Perks and benefits are a huge part of hiring and retaining top talent and keeping people happy. They are not only a set of goodies and benefits to keep your people happy but a substantial part of the employment package. For remote companies, the perk packages often look a little bit different and may include things that aren't usual in any other company.
Perks and Benefits in co-located companies
Depending on where you live, companies tend to offer free drinks, snacks and fruits to their employees. They usually have a set of PTO days – depending on the country between 10 to 30 – and pre-defined parental leaves. Talking about time off, many companies also offer sabbatical offerings. Basecamp, for example, offers a full month off after every three years of employment.
Many other offerings do not involve paid time off and consist of a pre-defined period you can take off unpaid if you so wish. Most companies also offer pension packages, some offer paid health/sports perks, sometimes even education stipends and paid conference visits too.
If you work at a bigger company or in one of the tech hubs, such as San Francisco or New York, for example, it's not uncommon to see companies offer free catered lunches as well. Google is notorious for offering over-the-top perks, anything from on-site gyms to hairstylists.
Recommended Benefits for Remote Employees
Remote employees have other requirements for a good perk system. They don't need catered lunches, because they can cook or order whatever they want. They don't need an on-site hairstylist, because they can go to their local one, and having flexible time as a perk doesn't make sense if you can plan your day by yourself.
Thinking of it, having a good remote-first working structure is already a great perk, but there is more that should be part of a remote work package.
Remote work can be lonely, and a welcome change to the home office may be the casual trip to a local co-working space. If applicable, employers should try to get all of their employees a hot-seat card for a local coworking space (meaning they can visit and grab a seat so-and-so many times per month, not a fixed desk). This can be crucial if an employee is otherwise mostly isolated (e.g. in a very different timezone). At times, a fixed full-month seat may need to be supplied.
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, possibly offer an annual health stipend if applicable.
Equipment for home office
If you expect people to work from home (or anywhere), you should supply anything you'd supply for a co-located employee. Meaning (if needed) a great table, chair, screen, computer, any accessories needed, as well as internet access (at least subsidized). This may differ from employee to employee, as people tend to have a small existing home office at times. It can be good to offer a hardware stipend upfront (usually between $2,000 and $3,000) to cover all expenses of a home office.
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 get harder, the less connected you are. A stipend for educational material makes it easy for your employees to grow and learn.
Supplying topical books, courses, subscriptions and similar is also in your interest. It doesn't only help people to grow, but also bring new ideas into your business.
Company-wide team retreats
The sweet thing about not having an office, or renting something small, is saving a lot of money on rent. The best way to re-invest that money is by flying the whole team out for a retreat, either to an existing HQ or a remote location, for 1-2 weeks of team building, strategy planning, brainstorming, innovation and exchange. This can get costly, but is crucial to do! Face-to-face time can't get substituted with anything, you'll be left with a tighter, happier and greater team.
Optionally, fly out smaller groups or teams to get them together and have in-person sessions to plan the future and do team-building, it will work wonders for your team culture!
How to pay or reimburse perks
Many of these perks wouldn't be called 'perks' in the traditional sense, because of a simple reason: They just mean more money in your employee's hands. Unless you are working with a benefits partner, these perks consist of things that folks can get reimbursed.
Be it books, as part of the education stipend, or healthcare benefits. It would be too much work to pay people's bills, worry about local regulation or taxes – the easiest way is to just reimburse your employees (or contractors).
Perks don't have to be readily available snacks or catered lunches – paying for education or reimbursing healthcare costs is just as much a perk. As a remote company, you're already offering a great perk with people being able to work independently. Taking off some load and reimbursing annoying, recurring costs is just the cherry on top!