7 Great Perks To Include in a Competitive Remote Employee Benefits Package

Hiring RemoteWorking Remotely

In collaboration with Plane.

What does it take to stand out from all the other companies in a job-seeker’s market during the Great Resignation? The answer: employee benefits. We polled 1,385 remote workers on LinkedIn to ask whether or not benefits are something they look for when applying for or staying at jobs — and 83% said yes.

Employee benefits are an important part of attracting and keeping a happy workforce. Your employee benefits package shows employees that you care about them, leading to higher employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention. A strong benefits package that helps employees handle their business outside of work leads to increased productivity while they’re on the clock. And your remote workers deserve comprehensive benefits just as much as their in-office counterparts do. As one commenter noted in our poll, “Benefits are a part of compensation and it shouldn’t matter if the work is done remotely vs. [in an] onsite/office environment.”

We Work Remotely and Plane dug deep to find out which benefits matter to remote workers and the companies who hire them. We discovered seven key perks that will make your remote employee benefits package more competitive than any other companies’ offerings. Including these perks will help you recruit and retain top talent, saving your organization from the loss of productivity and morale caused by employee turnover.
  1. Healthcare, including telemedicine
  2. Flexible schedules and time off
  3. Home office stipend
  4. Childcare and elderly care assistance
  5. Continuous learning stipend
  6. Wellness stipend
  7. Coworking space stipend

1. Healthcare, including telemedicine

Healthcare is the #1 benefit most often provided by remote workers’ companies, according to our poll. That ranking is corroborated by SHRM, which reports that healthcare consistently ranks as the most important benefit category for both U.S.-based employees and employers. However, there’s been a recent push for employers to offer telemedicine, telehealth, and online mental health coverage for remote workers due to increased accessibility and COVID safety.

The Affordable Care Act mandates that employers with more than 50 full-time employees provide suitable, low-cost health insurance. Here are some options to choose from regarding healthcare benefits to provide for your workers:
Compare premium costs and coverage according to your business size and employee needs. Global companies: look for international group plans that offer coverage in all locations in which you hire or consider offering a flat stipend instead. The stipend can be a great option for international contractors or workers who might not be eligible for group plans.

For both of these options, you need to handle contractor compliance concerns. Your company might not be able to pay premiums for contractors depending on the country they’re in. In the United States, for example, employer-sponsored premiums may only apply for full-time employees due to how employees vs. contractors are classified. Additionally, contractors may need to claim extra stipends and employer contributions toward their healthcare costs as taxable income.

Make sure that your healthcare coverage options also include telemedicine and mental health services. Per our survey, employees believe “there should definitely be access to telemedicine and mental health therapy sessions included for a true remote/work from anywhere job. The duty of care of the employer includes well-being and this is essential in a remote role.”

As employees look for accessible and COVID-safe health care options, telehealth has grown from a perk to a must-have option. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 94% of small firms in the U.S. with 50 to 199 workers covered at least some telemedicine in 2021, as opposed to only 65% three years ago.

Mental healthcare is especially important for helping your employees avoid the burnout and loneliness of remote work. Use Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to support workplace mental health through professional counseling and stress management services. Subscriptions to group mental health plans through providers like Talkspace are also a great option.

Whatever options you choose to offer, make sure to increase communications so all your employees are aware of what healthcare resources are available to them.

2. Flexible work arrangements

We found that remote workers are looking for “real” flexibility, where they can use the freedom of remote work arrangements to better accommodate their personal lives. According to a 2021 Future Forum survey of knowledge workers across the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and the U.K., 78% of respondents say they want location flexibility, while 95% want schedule flexibility.

According to an EY survey of more than 16,000 employees across 16 countries, 54% would consider leaving their job after the pandemic if they weren’t given some flexibility in where and when they work. Flexibility is one of the best perks of remote work, so your company should embrace it in your remote culture and your policies. Giving your employees flexibility empowers them to take care of themselves and achieve a better work-life balance.

Offer mental health days and personal days, either on an annual or unlimited basis. This lets your employees check out when they need to without dipping into their vacation time. Consider offering flexible holidays, such as allowing for floating holidays in addition to or instead of pre-determined public or company holidays. Additionally, encourage employees to actually use their paid time off without restrictions during busy months or when other team members are already off.

Another way to provide flexibility is via flexible hours. Set core hours for meetings, but prioritize asynchronous work and collaboration everywhere else, like Plane does. Flextime allows your employees to get their work done whenever they work best, which might not be 9 to 5. You may also consider a compressed workweek, like a four-day workweek or a 9/80 schedule, which gives your employees even more time back for living their lives outside of work.

