Compensation and perks are a huge part of hiring and retaining top talent. This is the case for both office-based and remote employees, who we know all about at NoHQ.
For remote companies, compensation and perk packages often look a little bit different. Compensation for remote employees can be a controversial topic because living costs vary so much in different areas. Not all common employment perks benefit remote employees and benefits packages for them may include things that aren't usual for office-based roles.
With that said, in this article, we’ll take a look at what to include in a perks package for remote employees and how to strategize their compensation.
How Are Perks & Compensation Different For Remote Employees?
Perks and compensation are not only a set of goodies to keep your team happy, but a substantial part of the employment package. In fact, a survey carried out in 2015 found that 48% of employees would include perks and compensation as a factor in their search for a new job.
These days, many companies offer office-based employees free drinks, snacks, and fruit while they’re at work. Common employee compensation also includes a set of PTO days, varying per country between 10 to 30 days per year, and pre-defined parental leave. Talking about time off, some companies also offer unpaid leave or sabbaticals as an employee perk. Basecamp, for example, offers a full month off after every three years of employment.
Most companies also offer pension packages, some offer paid health insurance or sports perks, and loans or part-payments towards the cost of employees’ commutes. Education stipends and paid conference visits are sometimes also included in employee compensation and perk packages.
If you work at a bigger company or in one of the tech hubs, such as San Francisco or New York, it's not uncommon to see companies offer free catered lunches as well. Google is known for offering over-the-top perks, anything from on-site gyms to hairstylists.
The fact is that a lot of the perks mentioned in this section wouldn’t benefit a remote employee. So let’s take a look at what to include in a remote employee’s compensation and perks package.
Recommended Perks for Remote Employees
Paid Time-Off For Remote Employees
Just like for office-based workers, PTO is crucial to ensure your teams have the right work-life balance. Some companies, most notably Netflix and LinkedIn, have even trialed unlimited paid vacation time. The argument for this policy is that it empowers employees and thereby further motivates them to do a great job. However, unlimited PTO doesn’t work for all companies.
A key factor when creating your PTO policy for remote employees is considering their locations. If they’re based in Europe, where countries are legally obliged to offer at least four weeks of paid leave, they’ll expect this as standard, and not as a perk.
At the end of the day, ensuring your remote employees take a minimum amount of paid leave benefits both you and them. What’s more, making sure you also offer paid parental leave and paid sick leave is not only a perk for your employees but also fosters a culture of equality and inclusion within your company, making it somewhere your team will want to work.
Child Care Assistance
Imagine those remote employees who have kids - do you think they’re more or less productive with their children running around them needing attention? Just because they’re working from home, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a right to child care assistance.
Especially when you figure in the cost of childcare these days. According to a 2020 report by the OECD, the average US household spends 23% of its income on childcare. Offering discounts on childcare will be a great perk for remote employees with kids.
Remote work can be lonely and a day spent at a local co-working space can offer a welcome change to the home office routine. If applicable, employers should try to get their remote employees a hot-seat card for a local coworking space (meaning they can grab a desk to work at a select number of times per month), or offer a stipend towards this.
Equipment For Home Offices
If you expect people to work from home (or anywhere), you need to make sure they have all the equipment you'd supply for an office-based employee. Depending on the job requirements, that might mean a great table, chair, screen, computer, phone, any accessories needed, as well as subsidized internet access and phone line.
What is required may differ from employee to employee, as some remote workers will already have a fully-equipped home office. Ensuring your employee has all the hardware and software required to effectively do their job is a great perk for them. This is often done in the form of an upfront hardware stipend (usually between $2,000 and $3,000) to cover all expenses of a home office.
It’s worth noting that this “perk” could also be a legal requirement for you as a company. For example, in the UK, employers are obliged to carry out a risk assessment for their office-based and remote workers who use display screen equipment for more than an hour each day.
Locally Adjusted Healthcare Benefits
Health insurance is different in every country. While US employers tend to offer extensive healthcare benefits, it can be unusual or even useless in many other countries (e.g. if healthcare is mostly free). Adjust for local differences and offer an annual health stipend if applicable.
Even if your remote employees wouldn’t benefit from health insurance, offering annual checkups and free counseling services or teletherapy is a great perk and shows you value their good physical and mental wellbeing.
Other Wellness Perks For Remote Employees
It’s common knowledge that sitting for too long at work, whether in an office or at home, can have multiple negative health impacts in the long term. Consider offering free or discounted access to gyms and sports classes through an app like ClassPass, which can be used for online and in-person classes around the world.
Alternatively, employee discount and reward programs like PerkBox allow companies to include gym membership and healthcare benefits in one place. You can also offer your remote employees perks like restaurant vouchers, movie tickets, and store discounts using these programs.
Learning Stipend & Online Courses
A big downside of working remotely? No casual chats with your coworkers to learn something new, no easy knowledge exchange over multiple days, rarely a full-company talk or workshop. Learning new things gets harder, the less connected you are.
