The perks employees want in 2021
We surveyed 1,532 UK employees to find out what perks they want in 2021 and how their needs will shape the perks and benefits landscape in the New Working World. The employees surveyed come from a range of ages, industries and working situations. Here’s what we found.
- UK employees say that employee discounts are the perk which will both make them happier (52%) and improve their wellbeing (50%) the most in 2021
- 42% of employees say receiving greater recognition for their work would make them happier in 2021
- Only 4% of employees say they currently have the right perks for them
- 74% of employees say they should be given a pay rise if their business saves on office costs in 2021
- Nearly a quarter (24%) of employees want their employer to retain office cost savings for the financial security of the business.
- Money towards household bills is most sought after perk for employees who work remotely for the majority of next year
- Free breakfast/lunch is the most sought after perk for employees who don’t work remotely for the majority of next year
Which perks will make employees happier in 2021?
UK employees say that employee discounts (52%), greater recognition for their work (42%) and receiving unlimited/a greater amount of holiday (41%) are the top three perks in 2021 to make them happier.
You could argue this is because the pandemic has forced people to earn less but work harder. When this happens, employees need to find ways to make their money go further, as well as seek recognition for their work and seek more opportunities to rest.
Looking closely at the top ten, you can see how the perks which employees say will make them happier in 2021 are divided between their work and home lives. Recognition for their work, being allowed to work from home, plus learning & development budgets would all help them be happier at work. Employee discounts, at-home entertainment and a present on their birthday would all help make them happier at home.
And the other perks listed in the top 10 – such as unlimited/greater holiday, free breakfast/lunch and free COVID-19 tests/vaccinations – can be used to improve employee happiness at work and at home.
Being allowed to always work from home is not a perk which all age groups agree would make them happier in 2021 though. Only 26% of those aged 18–24 said it would make them happier compared to 41% of 25–34 year-olds.
This split also extends to company size. Just 27% of employees at companies with fewer than 20 people and 32% at companies with 20–49 said always working from home would make them happier. 43% of employees at companies with 50–249 people and 40% at companies with over 250 said always working from home would make them happier.
Which perks do employees say will be most beneficial to their wellbeing in 2021?
As well as saying they would make them most happy, 50% of UK employees say that employee discounts to save money would be most beneficial to their wellbeing in 2021.
The top three perks to improve employee wellbeing in 2021 is rounded off by more flexible working hours (40%) and the ability to work remotely (37%). It’s also worth noting that time off for mental health/mental health days was a very close fourth choice.
Along with the top four, the entire top ten suggests that financial and emotional wellbeing are the two key areas of concern for employees as we move into 2021. These findings correlate with our workplace wellbeing series which asked employees and employers about the state of their wellbeing in light of the events of 2020.
Younger employees want perks which look after their emotional wellbeing more than their older colleagues. 41% of 25–34 year-olds would like time off for mental health/mental health days and 34% of 18–24 year-olds would like to get free counselling sessions. The preference for these perks steadily declined as the age of each group increased.
Women showed a preference for emotional wellbeing perks over men. 38% of women said receiving time off for mental health/mental health days would improve their overall wellbeing in 2021 compared to 29% of men. 24% said free counselling sessions would improve their wellbeing compared to 16% of men.
And with coronavirus being seen to affect older people most, it’s maybe no surprise that free COVID-19 tests/vaccinations from their employer are seen by 35% of those 55+ to be beneficial to their wellbeing in 2021. This is compared to 20% of 18–24 and 22% of 25–34 year-olds.
Which benefits do non-remote employees want most in 2021?
The top three perks which non-remote employees want in 2021 are free breakfast/lunch (39%), greater recognition for their work (36%) and more flexible working hours (35%).
And with so much talk about making remote employees happy, it’s important not to overlook the needs of non-remote employees in the New Working World.
While the age groups are largely in agreement with what non-remote working perks they’d like to see in 2021, there are a few splits when looking at gender. For starters 38% of women want more flexible working hours compared to 30% of men, 21% of women want a budget to socialise with colleagues compared to 14% of men and 15% of women would like improved break rooms compared to 9% of men.
The improvement of break rooms is the one aspect which divides the age groups too. 18% of those aged 18–24 and 16% aged 25–34 want to see better break facilities in 2021 but this is only shared by 7% of those over 55 and 10% of 45–54 year-olds. This could come down to younger people seeing work as a way to grow their social connections and is backed up by other results in our survey.
Younger people, for example, are less interested on the whole about being allowed to always or occasionally work from home. For employers looking to build a non-remote workforce in 2021, highlighting the social side of your business could go a long way in attracting young talent.
Which perks do remote employees want most in 2021?
For employees working remotely, their top three perks are money towards household bills (50%), budget for their at-home working setup (46%) and more flexible working hours (31%).
With many employees not working from home before the pandemic, our homes were primarily designed for living in and we had set outgoings. Now people are struggling to find the right working arrangements and household bills are increasing. And based on our findings, it appears that employees want their employer to help them.
Working remotely has also shown that a rigid 9 to 5 isn’t strictly necessary – it’s even debatable if it was before the pandemic. People are now free to work when they choose without being in an office for a set number of hours, completing tasks at a time which suits them. Of course, there are businesses which will still need to operate within a core set of hours, but employers who are more flexible and take outcome-based approaches will be more appealing for employees in 2021.
