What do post-COVID employees want? It isn't more free snacks - opinion

We’re moving towards a reality where employees no longer see their work as their main source of income.

 A woman works from home (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A woman works from home
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

The world has changed a lot since 2020, when almost overnight we needed to adapt to remote and distance relationships at work. For the business, this was a huge shift – but I believe it also irrevocably changed things for the worker. Today, employees have a new empowered way of thinking, “What do I expect to get from my employer?”

Understanding where and when employees want to work

A major part of the transition of the pandemic was flexibility at work, whether this was working from home part or full time or adding flexibility to working hours to account for childcare issues, sickness or other upheaval. We can think of this model as “work from anywhere lite.” Home or office is, when you think about it, not such a big deal. The studies are in, and workers are just as productive in their pajamas as they are sitting in a boardroom.

Author Eynat Guez (Credit: Coutesy)Author Eynat Guez (Credit: Coutesy)

The real “work from anywhere” will be a global reality where employees work from any country, and workers can move to where the tax benefits are greatest, the rental prices are lowest, to find a COVID-free location, or to follow the sunshine around the planet 12 months a year. They will be setting their own terms of working and choosing their locations in a similar way to an independent freelancer. I predict that in a few years’ time the next WeWork will be an island in the Maldives or in Thailand that can accommodate shared spaces for employees from companies all around the world.

Offering more choice in how employees get paid

Next on the list will be payments themselves. We’re moving towards a reality where employees no longer see their work as their main source of income. Employees have investments, hold equity, buy cryptocurrencies and have diverse assets in their portfolios.

This will bring new trends – such as flexible payments. In the old days, a model like payday loans was designed for low-income employees that had no savings to pay the bills before the pay cycle date. Now, the idea of being paid ahead of the standard monthly pay cycle is actually a discussion that drives the way organizations compensate mid-market to senior professionals. Employees are saying, “Why should I wait for the end of the month? Pay me for the value I create on a daily/weekly basis, and I’ll be able to invest this in short- or long-term assets that will create profits, such as crypto or NFT.”  

This is a trend to watch. In most of the world, the pay cycle is defined by the government, who decides when you report your pay cycle and when you pay taxes and contributions. Despite this, we might be seeing an employee-driven shift to more flexible frameworks, even if they don’t align with reporting schedules or government tax payments.

Can companies adapt?

Can we get to a place where we understand that the dialogue is not only about employees benefits in their workplace, but about employees benefits in their life and how their workplace supports and accommodates these?I believe this requires two things: First, an open dialogue and communication to understand what employees really want, and second, setting some rules in place.

Companies can’t just accept anything; they need to find a framework and a level of flexibility that they feel comfortable with. For example, they can only allow employees to live in countries they feel comfortable hiring in, since they still have multiple constraints. This could be compliance with local regulations and labor laws, the places where their employees can attend meetings on a time zone that works with others or creating a shield for the employee against severe medical issues. On the other hand, as this trend is being driven by employee demand, organizations do have to show that they are making the best effort possible for their workers by onboarding the right technology and automation to add flexibility to the way they can support employees.

Stop competing on game rooms and free snacks

From my perspective, we are in the era of a seismic change. The rules are being defined by two sides, not only by the organization’s needs, but also by what the employees want. If companies want to attract employees who will contribute to their growth and success, especially in the era of the Great Resignation and while considering a heavy skills gap, they need to be able to assure employees that they can fit work into their life plans and personal goals.

In this way, attracting high-quality talent won’t happen by having the best snacks or by offering free ice-cream or beers in the kitchen during Happy Hour. It will happen by being the perfect partner to support employees’ personal empowerment. 

Eynat Guez is founder and CEO of Papaya Global.