Thankfully, this is an easy perk to offer. Organizing online workshops and offering a stipend for educational material and courses makes it easy for your employees to grow and learn. This, in turn, brings new ideas into your business - it’s a win-win!
Employee Development & Onboarding Plans
This may not seem like something you’d offer as a perk, but for many remote employees, knowing they’ll be supported throughout their career at your company is a huge factor. Make sure there are regular 1:1 reviews and strategies in place to allow team members to grow and develop their skills, and to help them if they’re struggling with processes. As part of this, ensure your onboarding process for new roles or responsibilities is optimized for remote employees.
Company-Wide Team Retreats
A great thing about not having a large office is that you save a lot of money on rent. The best way to re-invest that money is to fly the whole team out for a retreat. Whether you meet at an existing HQ or another location, 1-2 weeks of team building, strategy planning, brainstorming, innovation, and exchange benefits your business and your remote employees.
If it’s too costly to do a full-team retreat, fly out smaller groups or teams instead or try a virtual retreat (especially while travel opportunities are limited!). In-person sessions to plan the future and do team-building will work wonders for your team culture and is a perk your remote employees will look forward to!
Compensation Strategy For Remote Employees: Best Practices
Having looked at benefits for remote workers, let’s take a moment to remember that great perks are just that: a perk. They’re not a replacement for a competitive salary and the majority of employees would not consider a pay cut to work remotely, according to a 2020 survey by employment platform Hired.
With that said, this section will discuss how to formulate your compensation strategy for remote employees. Most remote companies pay their employees in one of three traditional ways: with a global salary, a local salary, or an individual salary. There are pros and cons to each of these options:
Individual Compensation For Remote Employees
With individual salaries, employees are compensated with a unique package based entirely on their skills and experience.
You can tailor and optimize the compensation to the remote employee’s individual situation, making the package more attractive.
It’s difficult to be transparent regarding individual compensation and differing salaries for employees doing the same job, especially in the same location, may well pose challenges.
Global Compensation For Remote Employees
Companies that employ a global salary policy pay their remote employees the same rate regardless of where they live.
It seems fair: all employees with the same role and job description are paid the same, fostering a sense of team spirit.
The reality is that the same compensation for an employee based in San Francisco will not afford them the same lifestyle as an employee in the same role living in Lisbon, Portugal.
Local Compensation For Remote Employees
Compensating remote employees with a local salary means adjusting their pay based on the average wage and living costs in their location.
Equitable: affords remote employees in the same role the same lifestyle. Matches the competitive market rate for top talent, aiding recruitment.
Can become very complex depending on how much data is available on the cost of living in certain locations. When remote employees move, this policy can end up costing the company more as it’s not common (and sometimes not legal) to make them take a pay cut.
How should you proceed?
Not one compensation strategy will work for all remote companies. Designing a compensation and perks package for your remote employees entirely depends on your individual needs as a company.
If your employees (or contractors) are based in one location, then it makes sense to have a global compensation package. If they’re international, then local adjustments will make their salaries equitable. Equally, if all of your employees have very different job roles, it makes sense to pay individual, skills-based salaries.
However you decide to compensate your remote employees, we’ve included our best practices to implement:
- Bear in mind the practical breakdown of your remote employees’ compensation packages:
- Wage - the pay that they will actually receive
- Taxes, insurance, and pension requirements based on the laws in their location
- Incentive or bonus pay if relevant
- Align your compensation strategy with your company philosophy. You can’t consciously consider equity one of your key values if your employees aren’t paid equitable salaries.
- If you decide to pay local salaries, use a salary calculator like Buffer, Glassdoor, or Salary Expert to work out the average pay for your remote employee’s city, region, and country and ensure you’re paying fairly for their role, experience, and living costs. Check out our guide on how much to pay remote employees for more information.
- Be transparent about your compensation strategy and explain to your employees why you’ve chosen that amount of salary.
- Make sure you’ve got the right tools to pay remote employees who are located around the world on time, and that neither your company nor your employees will be penalized with fees and taxes. PayPal, Stripe, and Wise are three of the most popular services for international transfers.
- Use a dedicated benefits service, like PerkBox, to offer discounts and rewards to your remote employees. Consolidating your perks into one program will make it easier for them and save time (and therefore money) for you too.
- Keep an eye on the stipends you pay using a business expenses solution like Soldo. You can even provide your remote employees with prepaid cards to buy the material perks they need.
Keep Your Remote Employees Engaged With Great Compensation & Perks
Offering comprehensive and thoughtful compensation and perks packages to your remote employees is one of the best ways to maintain their motivation, keep them happy, and show them you value their commitment.
It might seem overwhelming to consider the different compensation strategies and the potential expenses of the many perks, but remember that as a remote company, you're already offering a great perk with people being able to work independently.
What’s more, there are numerous innovative solutions on the market to help save you time and money when offering these invaluable perks to your remote employees. Check out some of our favorite remote working tools here!