Understanding Which Flexible Benefits To Offer

21st Dec 2022

It feels like each new year brings a trendy new flexible benefit to the working world.

Whether it’s paw-ternity leave, dog-friendly offices, work-from-anywhere schemes, or unlimited annual leave, many potential benefits can be made available to keep employees happy and engaged.

Given this world of choice, deciding on a suitable portfolio of benefits can be challenging. At Flexa, we have first-hand experience with pretty much the full range of options; check out our guide to each and everyone below.

Unlimited annual leave

Many cite Netflix as the originator of the uncapped annual leave policy. This approach to annual leave places responsibility on the employee and is tantamount to a “we’re not counting” policy. Although many companies have seen positive benefits from unlimited annual leave (e.g. Netflix, LinkedIn), other companies have rolled back on it. To take one example, CharlieHR binned their unlimited annual leave policy after just three years, citing issues with employees taking too few holidays, as well as question marks over fairness. 

If you are thinking about uncapping your annual leave allowance, we recommend planning the communications around this really carefully, as it is bound to cause a lot of noise!

At Flexa, we operate a policy of generous but not uncapped annual leave. We think this strikes the right balance of freedom, whilst encouraging employees to take a break.

Unlimited / extended sick leave

This benefit sits perhaps less traditionally in the “flexible” mould but can be hugely beneficial when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Companies that provide extended (or even unlimited) sick leave are immensely attractive to those who may suffer from chronic illnesses. 

This policy can, of course, be expensive and therefore needs to be assessed in full light of this reality.

Extended parental leave

Companies like Diageo have taken the lead in this area in recent years, allowing for extended periods of paid maternity leave and, increasingly, paternity leave. A huge PR and employer brand upside exists in standing out on this benefit. Additionally, staff retention is likely to be substantially increased for those with (or planning to have) children.

Of course, lengthy paid leave is expensive, and, realistically, very generous maternity and paternity packages are more likely to be found in larger corporates. Notwithstanding this, some companies at Series A or even Seed stage offer enhanced parental leave.

Work-from-anywhere schemes

This is a benefit we believe will become commonplace over the next decade. With a vastly increased number of roles now being performed virtually, we expect to see a shift toward “periodic” remote working.

As a result of the Covid-19 crisis, we have seen many nations launch “digital nomad visas”, enabling office workers to move to a new country for a set time period and work remotely. This approach differs from a “fully remote” role, which of course, allows working from anywhere at any time.

If you feel your business is in a position to support this kind of working arrangement for certain roles, we really think that this is a fantastic tool for both talent attraction and talent retention at no extra cost to the business.

Sabbaticals (paid or unpaid)

Both paid and unpaid sabbaticals have become more commonplace in recent years, especially in the public sector. Sabbaticals tend to be awarded to long-tenured employees who are likely to return to their full-term positions at the end of their sabbatical periods. 

When considering a sabbatical programme, remember that employees will expect the opportunity to be open to most and, as such, conditions need to be made very clear in communications.

Dog-friendly offices

Along with “pawternity” leave, dog-friendly offices are the most common flexible benefit cited as a “would like to have” when we conduct our Flexification surveys with employees. People really, really love having dogs in offices - even if they’re not their own!

We’re big dog fans at Flexa and frankly, we always encourage clients to consider having a dog-friendly office where possible. One major caveat: allowing dogs in the office comes with legal responsibilities; if necessary, talk to lawyers first.

“Pawternity” leave

As mentioned above, “pawternity leave” (i.e. time off to look after a new puppy, kitten or another animal) has become wildly popular amongst start-ups and scale-ups in the last few years. This is no surprise, as one upshot of the Covid-19 epidemic has seen a vast increase in animal ownership. 

We won’t lie here: we think pawternity is excellent and can be a real boon for your employer brand.

Health and wellness benefits

We won’t get lost in the wide variety of potential options here (yoga, mindfulness, gym passes, spa breaks and so on). For a catch-all solution, we recommend checking out our partners at Juno, who offer benefits that can be chosen at an employee level. This removes a lot of cost wastage - buying yoga classes for the whole company and finding only 10% of staff use them is not ideal!

Summer hours

Common in Nordic countries, this approach to time flexibility allows employees to work additional hours outside of the summer and “bank” them so that they can work fewer hours when the days are longer. There is a wealth of evidence to suggest this approach has a positive impact on the mental health of employees and overall productivity / output. 

Of course, if your business already operates a very flexible approach to time management (like we do here at Flexa), then summer hours aren’t really necessary!

Compressed hours

Some employees prefer to free up a day or two per week as time off by working additional hours on other days (e.g. 10 hours per day, 4 days per week). This can be an effective approach when utilised well, especially in situations where that employee has a very time-bound schedule, e.g. customer service workers or shift workers generally.

Above all else, when adding any new flexible benefit to your workplace, remember the golden rule: focus on what employees want rather than what might sound trendy! With this in mind, we highly recommend using an employee feedback tool like Workday Peakon to assess which flexible benefits would be most highly prized by a majority of employees. 

Need help? Take the workplace flexibility quiz below to get insights and recommendations on your flexible working strategy.