Remote companies should clarify whether their positions are truly remote — that is, whether they allow employees to work from any location in the world, or ask them to remain in a certain area. If your employees still come into the office, offer them a choice on whether they’d like to stay in-office, pursue a hybrid arrangement, or work fully remotely. At Atlassian, employees can split their time between the office and anywhere however they like, up to 100% of their time per location. Doist similarly allows employees to work from anywhere and design their own schedules.

Despite the plusses of flexible work, it can also create compliance concerns. Your hourly, nonexempt employees are guaranteed certain rights to breaks and overtime pay according to the Fair Labor Standards Act. In response, improve your timekeeping to make sure that your hourly workers don’t work overtime without approval. On the flip side, when it comes to your independent contractors, you can’t legally control where and when they work — in their case, flexibility is required, not a benefit.

Whatever flexible work arrangements you provide, establish a remote work policy that explains all guidelines for flexible work. This helps keep your employees, contractors, and management all aligned on their expectations and benefits.

3. Home office stipend

Remote employees may struggle to set up an ideal working environment due to costs that would normally be covered in a traditional office. A home office stipend, or a remote work stipend, minimizes that financial burden and assures that employees have what they need for maximum productivity and efficiency.

Remote work comes at a cost — literally. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, remote workers see a $40 to $50 monthly increase to their energy bill on average. Not to mention buying office furniture, ink, paper, and other supplies that are normally covered in an office.

To cover equipment, electronics, and furniture, offer a larger one-time home office stipend upon hiring. You could also supplement with an ongoing yearly or monthly stipend to cover recurring expenses, like utilities, office supplies, and more.

For example, Twitter offers $1,000 as a one-time home office stipend, as well as a monthly phone and internet allowance. Another remote company, Hotjar, offers €2,500 upon hiring and €500 per additional year per employee for their home office and working space budget. It also provides employees with €2,400 every year for recurring expenses like internet and snacks.

For compliance, offer your home office stipend either as a tax-free reimbursement per itemized receipts or a flat taxable stipend added to employees’ checks. There may be various requirements employees need to fulfill in order to qualify for tax-free reimbursement under the home office deduction, such as not using the items during personal time. Consult with your accounting team as to the best course of action.

4. Childcare and elderly care assistance

Working parents and caregivers need a break. They’ve been helping children manage remote schooling and taking care of elderly relatives while on the clock themselves. When working parents don’t have to worry about their loved ones, they’re able to be more productive at work.

According to Hubble’s “Should We Ditch the Office?” Survey, 29.4% of employees living with a child under the age of 18 said childcare would significantly improve working from home. That percentage jumped to 48.2% for employees with a child under age 4.

Here’s how you can provide your employees with extra support for their families, with examples of companies and solutions that already do so:
  • Offer subsidized childcare or a stipend. Articulate provides employees with up to $3,000 tax-free annually for childcare.
  • Provide assistance finding quality care. PwC provides their employees with a free membership to Sittercity, which helps them find trustworthy childcare, elderly care, and pet care providers.
  • Sponsor dependent care flexible spending account (FSA). Intuit sponsors a dependent care FSA to help employees save for childcare expenses.
  • Provide back-up care for when their normal caregiver is unavailable. Bright Horizons is one example of a back-up childcare provider used by many employers.
  • Offer access to concierge services. Accenture helps employees restore balance to their lives by taking care of time-consuming tasks like grocery shopping or scheduling doctor’s appointments.

Because there are tax incentives in the form of pre-tax deductions, the IRS has an interest in auditing an employer for their compliance with FSA guidelines. That means if you offer dependent care FSAs, you’ll need to conduct nondiscrimination testing — multiple tests are required — to ensure compliance with nondiscrimination mandates.

5. Learning and development opportunities

Your company culture should encourage employees’ professional and personal interests to improve employee satisfaction and employee retention. When you offer learning and development benefits, employees are more likely to feel supported at your company — and less likely to look for a new position elsewhere.

According to a Ceridian report, 83% of employees who work for a company with learning resources feel happy with their jobs and stay longer, vs. 58% of those whose companies don’t provide any learning opportunities. Said learning opportunities also assist in your recruiting efforts: according to a 2019 Axonify report, 76% of employees feel that having opportunities for training or skill development would make an employer more attractive to them.

