Summary:

In a terrible economy, budget-conscious employers cut benefits. But is the fledgling economic recovery now strong enough for employers to start sweating poachers and bring back perks? And did non-monetary benefits like flexible work arrangements ever feel the recessionary pinch?

flexible working perks and the recession

In a terrible economy, shaken employees are less likely to be looking to change jobs and less in need of perks to keep them loyal. With budget-conscious employers looking to cut costs, the result is a decline in benefits on offer. There’s no news there, but is the fledgling economic recovery strong enough for employers to start sweating poachers and bring back perks? And did non-monetary benefits like flexible work arrangements ever feel the recessionary pinch?

Several surveys are offering to answer the first question with a recent poll from consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported in the Wall Street Journal  claiming perks are definitely on the rebound. Of 100 HR execs polled, 18 percent said their companies have restored all pre-recession perks, while 41 percent brought back some that were cut. But not every expert agrees that the days of lush benefits packages have returned. In another survey from The Society for Human Resource Management, 77 percent of companies said the economy in 2011 has damaged employee benefit offerings, a five-percent increase from last year.

But whatever the true state of monetary perks like tuition reimbursement and company wellness programs, both surveys agree on one thing: The economic pressure on more expensive benefits only increased interest in non-monetary perks like telecommuting and flexible schedules. The Society for Human Resources Management poll found that:

  • 53 percent of employers surveyed provide flex time as a benefit, compared to 49 percent last year.
  • 20 percent offer full-time telecommuting on a full-time basis, up from the 17 percent in 2010.

“The addition of workplace flexibility programs has been one of the primary tactics organizations are using to offset the benefit losses,” said research director Mark Schmit. Meanwhile, CFO magazine reports the Challenger survey makes a similar point noting, “low-cost or no-cost benefits may appeal to employees as well, such as flexible schedules, telecommuting, casual attire, early dismissal on summer Fridays, and even pet-friendly offices.”

HR experts may still be arguing about whether the economy is strong enough to justify the return of many monetary perks, but everyone seems to agree that flex work perks don’t need to rebound; their appeal only increased during the downturn.

Will increased interest in non-monetary perks continue when we finally enter a proper recovery?

Photo courtesy Flickr user lu_lu

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