How to reimagine the work perk for a hybrid work world

As flexible work models become more popular, can you still use a shared office as a work perk to drive recruitment? Here’s how to rethink work perks in a world of distributed employees and hybrid work.

ARTICLE | 5m read
June 15, 2021

For decades, a unique and lush office space was the crown jewel of work perks. Companies filled their offices with everything from staffed cafes to climbing walls in the race to attract and retain top talent. Beyond recruitment, a distinct office environment also became an expression of company dedication to employees, representing their one-of-a-kind space designed for each employee to do their best work and love every minute of it. Then 2020 happened, and having a shared office became less of a work perk and more a question mark—a startling two-thirds of U.S. workers said they were worried about their health and safety when returning to a shared office.

To recruit and retain elite talent, you need to re-think the relationship between the virtual and physical work environment to offer the best possible work perks. With nearly half of employees believing that people will never return to shared offices full time, it’s clear employees expect you to offer hybrid work options. This article will show ways to re-architect your work perks both in and beyond your physical office, including listening to employee preferences, turning that listening into new work perks, and optimizing your work perk strategy based on your organization’s strengths.

Empathy is the foundation of great work perks

To discover the work perks that matter most to your employees, you need to ask and listen to them. This might seem obvious, but practicing empathy with your employees takes more than casual questions at a group meeting. To truly listen to employees, you want to create an empathetic research plan that:

  1. Designs surveys to learn which perks employees most want.
  2. Refines survey data into clear takeaways on which perks to offer and how.
  3. Validates these perk takeaways by presenting them to employees and verifying their accuracy.
  4. Tests and refines these new perks, gathering feedback to continue to optimize them.

The advantage of this approach is you both gain deep insight into what perks your employees most care about and show your staff that you care by being transparent about implementation. Above all, architecting work perks for a hybrid work model means letting employees lead the conversation about which flexible perks they need. The perks might be time-based (working select hours instead of 9–5), space-based (choosing whether to work from home or the office), or family-based (having childcare available at your shared office). However, you won’t know until you make the effort to ask.

How to test and evaluate new work perks

Once your empathetic research plan generates data on employee perk preferences, you need to find commonalities you can analyze, test, and evaluate. Sometimes you will discover clear takeaways virtually everyone agrees on, such as the need to offer flexibility to work remotely or in the office. However, you will also need to evaluate your findings through different employee lenses, such as generational, geographical, and seniority differences. It may be possible to offer different perks to these different employees based on their preferences. However, you will likely need to decide on which perks best fit the company as a whole, then be transparent with employees about how you made those decisions.

This can sound like a lot to consider, but it’s vital to turn your perk findings into actions employees can see and you can test. As Amy Haworth said on the recent “tired and wired” podcast: “Employees love to be listened to if they know you’re doing something with that feedback.” Roll out your new flexible work perks and measure how they affect employee morale and productivity. It’s completely fine if some of these perks fail to deliver the results you hoped for—just learn from the experiment and adjust your perk strategy accordingly.

Optimizing your work perk strategy to attract top talent

Now that you have a well-designed perk strategy based on what your existing employees want, how can you find the right perks to attract new talent to your organization? A good starting place is to look at work perk trends across leading companies in your industry. For example, one important draw of your shared office will creating a space that optimizes in-person teamwork. 71 percent of workers believe the main role of the shared office will be to provide social interaction and face-to-face collaboration, so design a physical office where people love to work together.

Beyond popular trends, optimizing how your work perk strategy draws new talent requires broadening what work perks mean at your organization. Perks aren’t just amenities—they can also be unique company values. For instance, 70 percent of employees say they’re more likely to work for a company that prioritizes sustainability, and 86 percent believe having an geographically, ethnically, or neurologically diverse workforce is becoming more important. Taking a public stand on issues like these shows prospective employees you have a socially responsible mission—and that’s a bigger draw than a room of ping pong tables.

Rearchitect your work perks beyond the physical office

Countless U.S. office workers have not set foot in a shared office since March of 2020, and some of them may prefer to work remotely forever. As you look for ways to re-imagine the work perks you offer, it’s essential to think beyond your shared office. By listening to the perks your employees want, testing and evaluating new perks to find what works, and optimizing your work perk strategy to reach new talent, you can build a strong work culture that crosses physical and digital space. The result? All your employees doing their best work and loving every minute of it—both inside and outside the office.