Contractors — 20 min
After the rise of remote work, the workplace now looks and feels different for millions of people around the globe. For some people, the office has always been at home — but with the world reopened, remote work can be so much more than a desk in the corner.
While benefits like health insurance and pension/retirement plans are typically necessary to compete for and retain great talent, additional perks that enhance the work-from-home experience are often underutilized.
“Benefits are an essential part of the hiring equation. If some employees don’t get the same benefits as their peers because of where they live, the disparity can make them feel like they don’t belong in your organization,” explains Nadia Vatalidis, VP of People at Remote. “Benefits challenges can also make you lose out on great talent in the hiring process.”
Wellness and lifestyle benefits, like continued learning budgets and mental health support, show employees you care and can help your organization practice fair equity among your employees.
“Teams like Remote have been leading the way in practicing ‘fair equity,’ which means making sure employees in every country have not only the statutory but also the supplemental benefits and perks they need to thrive personally and professionally,” says Vatalidis.
For some organizations, this can mean practicing asynchronous work. For others, it can look like granting parental leave in one country to match parental leave required in another country. Simply meeting the minimum requirements in each country creates a less unified work culture and leads to resentment when some employees receive more benefits than others.
Benefits like home office stipends and stipends for coworking spaces help to bridge the gap between the home office and the types of amenities an employee would normally get to enjoy in an in-person office environment.
A coworking space is essentially an office space that offers many of the amenities of a typical office — desks, coffee, collaborative spaces, and a distraction-free environment, among others. Examples of well-known and widespread coworking organizations include Desana, Gable, and WeWork. Both individuals and organizations can sign up for monthly or annual memberships. Importantly, these spaces allow employees to connect with other professionals and maintain a sense of community and structure in their daily life.
At Remote, we offer our entire global workforce of 1,000+ a monthly stipend to help cover the cost of a coworking space. We believe that doing so helps our employees live better, more productive lives and gives them the flexibility they need to do their best work.
It’s easy to assume that an employee who opts to go remote already has a viable workspace in their home. However, this is often not the case. Employees based in large cities often report working out of bedrooms, kitchens, or other already-utilized spaces rather than an actual office.
“If you’re over the age of 35, you’re likely to have good work from home setup, which makes a big difference. But if you’re younger than that, it’s less likely. You might have a small apartment or be sharing accomodation with other people,” notes Michael Cockburn, CEO of the flexible workspace app Desana.
In fact, according to research from CraftJack, 51% of American teleworkers have worked at the kitchen counter — and an incredible 35% report having worked in a closet.
Providing benefits like home office stipends and coworking stipends can help employees set up a space that maximizes productivity while minimizing distractions.
Even if your employees aren’t huddling in a closet to escape distractions, coworking spaces can serve as a wellness benefit for fighting loneliness, alienation, and isolation — common ailments for remote employees worldwide.
“Just saying that everyone should be working from their homes is wrong. You don’t know what personalities you’re dealing with, or what their practical situation is, or what will make them feel productive and motivated when working,” explains Cockburn. “Offering coworking benefits is an important benefit for remote companies.”
Even experienced remote employees often struggle with the loss of the office “water cooler” time — the ability to chat in person with their coworkers, establish bonds, and workshop through ideas while getting a cup of coffee together.
Coworking spaces offer more than just a place to do work. They allow employees to reap the psychological benefits of seeing and interacting with other people. These spaces can also provide a clearer division between their work space and their home space when needed.
“Employees value flexibility because they value their work-life balance, the time they spend with family and friends, and the sense of empowerment to do your best work when and where you feel most productive,” says Andrea Rajic, marketing manager at Gable, an innovative workspace-as-a-service platform.
Some digital nomads are even opting to live in hybrid coworking/coliving spaces. Sun and Co. in Javea, Spain, is a space where freelancers, solopreneurs, digital nomads, and remote workers can come together to benefit from a change of scenery, learn from like-minded people, and expand their professional networks. Co-living spaces are becoming more important to remote work life as people seek new ways to build their community.
The world is becoming increasingly remote-work friendly, especially in the wake of COVID-19, when many employers went remote out of necessity. Although remote work allows companies access to a larger, more diverse talent pool, it also allows local talent to find remote jobs with non-local companies. Businesses now have to compete against thousands of other remote organizations for top talent.
Offering supplemental benefits like coworking stipends to these potential employees is a viable, cost-effective way for companies to stand out in this new era of competitive hiring.
“In a time when the business climate is increasingly employee-centric, workers are looking for employers who will allow them to work flexibly and nurture the work-life balance,” explains Rajic. “So for employers, it’s really about designing the most attractive benefits plan to ensure the happiness and satisfaction of existing employees, as well as attracting top talent in The Great Resignation.”
When it comes to coworking access, there are obvious benefits for remote employees, but this setup can benefit employers as well. Giving employees the flexibility to choose their environment means they can go where they’re most comfortable working — and therefore where they are most productive.
“I’ve seen the benefits of people working from wherever they feel most productive firsthand, especially from members who work for larger companies. There’s a level of trust between them and their employer that they’re eager to protect,” explains Diego Bejarano Gerke, founder of WiFi Tribe, which organizes co-living, coworking spaces for remote workers around the world.
He notes that personal happiness and work satisfaction often go hand in hand, creating a “win” for the company’s bottom line. “On a personal side, these members are happier and more satisfied with their life outside of work and that enthusiasm bleeds into their professional life,” says Gerke. “The benefits of letting employees work from anywhere boils down to one key point: happier employees means more productivity and retention.”
Once you’ve decided to offer coworking as a benefit, the question becomes: how do we structure this benefit for our employees?
There are a few ways to approach this. One option is to buy subscriptions for each individual employee — allowing everyone to work at their local WeWork location, for example. However, this can become difficult to manage, especially with larger companies and when employees are based in numerous locations. It may prove difficult to find a WeWork location in every single city your workforce is located.
Another approach is to give employees a stipend per month or per annum. We recommend exploring this option first, as this gives employees the flexibility to choose the space that feels most right for them. Providing flexibility also reduces the amount of management needed to oversee this benefit. Employees can simply expense their coworking costs back to the company with a receipt.
Cockburn recommends moving away from limiting employees to one location per city. “Employers should give optionality rather than this old model of a single office in the center of the city. At the end of the day, you want to increase workplace flexibility — not constrain it,” he says.
Using our EOR services, Remote can assist your organization in making coworking access part of your global benefits plan. Instead of having to create individual plans for each member of your team to suit their regional choices, you can instead rely on us to handle the details and rollout on your behalf.
The remote work model is constantly evolving to meet and anticipate the needs of companies and employees alike. Allowing remote employees more flexibility with their workplace is a proactive approach that helps ensure greater productivity and retention — and, most importantly, employee happiness.
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