Having regular snack boxes/care packages sent by their employer splits the genders and business sizes. 22% of women working remotely want to receive them compared to just 12% of men. 21% of employees at companies with 250+ people and 20% at those with 50–249 also favour receiving care packages in 2021. This is in contrast to just 11% of employees at companies with 19 or fewer people and 14% at those with 20–49 wishing to receive a care package while working remotely.
How do employees feel savings should be passed on to them if their employer saves on 2021’s office costs through remote working?
Unsurprisingly, 74% of employees say they should be given a pay rise if their business saves on office costs in 2021 – the most popular choice.
Money towards household bills is the next most popular option, being chosen by 54% of employees. And rounding out the top three, 39% of employees would like those savings reinvested in perks which they can use at home.
From those wishing to take those savings as a pay rise, this was the preferred option for 83% of 18–24 year-olds but only 64% of those aged 45–54. This may be a reflection of the living situations we touched on earlier in this piece and younger people may see a higher salary as a way to get on the property ladder sooner.
Confirming this somewhat, having the savings passed on towards household bills was the preferred option for 60% of 45–54 year-olds but only 43% of those aged 18–24. With the older generations having more dependents at home, getting relief from their employer towards household bills could possibly be a big help on their finances.
Nearly a quarter (24%) of employees would like to see their employer retain the savings they make from reducing office costs for the financial security of the business. With the coronavirus pandemic showing just how uncertain our futures can be, it appears people want their employers to be as financially stable as possible.
Different types of people are attracted to more stable or more risky employment propositions – sometimes there isn’t the luxury of an option – but a trend we see in the New Working World could be many businesses being less adventurous to ensure long term viability.
What are employees least interested in receiving in 2021?
In 2021, employees are least interested in receiving a budget to get a pet (48%), being allowed to bring pets to work (44%) and getting free alcohol at work (42%).
On top of that, 33% of employees not interested in at-work entertainment (pool table, ping pong, computer games, etc.) and 33% don't want free unhealthy snacks. This suggests that the Silicon Valley-style offices will no longer be a draw for employees.
Now that so many see working from home more often as the norm in the New Working World, these incentives could quickly find themselves becoming ‘perks of the past’. After all, if we’re not going to the office as often, we’re not going to use those perks as often and employers will be able to save money on them.
This correlates with the findings on what employees would like their employers to do with the savings made on office costs, as 39% said they’d want their employer to invest in perks which can be used at home. Where lavish offices were once used to attract top talent, we may see a shift in 2021 to the most lavish at-home working perks being a key recruitment driver.
Despite being the second perk which employees are least interested in, younger generations are more likely to want pets in the workplace than their older colleagues. Only 28% of 18–24 year-olds said they’re not interested in being allowed to bring pets to work. Just over half (51%) of those aged 55+ and half (50%) of 35–44 year-olds said they weren’t interested in bringing pets to work.
Wanting CSR initiatives/volunteering days also divides the age groups. 39% of 18–24 year-olds aren’t interested in CSR or volunteering at work. This is compared to 19% of those 35–44, 16% who are 45–54, and 15% 55+.
Looking at the data at face value could suggest that the younger generations care less about CSR and volunteering. On the other hand, with Gen Z demanding more authentic ethical stances from brands, it’s possible that they’re not buying into the CSR stance of their employer.
How are employees most likely to let employers know what they want?
What’s most striking is that only 4% of employees say they already have the right perks for them.
This could be a reflection on how current perks and benefits packages were set up for the previous way of working and don’t fit in with the New Working World.
As well as using the findings in our survey, you’ll likely benefit from asking your people which perks they want most in 2021. And as you can see from our results, half (50%) of employees would prefer to tell their employer which perks they want through an employee survey. Only 21% say they would tell their employer/manager directly 21% and a further 20% wouldn’t say anything at all!
To encourage those employees who don’t feel comfortable to share their thoughts on the perks you offer, we’d recommend creating an anonymous survey which will make them feel more comfortable. Doing so, you’ll get the insight of those who want to give feedback through a survey as well as from those who are less likely to come forward.
For those prepared to tell you directly anyway, you could try holding a town hall-style meeting about the perks you offer to get open feedback from your people.
Conclusion: Discounts and recognition = employee happiness
The headline finding from our survey is that UK employees say that employee discounts are the perk which will both make them happier and improve their wellbeing most in 2021.
Adding to this, employees say receiving greater recognition for their work would make them happier in 2021. And this is a view shared by both remote and non-remote employees.
What employees are least interested in are free alcohol at work, at-work entertainment (pool table, ping pong, computer games, etc.) and free unhealthy snacks. What’s clear in the New Working World is that perks and benefits don’t need the flash of Silicon Valley which people were chasing before. Employees want employee discounts which make an actual difference to their bank balance and they want to be well recognised for their contributions to your business.
If you’ve been using your HR budget to provide free alcohol and unhealthy snacks to your employees, it may be time to switch to what could be referred to as the ‘bread and butter’ perks of employee discounts and recognition.
Want more inspiration on what you can offer? Check out our Perks page to see what types of employee discounts are available.