Hello and welcome to a new interview from our series “The Workplace Scoop”!
Today’s topic: how benefits and stipends can be strategically used to improve overall employee experience in the contemporary work environment.
Let’s get going!
Stipends and employee experience
- Alina from Tidaro: How are stipends and benefits helping with the overall employee experience?
Amy: Stipends and benefits demonstrate a company’s commitment to supporting its employees’ diverse needs and lifestyles. By offering personalized and inclusive benefits, you’re very clearly stating that you care about the unique needs of every individual on your team. This helps boost morale, increase retention, and attract top talent.
These benefits, when thoughtfully designed, can cater to every employee’s preferences and circumstances, leading to a more engaged and satisfied workforce.
- Alina from Tidaro: Speaking of circumstances, do benefits differ depending on the working model: in-office, hybrid, or fully remote?
Amy: Yes and no. It depends. While the core concept of employee benefits remains consistent across different working models, the specifics can vary. In-office employees might have more access to on-site benefits like fitness centers or catered meals, which are less relevant to remote workers – although in-office employees may not necessarily value those things.
Conversely, remote employees might value stipends for home office setups or internet reimbursement. In a hybrid model, the challenge is to balance these needs, offering benefits that provide value in both settings.
The key is flexibility and understanding that each working model has unique requirements and opportunities for employee support. By customizing benefits to fit the specific working model, companies can ensure they’re providing meaningful and effective support to all employees, regardless of where they work. I realize “customize” might sound like it’s difficult, but it really isn’t as challenging as it may seem.
With modern HR platforms and flexible benefits solutions, employers can easily offer a variety of options that employees can choose from based on their individual needs.
- Alina from Tidaro: If we think about it, both remote work and flexible work are actual benefits. What’s your opinion about these benefits?
Amy: Remote and flexible work benefits are no longer just perks; they’re essential in today’s workforce. They offer employees the autonomy to balance their personal and professional lives, leading to increased job satisfaction and productivity.
These benefits also allow companies to tap into a broader talent pool, unrestricted by geographical boundaries. It is important, though, to implement these benefits with the right support systems, like effective communication tools and clear policies, to ensure their success.
Alina from Tidaro: You are right. There is a big debate pro and against hybrid, flexible or remote work. But people often avoid digging deeper and check why sometimes remote work does not work. Are there clear policies? Are there any communication glitches?
Now that you mentioned tools and policies, let’s move onto the topic of stipend management a bit.
How to manage stipends effectively
- Alina from Tidaro: You were saying in a podcast where you were invited, that before jumping into any benefits, companies should settle some things internally? Can you list them here a bit?
Amy: Before implementing benefits, companies should first establish a clear understanding of their workforce’s diverse needs and preferences. This involves conducting surveys or focus groups to gather employee input.
People want their voices heard; so hear them.
Companies should also ensure alignment with their benefits strategy and overall business objectives. It’s important to have a solid administrative process in place to manage these benefits efficiently and to ensure they’re in compliance with relevant laws and regulations. For those with small or single-person HR teams, choosing the right ben-admin or stipend software can help with this.
- Alina from Tidaro: In the same podcast episode you were saying that companies struggle with the adoption of certain benefits, employees are not using them as expected. You were giving gym benefits as an example of poor use of cash. How can companies solve this problem?
Amy: To improve the adoption of benefits like gym memberships, companies should reframe their offering and instead focus on outcomes.
Do you want to support employee well-being? Consider what that looks like. It won’t be a gym membership for everyone. You need to support personalization and flexibility. Instead of one-size-fits-all benefits, offering a range of options that cater to different interests and lifestyles can increase utilization.
For example, offer a more general “Health and Wellness Stipend” and encourage your team to use it in ways that support their unique wellness journey. For some that may indeed be a gym membership, but for others it could be acupuncture, yoga, a mindfulness app, running shoes, fees for a 5k, weights for their home gym, physical therapy, counseling, and more.
Regular communication about these benefits and how to access them can also enhance employee engagement. Then ask your team what they think. Their regular feedback will help you adjust offerings to ensure benefits remain relevant and valued by employees.
- Alina from Tidaro: Which would be a healthy list of benefits that work now, in post-pandemic times? Is there a difference between SMBs and enterprise companies?
Amy: In this post-COVID world, benefits that support mental health, work-life balance, and remote work are increasingly important. That includes flexible working hours, wellness programs, and home office stipends. For SMBs, it’s essential to focus on cost-effective and scalable benefits, while enterprise companies might offer a wider range of benefits due to larger budgets. However, the core principle remains the same: benefits should be tailored to the specific needs of employees.
- Alina from Tidaro: Amy, when it comes to benefits, which compliance and taxation issues should employers be aware of?
Amy: Employers must be mindful of varying tax implications for different benefits. For example, some benefits might be taxable for the employee, while others are tax-deductible for the employer.
Additionally, compliance with local and international laws is crucial, especially for companies with a global workforce. Regularly consulting with legal and tax experts is advisable to navigate these complexities and avoid an audit.
- Alina from Tidaro: There’s something that caught my eye: how Compt benefits can have an impact on the economy of communities. Can you dig deeper a bit into the topic?
Amy: We were encouraged to see that Compt has served as a way to support local communities. Through Compt lifestyle spending accounts, employees have been spending at local businesses instead of being limited to the big box stores that benefits marketplaces offer. Employees can grab a cup of coffee at a local shop, use their stipend at a tailor, shop at a farmer’s market or boutique, etc. This creates a ripple effect, benefitting not just the employees but the communities in which they live and work.
- Alina from Tidaro: I know this is a tricky and also a dummy question, considering you founded Compt: but why not raise salaries, instead of giving benefits?
Amy: While increasing salaries is straightforward, benefits offer a more personalized approach to employee compensation. They can address specific needs and preferences that cash alone might not meet, such as mental health support or child care assistance. And when simply put on a paycheck, the visibility isn’t there. People don’t realize they have the option.
Benefits can foster a more engaged and supportive workforce and company culture, which is crucial for long-term employee retention and satisfaction.
Alina from Tidaro: Thanks, Amy, for this amazing interview. You opened our eyes on the benefits topic.
Yes, we’ve seen it before: money thrown here on gym packages, there on book rentals. But, are they really being used? Can the company use its budgets wiser while also making its employees happier?
It sure can. All it takes is to listen to the employees’ needs. Personalization and flexibility are key for a win-win.
We also touched the subject of flexible and remote work as perks. Amy’s perspective is that these two are no longer just perks, they’re essential in today’s workforce. And we couldn’t agree more. They provide employees with the freedom to manage their personal and professional lives, resulting in higher job satisfaction and productivity.
These benefits expand companies’ access to a wider talent pool, unhindered by geography. Yet, successful implementation requires essential support systems like effective communication tools and clear policies.
This concludes another interview from our series “The Workplace Scoop”. Here are our previous interviews.
If you want more insights on how to manage hybrid and remote work, we’ve prepared this thorough guide you’ll definitely enjoy: Mastering Hybrid Work.