Child care subsidies. Dogs at the office. Daily catered lunches.
While many companies are not requiring a return to the workplace, local companies offer these perks to make coming into the office a nicer and easier experience.
The office will likely look different in the future due to the impact of the pandemic, but it probably won’t go away. Roughly two-thirds of 133 executives surveyed by PwC at the end of last year believe that people should be in the office at least three days a week to maintain a distinctive company culture once Covid is no longer a concern.
Even employees who prefer the convenience of working from home also see the value of the office. Nearly 90 percent of the 1,200 employees polled by PwC said the office is important for collaborating with team members and building relationships.
So many companies try to make coming into the office easier. In September 2020, Dr. Bronner’s, the soap maker based in Vista, increased its child care subsidies from $5,000 a year to $7,500. Dr. Bronner’s employees use the child care subsidies through Tootris, a San Diego-based company that connects parents and child care providers in real-time.
“In our employee surveys, we continue to hear that child care is one of the top stressors for our team members who are parents,” said Lilia Vergara, human resources director. “We offer the benefit to help parents to have the peace of mind that their children are in a safe and healthy environment while they are at work.”
CBIZ said some recent fun events involving food such as its Reunion Barbecue, taco trucks and happy hours have helped to entice more workers to return to the office and bond with teammates.
Kura Oncology, a small biotech company, allows employees to choose remote and in-person work options, based on their comfort level and personal situation. It has no set date or details on future changes to the current plan.
It treats workers in the office well. It stocks its kitchen with snacks. Every weekday, it orders individual lunches from places like Tender Greens, Jersey Mikes, Luna Grill and Board and Brew for all employees working at the office.
Buying these catered lunches allow employees to “have one less thing to worry about,” said Kelly Kennerly, executive director of human resources. “It’s a perk that employees really value.”
CSC TCI has new on-site dining options for its San Diego office: Crafted Culture and Leap Coffee. Crafted Culture’s menu lists edamame hummus, smoked salmon avocado Caesar salad, and tomato and crab melt. At Leap Coffee, folks can order an Americano, Croque madame or a turkey sausage breakfast sandwich.
“We want to ensure our employees not only work in a nice office environment but also enjoy coming to work every day,” said Scott Strauss, president for CSC TCI, a property tax and business license compliance software developer.
He added that CSC offices remain an important part of its company community and are safely open for employees who are comfortable working from the office.
STN Digital, a small marketing and branding company in San Diego, isn’t forcing its workers to come back. The company has transitioned to a setup where no one has assigned desks, which are more spread out. Workers just reserve a spot whenever they would like to come in. Of its 75 employees, roughly half are local residents. Of those, half come in regularly.
For those folks, CEO David Brickley wants them to feel relaxed at the office. Brickley has allowed dogs in the office for the past four years. He’s a fan of the concept. His French bulldog Zoey comes with him to the office every day.
There’s a sign-up system that allows one dog per workday. “Especially in apartment living, people feel guilty leaving their dogs at home,” Brickley said. “Also, people feel comfortable having their best friend working alongside them.”
MadCap Software, another small San Diego business, also permits employees to return to work voluntarily. It too offers employees who come into the office the same perk as STN.
Canines have always been allowed at the office, said Zeporia Fitzpatrick, human resources business partner. She says, “Allowing employee pets into the workspace is an additional incentive that creates a fun, welcoming experience for all.”
Businesses know employees like working from home. But it may surprise some how much they do. A recent survey of about 3,000 employees from big firms like Google, PayPal and LinkedIn by Blind, an anonymous professional network, showed that roughly two-thirds prefer working from home permanently over a $30,000 pay hike.
Yet most companies don’t see full-time remote work as the new norm, according to 275 Deloitte clients surveyed earlier this year. Including those businesses that have already returned, nearly 90 percent plan to be back in the workplace either fully or in a hybrid model this year.
MD7, a wireless communication company in San Diego, offers a dependent-care spending account. It pointed out that a new law raised pretax contribution limit from $5,000 to $10,500 this year.
“The dependent-care spending account is one way employees can take care of their families,” said Tom Leddo, chief strategy officer. “In addition, it is tax advantageous and a smart benefit, whether team members use it while working from the office or otherwise.”
For those choosing to return to the office, PeopleConnect, formerly The Control Group, a small software development company in San Diego, offers daily lunches and unlimited snacks. By comparison, for those still working remotely, it provides a $100 snack credit and routinely sends out GrubHub coupons for Zoom team lunches.
In 2019, Aya Healthcare, a large health care staffing company in San Diego, began allowing employees to put away tax-free money to help with commuting costs in major cities. They’re allowed pre-tax payroll deductions up to $270 a month to use for public transportation rides or passes, or parking fees.
Aya says it’s not currently encouraging workers to come into the office. Once it’s safe for employees to return, it plans to encourage a hybrid model of working from home and in the company office.
San Diego-based Kura offers company-paid parking for workers driving to its Boston office, which has a garage that charges a $410 monthly fee. Also, employees can receive up to a $270 reimbursement per month for taking the train or subway to work.
Hang Nguyen is a freelance writer for the U-T