Is your company re-evaluating corporate benefits, and perhaps a return to the office in the new year? Several weeks into 2021, we now have at least two successful COVID-19 vaccine options that are being distributed. Recent surveys show that the pandemic-driven pivot to work from home, at least for part of the workweek, is becoming a more permanent fixture rather than a temporary shift. That leaves HR departments in all industries considering how these changes could and should affect their company’s approach to “work from home” benefits.
The pandemic is also driving other trends, highlighting Americans’ fluid approach to both jobs and relocation. A Pew Research Center study this summer showed that 22% of U.S. adults either moved to a new residence because of the pandemic or knew someone who did. The study also noted that nearly 21% of city residents were planning to relocate more than two hours away from their current location, indicating they expected remote work to be a permanent option for them in the long term. Allied’s 2020 Magnet States Report is further evidence of a country on the move, with some states benefiting more than others.
As your HR team reviews and defines corporate benefits amid this global shift, consider these three key points.
1) Retaining top talent will continue to be a priority.
A strong benefits package, including moving allowances and corporate support for relocations, will continue to be a critical tool in attracting and retaining top talent. With more companies embracing a flexible “work from home” model, highly qualified employees will have even more options to choose from to enhance their quality of life.
Defining a company’s short-term and long-term approach to returning to the office — as well as how the employee’s well-being fits in to that transition — will determine how employee benefit packages will evolve.
According to Gartner’s 2020 ReimagineHR Employee Survey, 36% of employees who work a minimum of 40 hours per week in the office were considered high performers in a typical organization. Yet when companies provide greater flexibility in where, when and how much the employees work, the percentage of high performing employees increases to 55%.
Trends indicate 2021 will be a year where employer support for physical and mental well-being — including quality of life factors like preferred locations and shorter commutes — will become standard benefits offered to employees, according to the Gartner analysis.
How will these trends affect benefits such as corporate mobility packages at your company? As you consider updating employee benefits, use your company values and vision statements as guidance. Conduct internal research or poll current high value employees and candidates who are most critical to your company’s success for their career motivations and goals to inform any benefit adjustments.
Employers and employees alike should understand that moving to another state can add complexity to benefits packages such as mobility assistance, with each state establishing unique rules on vacation policies, health care requirements, income taxes and more.
“Not all employers will be willing to let employees work out of state because it may mean additional obligations on their part,” says Katie Brennan of the Society for Human Resource Management in the CNN article “So you’re working remotely and want to move? Read this first.”
2) Work from home habits and preferences are likely to outlast the pandemic.
The Gartner survey revealed that post-pandemic, 41% of employees are likely to work remotely, at least some of the time. Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice states, “Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic has many employees planning to work in a way that they hadn’t previously considered.”
If you look to the massive consumer-packaged goods industry for guidance, companies like Kimberly-Clark and Procter & Gamble are betting on the work-from-home trend to continue by increasing toilet paper production for homes rather than offices and producing more beard-care products. This Wall Street Journal article notes that “while legions of employers are planning to reopen their offices, many have said they would let employees continue to work remotely some or all of the time once the pandemic subsides.”
One survey of chief information officers from Enterprise Technology Research foresees that the number of permanently remote workers will double globally in 2021 as productivity has increased during the coronavirus pandemic.
As employee demands and needs continue to evolve, 2021 will bring new virtual work policies and company benefits to accommodate new ways of working such as remote office setups, travel policies and moving benefits.
For insight into what other companies are thinking, Allied’s parent company SIRVA conducts regular mobility outlook market surveys. As recently as Q4 2020, results show:
- 38% believe relocation volumes will return to pre-COVID levels in 6-18 months
- 46% are still unsure if they will allow permanent work-from-home in lieu of relocation
- 65% of executives and 42% of middle-management employees will continue to relocate
- 37% are struggling to hire local resources in the host/destination location
3) Nimbleness is key, as 2021 is likely to be another year of major transitions.
Companies across the U.S. anticipate 2021 will bring more change rather than a return to normal. For some that means moving away from a central HQ to satellite operations that are more employee and commuter friendly.
One example is outdoor retailer REI; the company changed its plans this summer to build its new headquarters on an 8-acre corporate campus in Bellevue, Washington. In a statement, CEO Eric Artz said, “Rather than a single location, our ‘headquarters’ will span multiple satellites across the greater Seattle area.”
“Remote working will move from a temporary solve to a more engrained, supported, and normalized model for many of our headquarters employees. … This will have immediate, positive impacts on our ability to attract and retain a diverse and highly skilled workforce, as we continue to navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”
Some analysts make the case that supporting remote work and more flexible benefits as a long-term strategy can serve as a standard for greater business resilience to any future disruptions.
“The hybrid way of working, which enables some flexibility, and accepts the fact that remote and virtual work can still be highly effective, will be something that we see does stay across industries” as we enter 2021,” said Erica Volini, the global human capital leader at Deloitte, in a recent ABC News article.
Volini said that in Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends report, just 15% of the 3,600 senior executives who responded felt that they were prepared for the pandemic. Those leaders also noted that the ability for their workers to adapt, learn new skills and take on new roles are top factors in their company’s ability to navigate future disruptions, even more critical than access to capital.
So as high performers continue to drive adaptability and progress, how do we support them fairly through flexibility in benefits such as mobility programs? Should companies pay for (or partially pay for) employees who want to relocate away from a corporate office for an enhanced quality of life?
HR teams for larger organizations often establish tiered benefits packages for employees based on factors including tenure, purpose for relocation (personal or business-driven), destination location and employee preference.
Sirva.com’s article on considerations in tiered mobility programs offers a way forward and examples of ways to build flexibility and fairness into corporate benefits.
“Each employee within a tier receives a standard set of services but is also treated as an individual, with an opportunity to receive services that would be of benefit in his/her particular circumstances. Ultimately, this benefits all stakeholders involved.”
Allied Van Lines, The Careful Movers, supports corporate moves large and small as the largest mover network in the world. With over 90 years of experience, we’re here when you need us to ensure your company and its top talent move forward into the future together. Learn more.