- Remote work is here to stay. Remote and flexible work opportunities are on the rise, and the general consensus among employees is they want to maintain those options.
- Present the total value proposition. The value of remote work should be outlined in a total rewards statement — but rather than listing a dollar value, a better approach may be presenting flex work options as a total value proposition.
- Reimburse employees for at-home office supplies. Even in states that don't require employers to do so, offering remote workers a stipend for supplies can increase employee satisfaction and reflect company values related to bolstering employee productivity.
Remote work can provide value for employees in the form of greater day-to-day flexibility, reduced childcare, transportation and parking costs, and savings on meals, dry cleaning and more.
But it can cost employees, too, with the purchase of at-home work supplies, greater utility costs and the expectation that they be available for more hours throughout the day.
That dichotomy raises the question of the value remote work provides to employers and employees — and how to describe that value in a total rewards statement.
Remote Work Matters to Employees
WorldatWork's “2022 Inventory of Total Rewards Programs and Practices” survey found that 82% of surveyed companies had employees working remotely 100% of the time in 2022.
Recent data from Gallup notes that of remote-capable employees surveyed, 60% expressed a preference for hybrid work options long-term. One-third said they want to permanently work from home, with only 6% wanting to work entirely on-site in the future.
When employees are unable to work in their preferred location, the result is lower engagement and higher burnout, Gallup reports.
WTW’s recent “2023 Benefits Trends Survey” found that employers are increasingly looking for ways to enhance benefits with flexible work arrangements as employees place an even higher value on remote work, according to Tracey Malcolm, global leader, future of work & risk at WTW.
Listing Dollar Value vs. Total Value
With every indication that remote work will continue to be prevalent well into the future, employers are examining how to present that option to potential workers.
Some remote work-related costs are measurable. The average U.S. worker who used to commute to the office but now works remotely is saving between $3,000 and $15,000, according to Korn Ferry. Many businesses are saving, too: in fact, if all remote-capable employees in the U.S. worked from home, companies would see a total $700 billion savings a year, according to a “2020 Global Workplace Analytics” study.
But there are other savings that are more difficult to measure. Employees say having more personal autonomy, including by eliminating the stress of commuting, has significant value. And companies with remote workers are finding that employees are quitting less, and that filling roles with remote workers can be done at a lower cost.
“Staying silent on remote-work investments means leaving an untold story around your differentiation,” Malcolm explained. “There's real value here, so employers need to make sure they are getting credit for the offering.”
Yet, placing a dollar value on remote work in a total rewards statement can be a fraught choice, said Lori Block, founder and managing consultant at emHrge, a human resources consulting company that focuses on well-being and sustainability.
Instead, Block said, remote work should be highlighted as a component of the company's overall employee value proposition.
Supply Reimbursement and Stipends
One concrete remote work-related reward all employers can offer is a stipend or reimbursement for supplies needed to work at home.
During the mass exodus from in-office work during the COVID-19 pandemic, employers found their workers attempting to work with limited supplies at home, often after significant company investments in ergonomically correct workstations to reduce workplace injuries.
“When the pandemic hit, employers had to adapt on a dime with uneven results,” Block said. “Some employees already had at-home workplaces set up. But on the other end of the spectrum, there were employees who lived in small apartments or had a roommate, and the only place they could find privacy and quiet for Zoom calls was by sitting in their bathtub.”
Solutions came on a case-by-case basis: For instance, if an employee had a laptop, could the company provide a monitor, external keyboard and mouse to help create a more comfortable at-home office?
“Ensuring these (work-from-home supply) basics are available to get work done will contribute to addressing current talent challenges,” Malcolm said.
The Long-Term Value of Remote Work
Employing remote workers may trim some transportation reimbursements, office utilities or real estate costs for companies able to reduce or eliminate office space.
However, Block cautions that the rapid increase in remote work is still too recent to make sweeping generalizations about company cost savings or across-the-board compensation adjustments. Instead, employers may consider an annual bonus or additional 401(k) contribution.
Overall, companies may find that addressing the value of remote work in the context of total rewards is best done through a statement surrounding the company's intention to incentivize and support employees, across the board and in a remote-work context — without listing a dollar amount.
“Remote employees say, 'There's this assumption that I can take on more work because now I'm not commuting. Why are you telling me there's a dollar value to that?'” Block said. “To companies — don't monetize remote work unless you're really sure that this is truly improving the quality of life for your employees, and I don't know how you can ensure that [in absolute terms].”
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