Employee Benefits for Remote Teams [Complete Guide]

As the lines between work life and personal life continue to blur, employers must make smart choices to help employees perform to the best of their abilities.

With the majority of the people in the USA working from home (at least half of the time), companies need to adapt their practices to attend to the needs of this workforce — including rethinking employee benefits. The type of employee benefits you offer will determine the type of employees you will attract.

Many companies have a mix of on-site workers and remote workers but have company-wide benefits. That represents a loss for both employers and employees. You miss the chance to “wow” a talented remote workforce and employees miss a portion of their compensation package, as some benefits don’t apply for their situation.

The point is: A significant percentage of top talent is shifting towards a remote preference, and you must personalize your benefits package if you want to attract and retain this talent.

What Employee Benefits Matter for Remote Teams

From a spot in a co-working space to annual company retreats, there are tons of perks that provide real value to remote employees. 

To create a unique benefits plan, you need to place yourself in the shoes of the average work-from-home employee. By understanding their day-to-day challenges, along with their preferences, you can create a package that even the most in-demand professionals won’t resist. 

Based on my experience, there are a few traditional benefits that are still essential to offer to a remote workforce, but most of the benefits package should be personalized to the remote setting. 

Traditional Employee Benefits for Remote Employees

Traditional employee benefits refer to the ones that have been offered for the majority of employees since the early days, and won’t likely change anytime soon.

Complete Health Insurance

If you don’t offer generous health insurance coverage, you risk having your potential employees not even looking at the other perks before they decide not to submit a job application.

A survey conducted by Glassdoor revealed that employees considered health insurance the most important benefit. In fact, under the Affordable Care Act, employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide health insurance to at least 95% of their full-time workforce, to avoid paying a hefty penalty.

So yes, the good-old health insurance still deserves your attention.

Retirement Planning

More than 75% of employees expect their employer to offer a contribution to a retirement account.

Every single employee, regardless of working on-site or remotely, wants to enjoy a comfortable retirement. So it’s safe to say that it’s worth it investing in this benefit.

There are three main types of retirement plans: Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees IRA, 401k, and Simplified Employee Pension IRA.

Between these three, 401k is the most common option while the Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees IRA might be the best option for small businesses.

Paid Time Off

Don’t assume that remote employees need fewer breaks just because they work from home (or from wherever). 

Remote employees tend to work even longer hours than on-site employees. In fact, disconnecting after the day of work is one of the biggest challenges for remote workers. They need to take paid time off just as much as on-site employees — if not more.

Many tech companies have been offering unlimited PTO lately. However, in practice, unlimited PTO doesn’t work as beautifully as it sounds. Since some employees take advantage of it and it will create resentment among their coworkers.

Your best bet is giving a couple of weeks of paid time off per year. That should be enough time for your remote workers to enjoy their personal lives away from the keyboard.

Perks for Personalizing Your Remote Benefits Package

After a few years managing high-performing remote teams, I have been able to comprehend what types of employee benefits bring the most value to a remote workforce. 

With that, let’s jump into a few employee benefits that were specifically designed to support remote teams:

“Office” Budget

Think of all the resources available to employees at an office. From leading-edge standing desks to healthy snacks, there is a lot to be enjoyed in a typical office. 

How do you translate these benefits to the working-remotely situation? 

Allocate a monthly budget to let them build their ideal working situation. I like to let employees make their own purchases because each individual has a different idea of their perfect office setting. Some remote workers like to create an equipped home office, while others do their best work from a hammock in their yard. 

Either way, providing monthly funds for remote employees to accommodate their working space is a great way to keep them productive and engaged.

Company-Wide Retreat

How awesome would it be to gather all the company’s employees for a week? 

Whether you have an all-remote or half-remote-half-on-site company, bringing everyone together for a few days can significantly improve employees’ experience. Strengthening co-workers’ interpersonal relationships is important not only to improve the company’s workflow but also to improve their levels of involvement with the organization.

A company-wide retreat doesn’t need to be an extravagant trip overseas. You can choose the retreat location based on where most of your employees are located. A getaway in a cool place with some fun activities will make your employees go back to work with a fresh attitude and a sense of gratitude. 

If you have the budget to do it, don’t think twice.

Mentorship Programs

For some employees, career growth opportunities are more important than anything else. Some even quit their jobs if they don’t see any room for growth.

