The best perks and benefits for pandemic times

In 2020, most people’s working days go something like this: kitchen-desk-sofa-bed, on a seemingly continuous and confining loop. In this new remote work culture, the blurry lines of work and home can make us feel - well, not very well rested at all.

Those perks we used to enjoy at work - the fancy coffee machine, that discount at the cinema - can seem like a distant memory for your employees.

It’s fair to say a decent benefits package has attracted many an applicant in the past, but with many of us now working from home, that xbox gaming room or ‘free beers Friday’ isn’t quite applicable to our quarantined way of working.

So as we look towards the rest of 2020 and beyond, what perks might work better for your staff as part of a workplace benefits package?

Time off for wellbeing

COVID-19 fatigue is a real thing, you may have guessed.

And I don’t mean physical symptoms from the virus - more so the general sense of weariness or sadness we’ve probably all felt from time to time during 2020.

The endless downward negative spiral of the news, and ongoing changes to our daily routine can make life feel really disruptive. Sleeping could be an issue, or the lack of routine could make your teams unfocused and unproductive.

Employees might need to pop and get some shopping for their self-isolating mum, or want to meet some mates in a park to clear their head one afternoon.

Time off at the drop of a hat - sometimes known as Life Leave - will be really appreciated by your staff. You could set parameters so that you’re not understaffed, like only two staff are allowed off work on any given day.

With a huge 42% of workers expressing that their mental health has understandably declined since March, offering a mental health day could also be a good shout.

Cisco gave all of its workers a mental health day at the same time at the height of the first wave in May.

Entertainment packages

Winding down after a long day can be hard when you just feel like you’re moving from screen to screen, at a distance of about 15 feet.

An Audible audio subscription could be just the thing your staff need to escape, albeit in their imagination alone. Listening to an Alan Partridge podcast or the latest Louis Theroux interview might just give them that much needed burst of creativity or inspiration.

Go Fish Digital pay for their staffs' Spotify and Netflix accounts, stating that it supports creativity and culture:

“I don’t expect a candidate to be blown away by having their $11.99/mo. Netflix bill paid for. But, I do think that candidates will get a tiny bit of extra insight into the types of things our company thinks about and values by seeing these added benefits.” - Brian Patrick

By offering what’s meaningful to that employee right now, it builds a sense of loyalty and trust. After all,  it shows you get them. You understand their need for a Netflix binge or a four-hour blast on Call of Duty to escape the madness of the modern world.

netflix all day
Photo by Mollie Sivaram / Unsplash

Food delivery services

After a long day at work, there’s nothing quite like putting your feet up and being cooked for. In these COVID-19 times, you don’t always fancy popping down the pub to mingle with lots of others.

So one particularly handy workplace benefit could be a subscription to a food delivery service. Ideally, your staff probably don’t just want the same old stuff they could cook themselves.

With lengthy supermarket queuing times and delivery slots often busy, offering delicious and hygienic food can be a real time-saver, especially for those with families.

Deliveroo for Business saw a 25% increase in companies buying gift cards for their employees, driven unsurprisingly by the tech companies:

“Friday lunches were the most popular time for Deliveroo for Business orders during the pandemic, with pizzas, burgers, Vietnamese and Poke Bowls the most popular choices among remote workers” - Financial Times

Finishing up eight hours on a screen is made more bearable when you know that a steaming bowl of delicious noodle Pho will soon be at your door, piping hot and ready to be devoured.

Private healthcare

As we continue to navigate a global health crisis, having access to top of the range healthcare would be appealing to any employee.

Sure, it comes as standard for many benefits packages, but there are additional add-ons you could think of including - like free health checks, eye tests or well woman checks.

And if they’ve already got those?

Why not consider an extension option for family members at a discounted rate. Peace of mind when it comes to healthcare is priceless.

This picture showcases Seongsan Ilchulbong in Jeju Island, South Korea. The picture shows a still volcano from the inland, with a volcanic black beach and lush greenery; a place stripped of all human life. A gigantic cliff crashes into the sea and creates a gorgeous interplay between sky, land, and seaside. The waves crash onto the side of the cliff and the sky is completely clear, with no obstructions and no clouds. A beautiful, sunny day in Jeju Island, the biggest volcanic island of South Korea. The countryside and the scenery inspire adventure in this amazing natural park full of beauty.
Photo by Arrigo Lupori / Unsplash

Nature park membership

Enjoying nature has been one of life’s pleasures and a helpful respite for many during the pandemic. If you can offer them rolling hills and the soothing calm of a forest as a workplace perk, then why not?

A YouGov Poll commissioned by the National Trust has shown that 38% of adults said that spending time in nature is what they ‘most looked forward to in lockdown’.

Places like public parks and natural beauty spots have been notoriously busy during lockdown, so anything that allows employees to get their nature-fix more easily will  be a welcome addition to a  benefits package.

Choose your own perks

How can you really decide what your staff want?

Is it gift cards? Investment in an online course? Childcare vouchers for nursery? A plant subscription?

The truth is, there’s not really a one-size fits all approach when it comes to workplace benefits.

One of the kindest things you could do amidst the pandemic is to create a bespoke ‘package of perks’, which allows employees to choose, like a pick ‘n’ mix of treats and offers.

Once you know your budget, you could perhaps tailor three or four benefits options to suit different lifestyle choices - such as entertainment, wellbeing, or nature packages.

A new horizon for workplace benefits

The most popular workplace benefits of 2021 and beyond will more than likely be focused on health and relaxation.

Glassdoor, the employer review site, found that more than half of UK employees working from home said office-based perks such as free food were less important to them. Instead, they wanted wellbeing benefits like mindfulness apps, private healthcare and access to online therapy.

Whatever you decide, giving your employees some flexibility and choice to nourish themselves in the way they want will make it a win-win all round.


Thanks to writer Kerry Needs for her contribution to this article.