The new advantage of returning to the office? Pet allowances for parents of pandemic puppies

Companies are facing an uphill battle as they try to force employees back to the physical office, after many workers have grown accustomed to – and come to prefer – improved work-life balance personal touch that remote work allows them to have.

Some workers, especially those whose work can be done just as well – or even more efficiently – from home, are reluctant to return to the physical workplace, especially since COVID-19 cases are rising again in 13 states across the United States

“Companies are trying to answer the question, ‘how do I convince people that office work adds value that you wouldn’t get by working remotely?'” said Ben Friedrich, professor of strategy at the Kellogg School. of Management from Northwestern University.

So how do companies get workers back to the office?

Pandemic Puppy Allowance

A number of companies provide workers with pet allowances, a monthly sum they can spend on dog walking, animal sitting or some other form of day care for their pets, with which they live. are used to spending all day while working from home during the pandemic.

Jeanniey Walden, human resources expert and chief innovation officer at DailyPay, an on-demand payment platform, said pet allowances were popular, especially given the high number of new pet owners.

“People bought pets when they were quarantined, and it’s hard if you’ve just spent two years with your pup to go from being with them 24/7 to leaving them alone for eight hours when you’re in the office,” Walden told CBS MoneyWatch. .

DailyPay is among employers planning to offer workers a pet allowance. “It will be a fixed amount each month that you can spend as you see fit. You can hire a dog walker or a cat sitter to come to your house or take your pet to daycare,” she said.

More companies with job postings on the Adzuna job site, including Google, Purina and digital media company Refinery 29, are describing their offices as “dog-friendly”, according to the marketing manager of Adzuna, Paul Lewis.

A total of 1,300 job postings on the site describe offices where workers can bring their puppies.

“Big brands are trying to get you into the office, make sure you can bring your loved one with you, given that the purchase of pets during the pandemic has increased dramatically,” Lewis told CBS. Money Watch.

Paternity leave

Nearly 400 employers advertising vacancies with Adzuna offer paid time off for new pet parents, a benefit dubbed “paternity leave.”

“We’ve seen a number of companies introduce this as a new benefit,” Lewis said. “That way, when you get a new pet, you can bond with them and make sure they’re okay before you possibly have to bring them into the office.”

Four-day work weeks

Some companies are even starting to experiment with true four-day work weeks, so employees are more inclined to spend at least a few days a week in the office.

“Although it’s not common in the United States, some companies are starting to experiment with this, so maybe people are more willing to come into the office on certain days, if they have more flexibility to do what they want. want the other days,” Professor Friedrich said. .

Crowdfunding company Kickstarter is among the employers piloting a truncated workweek.

Tech companies were ahead of the curve in embracing remote work. But when other industries moved away during the pandemic, it became the norm — not a perk at work.

“One of the main reasons we’re seeing companies attracted to the introduction of four-day work weeks is that in many industries remote working has become a minimum expectation,” said Joe O’Connor. , CEO of 4 Day Week Global, a non-profit organization that helps businesses run pilot four-day work week programs.

“It’s not a competitive advantage anymore when everyone else is doing it and they’re looking for new things that give them an edge,” O’Connor said.

Free meal

These days, there’s such a thing as free lunch – another perk that companies offer workers for going to their physical place of work. In addition to catered meals, some employers also offer free alcohol and cappuccino.

A department at the Kellogg School of Management has introduced free lunches for employees twice a week, Professor Friedrich said.

“They’ve introduced a free lunch to help coordinate faculty coming into the office and there are positive spin-offs like discussion of new ideas, feedback and teaching that happen randomly in casual conversation. Facilitating this allows people to realize what they are missing,” he said.

In general, companies are trying to create more social working environments.

“Companies are doing everything they can to make the office more fun and social,” Walden of DailyPay said. “Many companies offer yoga and meditation during the day to help with the shift in mindset that comes with moving from the home environment to the work environment.”

But, ultimately, the incentives must “be more than free beer,” Friedrich said.

Peter Schnall, epidemiologist and founder of Unhealthy Work, which examines how work environments affect people’s health and well-being, said corporate happy hours are a bad idea anyway, given that we’re always in the midst of the pandemic and that drinking requires workers to put down their masks.

“Obviously they want people back in the office, but in the conditions of the waves of the epidemic, it’s just premature,” he said, adding, “Unless you don’t care that employees get sick or not, or whether you believe if they get sick, they won’t die because they’re younger – but all that forgets transmission to other people.”

Schnall says forcing workers back into the office part-time won’t achieve the goal of better collaboration or better morale, anyway.

“The idea of ​​people coming into the office one day a week – what’s the argument for that? You’ll develop camaraderie because now people come to work because they’re forced to, even if they don’t don’t want to. And now they’re worried about getting infected? I don’t think so,” he said.

“Drop the Tie”

Formal wear was already out of favor with the professional class, with workers over the past decade moving away from restrictive office attire like ties and high heels, opting instead for crisp shirts and flats. The pandemic has accelerated the rise of casual wear at work, allowing employees out of sight of their bosses to do their jobs in sweatpants and sports bras.

To ease the transition to work, a number of employers are relaxing their dress codes, according to human resources experts.

“People have completely lost their dress code at home and some companies are trying to adopt it,” Friedrich said. “Some people may appreciate being able to wear their nice clothes again, but they’ve also gotten used to being less formal, so companies are definitely moving away from the tie.”

What do workers really want?

But what workers really want is flexibility.

“I can’t think of any benefit that works other than giving employees the ability to choose when they’re in the office and when they’re not,” said Jaemi Taylor, chief human resources officer at Allegis Partners, a company global recruiting. “Even the money doesn’t work anymore. People have adapted their lifestyles and functioning to their family dynamics and they’re not ready to give up ‘that flexibility to go back to the office.’

Taylor calls perks like on-site barbers and chefs “stuff of the past.” “They’re not desirable,” she said. “Now it’s all about time and choice.”

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