In effort to keep staff happy, healthy and productive when working remotely, companies are offering a new range of at-home benefits.

Employers have long used perks to attract and retain the best talent, from things as simple as in-office drinks and catered lunches to travel stipends and fitness classes. Companies are now well aware that these perks go beyond merely being a bonus on top of salary packages; they provide a dividend in keeping workers healthy, motivated and bonded, all factors that improve output. But what happens when staff are no longer working from the site in which many of these perks are offered and activated?

The answer for many has been to find alternatives that match up with the challenges of working from home. And according to recent research, those challenges are manifold. An international survey by technology manufacture Lenovo found that 71 per cent of people are suffering physically due to home working. The most common complaints are back and neck pain, headaches, eye irritation and insomnia. Add in that many are already doing longer hours and experiencing greater levels of burnout and you won’t be surprised if most feel like they need an extended holiday.

That’s not to say that the mass working-for-home experiment hasn’t shown many positives. A recent report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows how unbalanced the picture is, with 61 per cent of employers citing an increase in work-life-balance, 43 per cent an improvement in collaboration and 28 per cent a boost in productivity (on top of 37 per cent who say productivity has at least not dropped). The flipside to this story is that none of the above necessarily translate into greater employee happiness. Indeed, 47 per cent of respondents to the CIPD survey reported that their staff’s mental health was suffering. There are complicating factors, of course, such as an anxiety-inducing health crisis, as well as the highly motivating, but also psychologically debilitating, fear of losing your job during a global recession. Regardless, the sum total still means that employers need to find new mechanisms to support staff wellbeing at a distance.

That’s where a new range of perks come in. Companies such as Twitter have started offering mental health days and subscriptions to mindfulness apps like Happify, while PR and advertising agency Havas is hosting Wellness Wednesdays, which include guided meditation, reiki and the opportunity to have a session with a psychotherapist. Some of these activities aren’t exactly suited to sitting at the kitchen table, however. We’ve already touched on how the shift towards telemedicine is creating a need for new sanctuary spaces in the home where people can feel comfortable sharing sensitive information.

Sometimes the best company perk can be as straightforward as help in creating the right environment. A recent 100,000+ respondent survey by workforce analysts Leesman showed a direct correlation between employee satisfaction with working from home and access to a private office or dedicated desk. To that end, brands like TravelBank, Twitter, Facebook and Google have all been offering employees significant stipends to build out their workspaces. That gesture can also extend to a home gym; Kevin Yip, cofounder of employee rewards platform Blueboard, recently told Wired that some of his clients have started providing staff with popular exercise platforms like Peloton and Mirror, a trend that we’ve recently seen create new challenges for residential layouts.

The impact reaches beyond the home, too, touching sectors such as travel and hospitality. Texas-based video technology company OneDay has launched a ‘New Digs’ benefit. This allows up to four employees and their families per month to relocate to a location of their choosing to work remotely. The brand covers the cost up to four days of the stay. It’s an idea that will make many of the hotel chains that have pivoted towards offering office as well as overnight accommodation very happy.

In all instances, it’s important to note that what’s now expected of spaces usually reserved for relaxation, recreation and intimacy are being defined not just by their inhabitants, but also the people providing their paycheque.

Hero images: Working from home inspiration by Montana.