Relocation Benefits: No Longer Just for New Hires

By Walecia Konrad · March 15, 2024 · 6 minute read

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Relocation Benefits: No Longer Just for New Hires

In a work-anywhere world, now might seem like a good time to cut your relocation costs. But that could be a step in the wrong direction. Offering flexible and generous mobility benefits can help your firm retain and attract valuable work-from-home (WFH) employees and/or entice a remote workforce to move closer to the office.

Lots of employees have made it clear that working from home has been working for them. But that doesn’t mean those employees necessarily want to work from their current homes. Research suggests that the number of people in the midst of or considering relocating is once again on the rise, as workers look for lower living costs, proximity to friends and loved ones, or better work-life balance.

As a result, more companies are creating mobility policies that accommodate these voluntary moves.

For companies that have adopted a hybrid policy (or are looking to bring workers back to the office full-time), employees need to live within a reasonable commute to their assigned office. Depending on the specifics of the in-office requirements, this might require a relocation or a business travel arrangement.

The upshot? A one-size-fits-all mobility benefit may no longer work for your workforce. Whether you’re looking to retain your WFH employees or seeking to bring employees back to the office, the right relocation-assistance benefits can help. Here’s a look at some programs and perks to consider adding to your suite of financial wellness benefits.

Home-Buying Assistance

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 work. 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.

While these benefits became less important during the pandemic, many employers are once again offering home-buying incentives to entice workers to relocate closer to work. At the same time, firms of all sizes are realizing that home-buying 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 home-buying 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.

•   Home-Buyer Education and Counseling: Personally-tailored advice from mortgage experts and financial counselors to walk employees through every step of the home-buying 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 home-buying 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 home-buying assistance is as available to relocating remote workers as it is to those moving close to the office.

Recommended: Considering Housing Assistance Benefits? You Can Help Fight Discrimination Too

Travel Allowances

As more companies bring employees back on site, 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.

Flexible Relocation Packages

Traditionally, companies extend relocation packages when offering workers long-term employment over 50 miles further than they currently work. If you’re shifting back to on-site work, this is a perk that may appeal to both new hires and existing employees. You may also want to offer your relocation benefits to remote workers who are looking to move for cost or lifestyle reasons. This added support can be especially important if you are adjusting worker salaries based on location.

The best relocation programs generally provide logistical and emotional support along with financial benefits. Some features that today’s workers may especially appreciate:

•   Full control over their move A rigid relocation policy can add stress to an employee making a move (who is likely already stressed), especially if their situation doesn’t match up to their benefits. Consider offering flexible mobility benefits that allow employees to use their funds as they choose, while offering multiple vendor options.

•   Real and virtual relocation support Consider offering relocation support in the form of live experts and online resources, allowing employees to tap for assistance when and if needed. Online offerings could potentially include: a simplified summary of benefits; a constantly updating record of moving costs; helpful guides, checklists, and planning tools; and expert support available when needed.

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.

Recommended: 3 Ways to Support Your Employees During Times of Uncertainty

The Takeaway

Employer-assisted mobility 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. Relocation assistance is also important for companies looking to bring workers back to office or shift workers to other office locations. At the same time, this type of offering may help soften the blow of location-based pay changes.

SoFi at Work offers employers the benefits platform, education resources, and financial counseling that can help you assemble packages that help you increase employee productivity, loyalty, and overall well-being.

Photo credit: iStock/miodrag ignjatovic

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