Remote employees might find it difficult to create learning opportunities with senior employees in the company, since there are few interactions. For this reason, it is important to have a structured mentorship program in place.

Pairing remote employees with more experienced team members is an excellent way to help remote workers to develop professionally and increase morale.

For the mentor, it’s an opportunity to give back. This fellowship is a win-win opportunity, and it doesn’t cost anything to the company.

Exercise Incentive  

Many remote employees end up spending the entire day at home. This is a red flag for wellness issues. Give them a little incentive to practice a sport or to visit a local gym. 

Some companies pay for employees’ gym membership, others have Slack channels where employees share progress on their health goals. Keep in mind that a gym membership covers anything from a yoga studio to a cycling club membership. 

Offering gym membership to your team, makes a huge difference in their overall happiness, which positively affects their productivity. After all, a sound mind depends on a sound body.

For companies with employees all over the world, I recommend considering a corporate plan with organizations that offer unlimited access to fitness centers around the world, such GymPass. This will make it easy to manage this employee perk.

Wellness Allowance

Considering that many remote employees report a feeling of loneliness, mental health is an area to pay extra attention when creating your benefits package.

According to a survey, 3 out of 4 professionals in the US suffer from some type of mental health disorder. This ranges from depression to extreme stress. As a consequence, mental illnesses account for $80 billion to $100 billion in annual losses for US businesses.

Being proactive to avoid having your remote employees being part of these statistics is the best way to deal with this situation. You can have a counselor available to chat with employees through video calls if you have the resources to do so. 

You can also have monthly allowances to enable employees to invest in their wellness however they prefer. This monthly allowance can be used for therapy sessions, nutritionist consultation, or even weekend-long meditation retreats.

Education Expenses Coverage

This is a way to make your remote team get better at what they are already good at. Covering your remote team’s education sounds like a huge financial investment. But it doesn’t necessarily need to be. 

Here are a few ways to invest in your team’s education:

  • Grant annual funds for each employee to spend in job-related courses
  • Assist employees with student loan repayment
  • Pay for a percentage of tuition in case employees are still studying
  • Take employees to conferences every quarter or semester (this one has a plus since remote employees get to meet each other during the events)

If this still sounds like a large investment, you can get creative. You can allow employees to dedicate half-day, once a week, to a side project that will develop them professionally. 

Another alternative is hosting webinars, where junior employees learn from senior employees.

Paid Coworking Space

A coworking space is a perfect alternative for remote employees that prefer to work from a professional setting. Coworking spaces provide a convenient work environment that encourages productivity. Also, they provide an important separation between work and personal life.

Many remote employees would love to take advantage of the perks of a local co-working space but are not willing to use a part of their salary to pay the monthly fee. This is where you step in. 

89% of coworking space users report that they are happier since joining a coworking space, which ultimately improves work performance. For you, the investment of offering this employee perk will pay off. The return will come in the form of increased productivity. 

Depending on the nature of your business, having your employees networking with people from other companies might even represent another advantage for you to.

Food Allowance

It’s common to see companies offering catered lunches and healthy snacks to on-site employees. This might seem unfeasible for remote workers. But you can make it happen if you offer them the funds to buy a few items in the grocery store. 

Besides lunch, this allowance might be used to buy coffee, snacks, and beverages, for example. Think of this employee perk as extra cash for your employee to spend with food that will make their day more practical and enjoyable. Just like office snacks do.

Offer Remote Employee Benefits that Matter

Remote employees already enjoy the perk of working from wherever they prefer. But with that, some other needs arise. A smart business leader knows that traditional employee benefits alone aren’t enough to attract and retain remote top talent today. 

If you are not sure which perks would work best for your team, you should consider offering a Lifestyle Spendings Account. With this type of account, you don’t have to decide between which needs to support.

Instead, you make an employer-contributed account for your employees to purchase whatever perks best suit their needs.

I like the idea of offering a few employee benefits as a standard and having a general perk allowances account to grant each employee the ability to customize their own perks. Despite how you decide to organize your remote employees’ perks, you must remember that remote employees’ needs are different from on-site employees’ needs.

Consequently, their employee benefits should not look the same. Choose wisely and be ready to delight your remote team with an awesome employee benefits package. 

Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is a business strategy consultant and founder. He's written several world-recognized books on software configuration, speaks Spanish, ballroom dances, and owns The Product Company and Squibler.