With employees facing countless stressors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations are rethinking their company benefits and finding new ways to support remote workers. In addition to helping employees thrive during these difficult times, tailoring your benefits package to the “new normal” can increase employee retention and boost your company’s overall resilience.

Before the onset of the pandemic, worker retention was already a major issue facing HR departments. The unemployment rate was low, around 3.6%, and employees could easily jump to new workplaces that better suited their lifestyle. Many did — according to SHRM, an estimated 41 million people quit their jobs in 2018. 

Today, while many employees are enjoying the convenience of working from home, they’re also finding it challenging to maintain a sense of work-life balance. As employees grow exhausted by work-from-home life, worker retention remains a serious concern. A recent survey by Monster found that over two-thirds of remote employees are experiencing burnout. Employees are working harder than ever too: with the average workday now an hour longer than before the pandemic, work stress isn’t going away anytime soon. 

Luckily, company leaders can combat burnout by updating corporate benefits packages to support employees day-to-day and beyond. Here are nine HR benefits updates to provide employees with the rest, fuel, and support they need, while boosting morale for improved retention rates:

Rethink your PTO policy  

Despite spending more time at home than ever before, over the past year it’s become incredibly difficult to balance work responsibilities with personal ones. Between teaching children in virtual school and completing daily work tasks, employees are understandably exhausted. At the same time, many people aren’t taking advantage of PTO. With limited travel options, workers are reluctant to use valuable time off to simply stay home — even though taking time off to rest and recharge has been shown to be good for your brain

Even before the pandemic, employees were reluctant to take vacation. According to the U.S. Travel Association, 58% of employees had unused vacation days at the end of 2017, indicating that taking time off isn’t always a high priority for employees. Instead of providing more PTO employees might struggle to use, consider investing in benefits that’ll garner long-term results. 

For instance, more and more companies are embracing flexible schedules, mental health care, and food delivery to boost their employees’ daily happiness and productivity. Consider implementing more regular PTO benefits, like “mental health days” the first Friday of every month, or meeting-free days to enable employees to have more time to focus on one task at a time. Even scheduling and supplying regular no-work team lunches can make a regular meal feel a bit more like time off. While vacations last only a week, these everyday benefits can significantly improve staff morale for years to come. 

Food delivery benefits 

These days, your staff may be eating at home more often, but that doesn’t mean meal prep has gotten any easier. We all know the feeling of 6 p.m. rolling around and realizing you have nothing on hand to make dinner, forget lunch or breakfast the next day. Especially since Americans are going grocery shopping less often these days, it’s easier to realize last-minute that you’re out of specific, key ingredients.

DashPass for Work is the perfect workplace perk for helping your employees stay well-fed, even on busy days. With DashPass, they receive reduced service fees and free delivery on every DoorDash order. While employees get delivery from their favorite local restaurants at a fraction of the cost, your organization is sure to benefit from happier workers and lower turnover rates. 

Flexible schedules for remote employees 

Distractions pop up just as easily, if not more so, at home as they do in the office. For parents and other family caretakers, this is especially true. An easy remedy? Let employees complete work on their own time.

While some companies are transitioning to entirely asynchronous schedules, this isn’t possible for every workplace. Find a method that works for your organization while still allowing staff to complete certain tasks independently at a time that works best for them (like after the kids go to bed). 

Consider implementing a results-only work policy, which focuses on employee output rather than hours spent at a computer. For employees that need additional flexibility, explore job-sharing, which is when one role is split between two employees — such as one employee handling tasks Monday through Wednesday, and the other picking things up Thursday through Saturday. It’s non-traditional but might just work for your company, depending on your roles and needs. Ultimately, creating more flexible work policies will give workers a greater sense of autonomy, a key factor in employee happiness and well-being — all without sacrificing productivity.  

Care services for children and the elderly 

Seeing the struggle parents are facing these days, some employers are going the extra mile by helping them care for children and elderly dependents. Twitter, for instance, launched a virtual camp for “Twitter kids” over the summer, organizing fun and educational on-demand activities to keep staff’s children entertained in the absence of school and camps. 

CVS Health jumped on the bandwagon, too, updating their benefits package to better serve employees tasked with caring for family members during the pandemic. The healthcare company partnered with Bright Horizons, a daycare provider, to provide full-time and part-time employees with 25 days of backup care for children, the elderly, and adult dependents. 

For working parents and caregivers with busy schedules, food and grocery delivery can provide extra support, especially on days they don’t have time to run to the store, much less muster up the brain power to meal plan. When employees enroll in DashPass for Work, they receive free delivery on both restaurant meals and grocery and convenience store offerings, from dinner supplies to diapers. This benefit helps employees get the items they need quickly, alleviating stress and letting them make more time for family. 

While these benefits will help countless staff members, they might help working mothers most. WerkLabs found that women are twice as likely as men to say they’d leave their jobs within a year of the pandemic to care for their children, meaning childcare and free delivery benefits are a crucial part of keeping them in the workforce. 

Paid parental leave 

As the third most popular non-insurance benefit, paid parental leave is a massive perk that can significantly reduce employee turnover. In California and New Jersey, states with legislated paid-leave policies, 20% fewer women leave their jobs in the year after they have a baby. When offered ample paid leave, parents don’t have to choose between their family and their career. 

