By downsizing or giving up office space altogether, companies can—and should—redirect money to their employees in meaningful ways. Here's how.
If you’re like most of the world right now, the amount of time you’ve spent in an office has decreased drastically since the start of the pandemic. Amidst this shift to remote or hybrid work models, your company might have decided to downsize or forgo its office space entirely. Some are getting creative, subleasing part of their office space to recoup costs, while others have picked up and moved shop to cheaper cities altogether.
In any case, most companies have been saving significant sums of money on operating and capital expenses. Funds once spent on office space and every aspect of running it (think: desks, snacks, coffee, security, maintenance, etc.) are finding new homes in the company budget.
So where is this money going? And more importantly, where should it be going? While most any means of putting this money back into the employee experience is a good thing, some ways of spending reign superior over others, namely ones that support employees in ways they actually want—and need right now.
One of the main redistributions of funds has come in the form of video conferencing tech and cloud space to aid largely-remote workforces. Technology that might have once been used sparingly, perhaps to communicate via satellite offices, is now a requisite.
While remote tech is certainly a priority, remote activities such as virtual team bonding events, or really any non-work-related activity employees can do together, are just as important. In times where the lines between work and non-work hours have become blurry at best, it’s a huge mood booster to take employees’ minds (and hands!) off work. Rope off an afternoon for a virtual escape room or succulent gardening workshop. Don’t be surprised if the bonding and collaboration fostered during a virtual event carry over into work, too!
Similarly, increased paid time off, enhanced parental leave benefits, and sabbaticals can do wonders for employee morale. According to American Psychological Association, “the majority of working Americans reported positive effects of taking vacation time” including greater moods, energy, motivation, work quality, and productivity. The need for employees’ time off shouldn’t just it honored, it should be encouraged.
Money is also going toward meditation apps and exercise stipends, to encourage employees’ mental and physical wellbeings. Employee mental health is more important than ever right now. If you don’t yet offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), start now! And consider providing an additional layer. There are several newer online platforms (Lyra, Spring Health, etc.) that can expand services and provider access.
Funds should also be spent on employee cost-share for health benefits. According to Michele Lodin, VP of Head of Total Rewards at Enspira HR, “2023 benefit renewals will likely be higher due to inflation and a strain on hospitals/providers.” Holding the line on increasing costs assures employees you really have their health in mind.
Co-working space memberships are on the table, too, as a means for employees to go somewhere other than their own home throughout the workday. This is especially common for companies transitioning from physical office space to an all-remote setup; a coworking space provides all the amenities your office used to, without the overhead costs. And compared to, say, your living room couch, a co-working space offers a sanctuary with fewer distractions and proper desks.
But let’s be honest, even with a cool co-working space to escape to, your employees’ meals still need to be prepped and their family taken care of. “Childcare is particularly challenging right now,” says Lodin. “Some employees don't want to send their children to daycare centers but prefer in-home or small group shared childcare, which is more expensive.” Additionally, providers themselves are now sick more often, leaving parents without help and still needing to work themselves.
Of the 40-million adults who currently count themselves as caregivers, many are valuable Millennials putting in as many as 24 hours each week -- more than half a full-time job. Many who are in the position of caregiver have also experienced an impact at work, such as needing to take a leave of absence, changing work hours, and/or receiving performance feedback. Really helping employees work on work today also means supporting caregiving, including childcare (with platforms like Care.com), eldercare, and meal prep services.
The hiring process has also received an overhaul in some companies. Talent searches once limited by geographical area now boast boundless candidate pools, and companies are taking advantage. A more robust interviewing process, replete with tech platforms to facilitate candidate interviews and evaluations, ensures companies are investing in top talent.
In an effort to attract the new, don’t forget what you already have! Money should be directed toward current employees’ financial wellness too, like salary adjustments, promotions, increased 401k matching. Even a supplemental “pandemic” bonus sends a message to employees that you see their work and value it, especially when they know you’re not beholden to an expensive lease anymore. In terms of spending the pandemic money you’re saving, a gesture as simple as that might go furthest in terms of employee engagement and retention.
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