Will Employers Rethink At-Work Perks With the Return to the Office?

The summer of 2021 is initiating the gradual return to in-workplace business operations. As part of a COVID-19 study from May of 2021, respondents approximated that 55% of their workforces were working remotely. Respondents also noted that they anticipated about 32% of workforces would be working remotely by April of 2022. As of May 2021, 36% of responding organizations had staff returning to their workplaces, with an additional 23% set to return on a planned date.

To learn more about the process of returning workers to the office, we revisited applicable data from our 2020 Employee Benefits Survey. This survey captures benchmarking data on health care and retirement benefits as well as miscellaneous offerings including services, education benefits, wellness programs, and at-work perks.

Will the prevalence of at-work perks fluctuate as the gradual return to the office continues? Will new safety protocols reduce the prevalence of certain offerings? Will new benefits be offered or enhanced to encourage a return to the workplace? With the increased popularity of remote work, will these offerings still be financially viable?

Will Employers Rethink At-Work Perks With the Return to the Office?

The figures below reflect responses from 574 benefits practitioners representing single/corporate and public employers.

At-Work Benefits Offered
 CorporationsPublic EmployersOverall
 n=514n=60n=574
Business casual dress code55.1%65.0%56.1%
Casual dress code, Fridays only28.0%46.7%30.0%
Casual dress code, the entire week33.1%13.3%31.0%
Coffee service69.3%20.0%64.1%
Gifts when an immediate family member dies29.0%6.7%26.7%
Holiday gifts33.1%3.3%30.0%
Magazine subscriptions5.3%6.7%5.4%
Nap/privacy/meditation rooms13.8%11.7%13.6%
On-site and/or takeout meals20.8%6.7%19.3%
Pets at work4.5%1.7%4.2%
Service award programs58.6%71.7%59.9%
Take Your Child to Work Day19.1%28.3%20.0%
Transportation benefits (e.g., subsidies, reimbursement, car or vanpools)22.0%16.7%21.4%
Workforce Mental Health 2021
  • More than one-half (56%) of responding organizations offer a business casual dress code.
  • Smaller proportions of respondents take this concept a step further and offer a casual dress code, on Fridays (30%), or for the entire week (31%). Will these offerings be enhanced to encourage more at-work operations?
  • More than three in five (64%) offer coffee service, a benefit more common among single employers. Will these services become a victim of enhanced safety protocols?
  • One in four responding organizations (27%) offer gifts when an immediate family member dies, another benefit more commonly offered among single employers.
  • Similarly, three in ten (30%) offer holiday gifts as an at-work perk, another offering driven by corporate/single employer respondents.
  • About 5% of responding organizations offer magazine subscriptions to workers.
  • One in seven (14%) respondents provided nap/privacy/meditation rooms, a benefit with increasing prevalence. Will this trend be slowed by health and safety concerns?
  • One in five (19%) responding organizations offered on-site and/or takeout meals, another potential area where employers could act cautiously going forward.
  • Four percent (4%) offer a pets-at-work policy. Will these employers reconsider this emerging offering?
  • Three in five respondents (60%) offer service award programs, a benefit more popular among public employer respondents.
  • One in five (20%) offer a ‘Take Your Child to Work’ day.
  • Finally, 21% offer transportation benefits such as subsidies, or reimbursements for cars, vanpools, or public transportation options. Could this be an area of increased prevalence for employers looking to encourage workers to return to the office?

What other at-work perks will be impacted by a return to normal office operations? Have you recently revisited your policies?

You can read more about the 2020 Employee Benefits Survey on the International Foundation website or in these additional blog posts:

Justin Held, CEBS
Senior Research Analyst at the International Foundation 

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