Offer a continuous learning stipend or reimbursement for educational pursuits of your employees’ choice, which could include tuition, class fees, conferences, certifications, courses, books, and more. You could also provide company-sponsored subscriptions to learning services like Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and Amazon Kindle Unlimited to help employees upskill.

It’s not enough to just pay for learning; it’s also important to ensure employees have the freedom and time for it. You can offer extra PTO for development or have regular learning days or paid group training sessions so employees can learn while on the clock. Work with management to adjust workloads so workers don’t feel like their performance is at risk when they take time for their learning opportunities. For example, Balsamiq offers $3,000 a year and encourages employees to schedule weekly time for development, while Aha gives employees $1,000 a year for third-party education, as well as extra PTO for learning.

Keep in mind that the learning stipend should only apply to optional training. You’re required to pay for any mandatory certifications or classes that are necessary for employees’ jobs. According to HR Daily Advisor, time spent in meetings, classes, or training must be paid unless:
  • attendance is voluntary,
  • it’s outside of work hours,
  • it’s not job-related or tied to on-the-job performance, and
  • the employee doesn’t perform any work during that time.

Otherwise, if for the purpose of upskilling or personal development alone, you can consider those costs reimbursable under the learning stipend.

6. Wellness stipend

A healthier workforce is a stronger workforce, losing less time and money on preserving their health. According to the RAND Employer Survey, employers reported overwhelmingly positive results from their wellness programs. Sixty-one percent said offering wellness benefits reduced healthcare costs, while 78% reported less absenteeism, and 80% reported higher productivity. Offering a wellness stipend shows that you prioritize employee health and helps employees perform at their mental and physical best.

Provide reimbursement or stipends for items that promote fitness or wellness. This could include, but isn’t limited to:
  • Gym memberships and personal trainers
  • Registration fees for sports events and competitions
  • Fitness equipment and devices (like weights, Fitbits, and more)
  • Subscriptions and apps that promote wellness, like Peloton or Headspace
  • Massage therapy, chiropractors, and physical therapy

At Webflow, employees receive $200 monthly as their health and wellness stipend. Meanwhile, at Articulate, employees get $100 a month toward items and services for their “well-being,” however they choose to define that.

This stipend is generally considered taxable income, so make sure to add it to payroll so that the right amounts are withheld and taxed appropriately.

7. Coworking space stipend

While working from home is comfortable and convenient, some employees report feeling more productive outside of their homes in a coworking space. Providing a coworking space stipend gives your employees the option to work from wherever their brains work best, without worrying about the costs.

Of the office workers surveyed by JLL, 40% want to be able to work from a third-party location that’s neither their home nor the office, such as a coffee shop or coworking space. Additionally, 75% of remote workers surveyed by Hubble said they disliked the lack of social interaction of WFH. Coworking spaces help mitigate this, offering chances for your remote employees to socialize and network professionally.

Offer a company-sponsored membership to a coworking space provider like WeWork with multiple locations throughout the country or even globally. Or you could provide a stipend for any kind of coworking space. Basecamp provides $100 a month for any coworking space rent or fees.

Alternatively, you might cover the cost of food and drink at cafes. This option could be cheaper than coworking space rates and may be more accessible to your employees who don’t live near a coworking space or would prefer to work from a coffee shop. Buffer covers coworking space membership fees or the costs of refreshments purchased at coffee shops.

If you have any remote employees who are H-1B visa holders, though, coworking spaces could complicate your Labor Condition Application (LCA) posting requirements. Under those requirements, employers must provide notice of H-1B hiring status at a worksite if it’s outside of the normal commuting area. As the guidelines vary by location, check with your legal counsel or the appropriate government agencies for more information.

Your total employee benefits package matters more than the individual perks

Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees when planning for compensation: make sure that the salary and benefits work together to meet your employees’ needs. As one remote worker noted on our LinkedIn survey, “If the salary cover[s] the costs of the benefits, there is no problem. One needs to compensate for the other. The important part is the grand total.” A competitive total compensation package will help you make stronger job offers to the best employees.

For companies with cross-cultural teams distributed all over the world, your total compensation package may need to offer different benefits for workers in different countries. We already see companies like Automattic and GitLab doing so, and 57% of respondents to our survey said they offer different benefits depending on the country they work from. You might also increase total pay for your contractors to compensate for a lack of benefits like healthcare.

When it comes to hiring and paying your remote workers, especially internationally, Plane is a go-to expert. Plane specializes in international hiring, compliance, and payroll in the remote workspace. Check out the Plane blog for more tips on how to keep your remote workplace productive and fully compliant!

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