Relocation Packages for Work-From-Home (WFH) Employees Looking to Move
Lots of employees have made it clear that working from home has been working for them.
What’s more, many of these workers would like to stay in a home office. According to data from the Pew Research Center, 54% of employees who say most or all of their job responsibilities can be fulfilled from home also say they’d like to continue working from home even after the pandemic ends.
But that doesn’t mean those employees necessarily want to work from their current homes. The number of people in the midst of or considering relocating has increased, as workers look for more space in more affordable areas. This is especially true among workers in high-cost urban areas such as New York City or expensive tech hubs such as San Francisco and San Jose. In fact, 11% of Americans have already moved during the pandemic, according to an online survey of 2,005 adults conducted by the Harris Poll for Zillow.
As a result, HR professionals may find themselves managing a fairly new benefit category–relocation support for work-from-home (WFH) employees.
This is happening at the same time that companies such as Facebook and Twitter have begun implementing location pay cuts for employees who move from expensive to low-cost areas. (In August 2021, Reuters reported that Google will administer pay cuts to some remote workers, even if they don’t move.)
The tech giants have prompted other companies, both in and out of the tech sector, to consider moving to a location-based salary structure for workers who want to work from home full-time. Fintech payments company Stripe, for example, is offering employees who leave high-cost areas up to $20,000 in relocation payments, but will also reduce their salaries by 10%.
How can you help your remote workers looking to move? These four benefits may be worth considering to assist you in attracting and retaining productive and engaged remote workers. The added support can be especially important if you are adjusting worker salaries based on location.
For years employers have been offering education, resources, and financial assistance to support employees in purchasing a home in an effort to get them to live closer to the office. In addition, some tech giants such as Microsoft and Facebook have put millions into developing affordable housing near headquarters to bolster the community and increase the availability of reasonably priced homes for both employees and residents.
Those efforts are continuing post-pandemic. But at the same time, firms of all sizes are realizing that homebuying assistance programs can also help remote workers . After all, many remote workers are moving to lower-cost areas in order to afford to buy a house, something that is difficult in places like Seattle, San Francisco, or New York City. Employer homebuying benefits can help make employee homeownership goals a reality.
Employer-sponsored homeownership benefits can run the gamut from education efforts to financial grants and loans. In general, these benefits break down into four groups.
• Homebuyer Education and Counseling: Personally-tailored advice from mortgage experts and financial counselors to walk employees through every step of the homebuying process.
• Credit Counseling: Help first-time and other homebuyers to fully understand the importance of their credit scores in the lending process and advice on how to improve their scores if needed.
• Down Payment and Mortgage-Cost Assistance Programs: Actual financial assistance in the form of grants or low-interest loans for a down payment, closing fees, or other homebuying costs. Employers may also negotiate discounts with lenders and real estate professionals for lower rates and smaller fees for employees and their families.
• Negotiated Home Related Discounts: Favorable group rates and/or terms for home-related financial services, like insurance and home improvement loans, or on related services like landscaping or pest control.
Traditionally many of the real estate, lender, and credit professionals employers work with to provide these benefits have been locally sourced, for obvious reasons. As employers begin to cater to remote workers across a broad span of locations, they may need to rethink that approach and work with a more nationally focused network of vendors, lenders, and experts. It’s important to ensure that homebuying assistance is as available to relocating remote workers as it is to those moving close to the office.
Tech and Communication Support
During pandemic-related shutdowns, HR managers scrambled to implement the technology and support to accommodate a totally remote workforce. For most employers, fast decision-making, implementation of solid resources and plenty of trial and error got the job done.
Moving forward, you’ll need to make sure that the technology and communication systems you’ve relied on will continue to serve your total workforce and their needs–especially those no longer within short distance of the home office/worksite.This may include revaluating and/or adding vendors that can support workers in various geographic areas.
As more companies bring employees back to the office, there is an increased discussion on how to budget and account for travel costs when employees are requested to be present in an office/worksite. In addition, what had been a worry for large events — annual or quarterly meetings, learning and development workshops, etc. — is now top of mind for all meeting schedulers.
For local workers that are now classified as remote, what had once been called a commute might now be considered a business trip. In addition to virtual platforms that allow remote workers to be part of these events, employers may want to budget travel allowances for return trips to headquarters as part of their travel budgets.
Custom Benefits for Remote Workers
What works for employees in one area may not be accessible to employees in another. Therefore, HR professionals may need to check their employees’ benefits packages to see where they may need to customize these benefits for workers now able to relocate far from the home office or even satellites.
Health insurance provider networks, for instance, may not be available to employees in other states or areas. And any insurance benefits must conform with state and local regulations, a process HR managers may not have been familiar with pre-pandemic if most employees worked in the same area.
Wellness benefits are another area to investigate. Local gym memberships or fitness programs don’t make sense anymore, but access to virtual programs or an allowance for home exercise equipment could easily substitute. The same goes for the commuter transportation benefits companies often offer. Remote workers who no longer need this support may find that upgrading their home office equipment can help boost productivity.
Employer-assisted housing programs can help HR professionals keep remote workers looking to relocate productive and engaged while also improving their financial wellness as they meet more of their financial goals. At the same time, they may also help soften the blow of location-based pay changes.
SoFi at Work offers communication and benefits programs that can help you manage your work-from-home employees.
Photo credit: iStock/VioletaStoimenova
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