Most of America has decided it is time to put COVID behind us and get back to life. The business world is following suit, bringing workers back to the office in hopes of restoring what was before coronavirus. But there's a problem: just 3% of America's white collar workers have a genuine interest in being back in the office every day of the week. Approximately 86% would prefer to be in the office no more than two days per week.
For employers, the issue is one of getting staff to come back voluntarily (and happily so) or forcing them back begrudgingly. If management wants a willing and happy staff back in the office, they need to make returning worth it. A big part of that is upping the game in terms of benefits.
Here are three benefits you can discuss with your clients to help them encourage their employees to return to the offices:
1. Commuter Benefits
Returning to the office obviously means returning to commuting. For so many workers, the commute is part of the daily grind they would gladly do without. Commuting takes time, and it costs money. Employers can help offset both with a selection of commuter benefits.
Commuter benefits come in many forms. Some are offered on a pre-tax basis and others after-tax. Pre-tax benefits reduce taxable income, which also reduces tax payments—providing an additional benefit. Examples of commuter benefits include:
- Fuel reimbursement
- Mileage reimbursement
- Parking stipend
- Public transportation stipend
- Carpooling incentives
Some companies may even opt to provide some of their workers with company vehicles and charge cards for fuel. With gas prices continuing to soar, commuter benefits are welcome and may even be necessary for some employees to return to the office. Just know that each type of commuter benefit has its own tax implications. Options need to be researched thoroughly so that employers understand their obligations.
2. Childcare Assistance
COVID has forever altered how working parents care for their children. Children not yet in school need be cared for throughout the workday. When parents work from home, they can keep kids with them. Returning to the office requires arranging for daycare and covering the related expenses.
Employers can make a return to the office more worthwhile by offering pre-tax benefit plans such as a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA) that are designed to help off-set the costs of childcare. Setting up an onsite daycare center is another option. Even agreeing to flexible scheduling so that working parents can share the responsibility of caring for young children can make a significant difference.
Just like commuter benefits, these benefits have tax implications that employers need to be aware of, which is where a knowledgeable, full-service benefits broker can help keep their clients informed of their options.
3. Technology Upgrades
Believe it or not, one of the biggest gripes among workers returning to the office is going through all the hassle to do so and still finding themselves spending their days on Zoom calls. They might just as well continue working from home. That principle aside, there is another issue to consider.
For colleagues sitting in the same conference room, all using their phones or laptops to connect to a Zoom meeting with remote colleagues creates a big problem. Between the echo and the inability of more than one person to speak at any given time, it can quickly turn into an unproductive endeavor. If companies want to continue virtual meetings in the office, it's a good idea to invest in upgraded technology so that everyone in the same location can use one camera, one mic, and one video screen.
The pandemic accelerated digital adoption and consumption as companies performing routine ‘business as usual’ practices such as in-person meetings or completing their benefits enrollment via paper forms were forced to adapt online. Now is the perfect time to ensure you’re offering your clients and their employees the modern, digital benefits enrollment experience they are expecting.
And as a full-service benefits broker, it’s helpful to stay informed on what’s important to employees so you’re in a better position to open conversations and provide the benefit solutions your clients want and need. Many employees do not want to return to physical offices. To get them to do so, their employers may need to sweeten the pot with non-medical benefits, and you can help them.