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6 Flexible Benefits to Consider for a Smooth RTO Transition

Not every employee will be happy about RTO plans. These benefits can help stem turnover and make your RTO a success.

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It finally happened. 

Senior leadership wants to mandate a return to office, and your team is responsible for ensuring a smooth transition. You’re not alone: A recent ResumeBuilder.com survey found that 90% of companies will require employees to return to office in 2023.  

The problem is that these plans are directly at odds with what employees want.  According to Buffer’s 2022 State of Remote Work report, 97% of employees would like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers, and 86% want either fully remote or remote-first work environments. To stem turnover, some companies have scrapped their RTO plans. For example, Airbnb planned to return to office in September 2022 but quickly changed course when CEO Brian Chesky announced in April that employees could work remotely indefinitely. 

Of course, that’s not the decision every company will make. Many companies are getting creative with their benefits to reduce turnover as they implement RTO policies. ResumeBuilder.com found that 88% of companies are offering incentives such as catered meals, commuter benefits, and higher pay to encourage employees to return. 

Below we’ve collected a few employee benefits to consider as part of your return to work plan.  

1. Commuter benefits

With RTO comes the return of commuting for your employees. With employees working from home for years now, they may not be very happy about the added costs associated with commuting. To reduce this burden, consider commuter benefits. Commuter benefits are funds that employers provide to help employees pay for the costs of commuting, such as public transportation, carpooling, or parking. These benefits can be either pre-tax or post-tax.  

For the most flexibility possible, you can offer flexible commuter benefits as part of a lifestyle spending account (LSA) on a post-tax basis. This allows you to cover other commuting expenses that may not be eligible for pretax savings, such as tolls, gas, rideshares, and car or bike maintenance.   

The flexibility of an LSA allows employers to expand their benefits in response to macroeconomic forces so employees can get what they need out of their benefits programs. For example, Boston-based nonprofit The Community Group recently added gas as an eligible expense under their LSA program as prices rose due to inflation.  

“We want to show that we are aware of current issues,” said Katie Graham, Chief Strategy Officer. “It’s easy to call Benepass and ask, ‘Can we make sure that is covered?’” 

2. Childcare benefits or dependent care FSAs

As employees return to the office, their childcare needs may change. While remote work offers more flexibility to take care of family needs, employees who commute into the office might need to pay for more childcare hours. These costs aren’t cheap: Families across the U.S. pay an average of $8,355 a year on childcare for each kid. Employees who act as caregivers for elderly family members may also need extended care when they return to office.  

There are several pre-tax programs designed to help working parents and caretakers offset the high cost of care. A dependent care flexible spending account (DCFSA) is a tax-advantaged plan that allows employees to allocate pre-tax dollars toward eligible dependent and childcare expenses. This type of account is a great way to help employees reduce their taxable income and save for the expenses that make office work possible for parents. Eligible expenses include before and after school programs, preschool tuition, summer camp, and child or adult daycare. 

Flexible family and childcare benefits are another option that can make working life easier for the parents at your company. With these benefits, you can provide employees post-tax stipends to cover dependent care as well as expenses that don’t qualify for DCFSA spending, such as school tuition, tutoring, or college planning.

3. Food benefits

Employees who begin coming into the office every day no longer have the convenience of walking over to their kitchen and throwing something together for lunch. Most employees grab lunch at a nearby restaurant at least a couple times each week, which quickly gets expensive. 

To help employees pay for meals, many employers provide flexible food benefits that give employees a wide variety of options in where they can spend funds. While food delivery services such as Grubhub or DoorDash offer corporate accounts, the added service and delivery fees can reduce the actual food perk by as much as 20%. Using a single supplier for delivery can also severely limit options or coverage for all employees. By opting for food benefits in the form of an LSA, companies can help employees pay for lunch, as well as food delivery, groceries, or meal box kits. 

Website development platform Wix previously provided used a Grubhub corporate account to provide employees a food benefit. With Benepass, they launched a more flexible, equitable, and cost-effective food benefit. Participation rates rose to over 90% thanks to the program’s flexibility and ease of use. By eliminating service charges and fees, the program saved Wix an estimated $75,000. 

4. Pet care stipends

More than 23 million households — nearly 1 in 5 — adopted a pet during the pandemic, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). These are pets (and humans) that have become accustomed to their loved one’s presence during work hours. 

Flexible pet care stipends can help ease your employees’ concerns about leaving their pets at home as they return to the office. Employees can use these stipends to pay for dog walking and pet sitting, as well as toys, food, dog training, and other supplies. Owning a pet is costly, with the average dog owner spending $1,480 and the average cat owner spending $902 on yearly expenses. By providing flexible funds to your employees, you can lower the financial burden of pet care and make them feel a little better about being away from their furry friend during the workday. 

5. Home services stipends

Working from home is convenient for many reasons, one of them being the ability to run the dishwasher while you’re in a meeting or complete a couple of chores during your lunch hour. Employees who are coming into the office every day will miss this convenience. To make up for this, consider a flexible home services stipend.

To level up their benefits programs, some companies are offering these stipends to help employees pay for cleaning services, trash pickup, or pet care. Employees who are returning to the office are losing precious time to commuting and longer hours in the office. Offering flexible home services stipends demonstrates that you’re aware of this reality and are making an effort to compensate employees for this time. 

6. Lifestyle spending accounts

If you’re looking for an option that can encompass any spending category and provide the highest level of flexibility, a lifestyle spending account might be your best bet. With an LSA, you design the benefit to cover any variety of lifestyle pillars such as wellness, fitness, family, pet care, professional development, or mental health. Employees receive funds at a regular cadence to spend as they wish, provided that expenses fall under your company’s chosen spending categories and benefit design. LSAs deliver a more personalized benefit experience, which is why 70% of companies are considering adding an LSA to their benefits package.  

Because funds aren’t spent unless an employee uses them, LSAs also lead to cost savings for employers. Employees still receive 100% of the benefit, but companies have the opportunity to save money through employee forfeiture. With other options such as sending gift cards or adding stipends to payroll, companies don’t see the same potential for cost savings, even if employees don’t use the benefit.  

Check out our list of 13 Unique Employee Benefits to Attract and Retain Top Talent for more ideas on creative benefits programs that can help make your RTO a success. To learn more about how Benepass makes it easy to create flexible, intuitive benefits programs with engagement rates of over 80%, contact our team or reach out to sales@getbenepass.com

13 Unique Employee Benefits to Attract and Retain Top Talent
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Benepass Team

Our team is committed to sharing stories that help People teams do their jobs and empower employees to get the most out of their benefits.