The Loop

Established Work From Home Benefits

Filed under: Benefits

According to the September Gallup poll of monthly employment trends, a quarter of fulltime workers in the US worked from home fulltime, while another 20 percent did so part of the time. While employers may continue to recall workers back to the worksite, a full 90 percent of remote workers say they would prefer remote status at least some of the time.

 Lifestyle Spending Account

Since the onset of the pandemic, when the work-from-home (WFH) staffing arrangement became prevalent, employers have begun offering lifestyle spending accounts (LSAs). A new benefit that is becoming increasing popular, the LSA is fully funded by the employer on a post-tax basis; funds used by workers are reported as taxable income.

The account may offer a stipend allocated monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually. A recent study found that many companies offer $500-$1,000 in benefits, available to purchase a wide variety of WFH support products and services, such as:

  • office desk or chair                
  • fitness gear or classes
  • mental health support services
  • spa/self-care services
  • pet care
  • travel and vacation perks
  • tuition reimbursement
  • parental support 

The key benefit to an LSA is that it allows each worker to determine how to spend available funds based needs and preferences. While a Millennial may purchase a gym membership, Gen Z may use the funds to visit a mental health therapist, and a Baby Boomer may hire a home health aide for an elderly parent.

 Health and Wellness Benefits

It is particularly important for remote workers to stay fit, physically and mentally. After all, direct supervisors may not see their staff for months on end (or never), so it is difficult to gauge whether they are leading a healthy lifestyle based on appearance and in-person interactions. One way to incentivize health and wellness among WFH personnel is to offer an employee wellness platform.

A wellness platform asks workers to input health and lifestyle tendencies, then makes recommendations for healthy behaviors in which they are most likely to participate. The platform encourages ongoing fitness by assigning individualized health tasks every day, and further supports motivation with tracking, health challenges, and the ability to share results.

 Childcare Benefits

While working from home should never double as fulltime childcare, it does offer parents of school-age children the opportunity to save money on before- and after- school daycare. In addition to traditional childcare assistance programs, consider other benefits such as afternoon babysitting, tutoring resources, and online classes for children capable of independent activities for a few hours a day.

 Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance generally refers to the ability to get everything done that you need to do within the scope of a day – both in work and personal life. Working from home can be a huge boon to this balance because it provides more personal time during the day that the office worker does not enjoy.

For example, a worker engaging in a telehealth doctor’s appointment in the privacy of his own home may take only 15 minutes out of the workday – instead of two hours for an office visit. Working from home allows her to run local errands or participate in an online fitness class during lunchtime, instead of incorporating these activities into her commute home, or taking away time on weekends. Furthermore, consider how many times workers have to take off half the day from work to be home for the four-hour window to wait for a cable guy.  Consider how much money workers save if they don’t have to pay for before- and after-school daycare. 

The reality is that working from home can significantly add a work-life balance benefit with no additional cost to the employer.

 Eliminate Commute

In the US, the average two-way commute to work is nearly an hour a day. That adds up to approximately 100 hours of commute time annually – including an average 41 hours sitting in traffic each year.

 Much of that time is spent thinking about all the things one needs to do – and could be doing – if they weren’t stuck in traffic. Perhaps that is why people with more than a 30-minute one-way commute experience higher levels of stress and anxiety. By eliminating the commute to work, remote workers may enjoy additional sleep time in the morning, spending more time with family, and eating a healthy breakfast. Other benefits inherent to the WFH model include saving money on:

  • Gas, car maintenance, transportation and parking expenses
  • Public transportation fees
  • Purchasing and maintaining a professional wardrobe
  • Lunches purchased outside the office

Research by Global Workplace Analytics revealed that people who work from home at least half the time can achieve between $2,500 - $4,000 in savings each year. Employers also benefit – by approximately $11,000 per worker. These savings stem from the ability to reduce office space, lower utility bills, and spend less on office furniture, equipment and supplies. Many companies have repurposed these savings by helping offset their workers’ home expenses, such as utility, cell phone, and internet services.

 A Customizable Office

Working from home permits the worker to set up his office in a way most comfortable for her needs. To help create an efficient work environment, employers often provide a monthly, quarterly or annual stipend to help pay for home office furnishings, equipment, and ergonomic accessories. Helping workers create a comfortable workspace can promote better mental and physical health, which can lead to savings on medical bills caused by neck and back problems. Working from home cuts down on absenteeism and even presenteeism: Instead of compiling a to-do list while at work, the worker can actually throw clothes into the laundry or mow the grass during his lunch hour.

 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

A recent trend in the workplace is incorporating a culture that promotes diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). But how can employers develop this practice as a worker benefit? The WFH model offers an ideal opportunity. First of all, in the ideal WFH corporate world, recognition, promotions, and higher pay would be based solely on performance. Since many studies have shown that working from home can have a significant impact on increased productivity, the benefit itself offers better opportunities for promotion.

Second, WFH offers the potential to resolve in-office bias, prejudice, and discrimination issues. Research has discovered that many women, people of color, and disabled workers feel less pressure and discrimination when working from home. They encounter fewer micro-aggressions and related challenges when outside the office environment, which reduces stress levels, can improve mental health, and promote higher levels of performance.

During the height of the pandemic, US employers saved more than $30 billion per day by sending workers home to work. The economic benefit of remote work could become a mainstay, as more companies adopt it as a long-term solution.

The alternative – recalling workers onsite – puts companies at risk of losing talent by not offering the remote work option. WFH is, for most people, a benefit in itself. But it also offers the opportunity for employers to enhance traditional benefits such as health and wellness programs. In turn, they may see a greater return on those investments.

While many employers opine over the loss of company culture, it’s important to recognize why culture was so important to begin with. It was a way of corralling different demographics and personalities into a common core of behaviors and values, so that these different factions could get along. Much of that could be lost with a remote workforce, but it may not be a bad thing – at least from the worker perspective.

Working from home, they can retain their individuality, work in a less sterile environment, and have greater autonomy. By focusing less on conforming to a company culture, workers are more likely to be engaged in the day-to-day work product. In turn, this could lead to greater job satisfaction and higher retention.

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