% in July 2020 to 44% in January 2021, Gallup’s survey showed.

With remote work poised to remain a permanent, flexible fixture within US workplaces, business owners should examine their employee benefits packages to ensure they provide virtual options that will not only attract but also retain top remote talent. A Glassdoor survey on what US employees and job seekers value most from a potential new job highlighted how much employee benefits matter to modern professionals. The poll revealed that employee benefits (63%) are the second-most prioritized job factor behind salary (67%).

While taking stock of employee benefits for remote workers, employers should consider incorporating these virtual options:

1. Home Office Stipends  

This employee benefit is as obvious as it is valuable. Home office stipends, such as allotments for in-home office equipment, hardware and software, ergonomic furniture, or utilities including internet and phone service, provide remote workers with funds to pay for essential professional goods and services necessary to perform their jobs. This benefit reinforces the employer’s appreciation for employee contributions, establishes that virtual employees are as equally valued as their onsite counterparts, and promotes productive, comfortable work environments.

Related Article: The Future of Office Design After COVID

2. Employee Wellness Programs

Remote employee wellness programs can operate independently from or in tandem with employer-subsidized health insurance benefits. These programs are designed to bolster general employee health or target specific wellness goals, like weight loss, stress management, improved nutrition and smoking cessation, relevant to each employee’s lifestyle and goals.

To promote team building — which should be a high priority for any virtual or telecommuting business — employees could decide to practice their wellness program as a group, interacting via collaborative tools and software like Slack or Zoom. Remote-enabled employers can also provide predetermined subscriptions to wellness programs or reimburse employees’ expenses within a prescribed budget.

Learning Opportunities

3. Co-Working Allowances  

The beauty of remote work is its adaptability to practically any lifestyle and location. Some remote workers choose to work from home full-time or on a modified schedule of partial onsite and telework. Others may operate from a co-working center or work and travel the globe as digital nomads. Providing co-working allowances to pay for costs associated with memberships to co-working centers or participation in hybrid work and travel programs will maximize the flexibility remote workers have over how they choose to live and work.

For example, employees with job duties best facilitated by traditional office equipment and meeting space could choose the professional tools and resources afforded by a co-working center, whereas a digital content creator or writer could work entirely from home or travel to new locations between deadlines. Co-working allowances create opportunities for remote workers to discover or create the workspace that best suits their way of life.

Related Article: Working From Home May Be Painful, But It's Making the Future of Work Better

4. Home Delivery Services 

When employees’ work and personal lives share space under one roof, work-life balance or integration becomes especially important. Employers can provide the benefit of home delivery services to help remote workers streamline daily tasks, like cooking and shopping, or give them personalized rewards that allow them to indulge in their unique interests. From meal deliveries to sustainable cleaning products and hobby or lifestyle-centered packages, home delivery services abound to fit the needs and tastes of home-based professionals.

Final Thoughts 

Virtual benefits for remote employees are important considerations for business owners in 2021. As remote work arrangements continue to flourish this year and beyond, employee benefits like home office stipends, employee wellness programs, co-working allowances and home delivery services will serve as beacons to attract and retain top talent, as well as ensure businesses remain competitive and their employees feel seen and respected.

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