Microsoft is one of the companies currently extending their parental leave policies to better serve families. In response to school and childcare closures, the company has offered employees an extra three months of paid leave to care for their little ones.  

With parental leave, it’s especially important to set the expectation that employees can — and should — make full use of these benefits. For example, while most fathers take some time off after their children are born, most don't take the full amount because they fear they might be stigmatized by their employers and miss out on future opportunities. Encourage leadership to model positive behaviors by taking the full parental leave, so that employees will follow.

A health and wellness stipend 

For many workers, shifting schedules have caused pre-pandemic workout routines to fall by the wayside. While some employees will be understandably reluctant to venture to the gym these days, there are plenty of alternatives to your old gym membership perk that staff are sure to appreciate. 

A wellness stipend is one potential solution—and it’s already proving effective at companies like Deloitte. Employees can spend their annual allocation of $500 on anything from at-home gym equipment to an upcoming ski trip. This generous budget encourages employees to invest in their health, while giving them the freedom to choose the method that makes most sense for their individual needs. For example, you could let employees spend that budget on something as simple as a new pair of hiking boots, to encourage them to explore local trails safely with the correct, supportive footwear.

Of course, while everyone will love the flexibility of a stipend, not everyone gets excited about fitness. Incorporating a food-related benefit into your employee wellness program ensures every staff member, regardless of their interests, can partake. Everyone needs to eat, right? Consider giving employees a stipend for weekly meals through DashPass for Work so they can eat the healthier meals of their choice with less time spent meal planning for grocery shopping. Everyone might have a different idea of what “healthy” is, so make sure to get guidance from registered dietitians. Additionally, look for ways to bring employees together while learning how to eat healthy by sponsoring events like virtual cooking classes, which bring employees together over a social event while also teaching them new skills.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, eating well is linked to better mental functioning and brain health. By helping employees access healthy food through a wellness stipend or meal and grocery delivery benefit like DashPass for Work, you could ultimately see long-term gains in productivity and performance, not to mention reduced stress levels and lower health care costs — a win-win for everyone. 

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Free or discounted mental health care 

Our physical health isn’t the only thing suffering during the pandemic. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, now 4 out of 10 adults are reporting symptoms of depression or anxiety, up from 1 out of 10 in January 2019.

In addition to a number of other pandemic-inspired benefits, companies like Pinterest have doubled down on their mental health offerings. For example, Pinterest offers employees several free therapy sessions to redeem whenever they’d like. EY (formerly Ernst & Young) has a similar program that credits its impact to leadership support. “Success has come from leadership speaking to, and supporting, mental health care. They’ve given permission for people to come forward, and as they do, we have resources they can plug into,” says program leader Dr. Sandra Turner.

Reducing the barriers your employees face in seeking mental health care can help them cope with these symptoms and better adjust to the new normal. Make sure to publicize any mental health programs you offer so that employees are aware of them, and create a safe space for employees to take time off for mental health when needed. These small ways of supporting your staff can add up during challenging times.

Student loan repayment benefits

Financial wellness is often overlooked, but it’s an important part of employee wellness. As the most sought-after benefit among Gen Zers, and the second most among Millennials, student loan repayment benefits are a great way to improve retention and show employees you care about their long-term well-being. For staff members supporting a partner or family member who has lost their job during the pandemic, it can also be a great way to alleviate some of that financial stress. 

As student debt continues to rise, this perk is becoming more and more common. Chegg, an education technology company, offers employees who have been with the company for a minimum of two years an annual $5,000 to apply toward their student loans. Other companies, including Peloton, Penguin Random House, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, offer employees monthly payments of $100. It’s a small amount that can make a big impact, financially and mentally.

Expensed meals from anywhere 

Everyone loves free food, employees included. According to a survey by Peapod, 67% of workers report being “extremely” or “very” happy at their job if they’re supplied free food and beverages, opposed to 56% of those without free treats. 

With employees working from home, those snacks in the office kitchen aren’t doing anyone’s stomachs much good. To keep staff happy and well-fueled during the workday, consider a solution that lets everyone order food at home, like DoorDash’s Expensed Meals program. With Expensed Meals, employees can order food from 340,000 restaurants nationwide. Simply choose eligible employees, ordering hours, and a spending limit to keep it all within budget, and everyone’s meals will automatically be expensed to the company account. 

In addition to boosting employee happiness, eating healthy food throughout the day can keep productivity up. Compile a list of favorite restaurants nearby that offer healthy options so your employees don’t have to spend time searching for them, making it more likely they’ll pick something nutritious. At a time when burnout is on the rise, there’s no better way to keep employees fueled and satisfied well into the future than by helping them stay nourished. 

Building a post-pandemic benefits package

Hungry for more tips on transforming your corporate benefits package? Check out our guide, Aligning HR Packages to a Post-Pandemic World, to learn how you can adapt your company benefits to better serve remote employees.

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Ali Cottong
Writer

Ali Cottong is a freelance content marketer with a wide range of experience crafting content and strategy for brands that include a world-renowned design agency, a men's artisan boot company, that app you use to request money on your phone, and more. Ali originally earned her nerd cred as a world-class Quidditch player and has competed in the Quidditch World Cup twice. She currently lives in Oakland where she's traded her broomstick in for a bike.