Pandemic studies: "All the things appears to go smoother once we're collectively": Firms dangle spa weekends and free meals to lure workers again to the workplace

Thomas Jepsen, founder of Passion Plans, a company that connects home buyers with architects and designers, is one of the group of employers that allow employees to voluntarily return to the office.

Now that people know they can work from home, they have settled into the routine of working in their sweat and meeting up with coworkers at Zoom
+ 0.75%
Without the hassle of a daily commute, he knew he had to sweeten the deal to get her back to the offices in Cary, NC, just outside Raleigh.

He offers to pay up to $ 1,500 for a weekend trip to a wellness spa for employees who volunteer from the office. So far, three employees have booked their stays in spas.

"I wanted to give them the opportunity to experience something that has proven very, very rewarding for my personal mental health."

– Thomas Jepsen, founder of Passion Plans in Cary, N.C.

+ 1.81%
Gift cards are nice, but I wanted to give them the opportunity to experience something that has proven very, very rewarding for my personal mental health, ”he said.

He lets up to 13 of the 20 employees come to the office every day if they want. However, it's not that easy to sell. So far, only 3 to 5 workers per week go to the office.

"There's only so much you can do when you don't sit and work together," he said. "Everything seems to go more smoothly when we're together and can work as a team," said Jepsen.

Pictured Thomas Jepsen wants the staff to come back to the office and is ready to pay for a weekend spa vacation when they come back. Yet only five of its 20 employees have returned.

Thomas Jepsen

He expects all employees to adhere to social distancing and health protocols, including wearing masks, even if they have been fully vaccinated. Finally, if permitted by law, he would like to introduce a mandatory COVID vaccination policy for all employees who want to work personally.

But he also knows it's important to be flexible with his employees, who are among the happier American workers who were able to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

That flexibility starts at home. When MarketWatch spoke to him, he was working from home because his son was not doing well.

In addition to the paid spa weekends, other employers are taking over the running of commercial real estate tenants and also dangling noticeable perks like reduced working hours, free meals, and discounted Uber
+ 0.81%
On-site trips and daycare for employees who agree to work on-site.

The transition to personal office work does not happen overnight. Two months ago, nearly half (47%) of American employees were working part-time or entirely from home. This was the result of a Harris survey of more than 2,000 adults in the United States, commissioned by the job listing site Glassdoor.

And the survey shows that they have to be convincing. Almost a quarter of employees said they would "consider quitting their jobs if they had to return to the office before all employees were vaccinated".

Another 17% said they would actually "consider quitting their job if they have to return to the office 5 days a week" – vaccinations or no vaccinations.

When more Americans get vaccinated, they'll take vacations, eat out, and go back to whatever activities they'd like to do if government restrictions don't prevent them.

Perks that lure people back to the office could empower and encourage workers to dig their heels and stay on their home lawn.

But this new freedom works both ways. Exhaling after a stressful year and feeling more optimistic about the hope of a return to some semblance of normalcy on the horizon, millions of workers have become accustomed to work-life balance.

According to David Lewis, CEO of OperationsInc, a recruitment firm, perks that tempt people to come back to the office could empower and encourage employees to dig their heels and stay on their home lawn.

You might see even the most generous perks in a more cynical light, he said. They could be seen as telling workers if they risk their lives driving to the office in blizzard conditions, "they get free pizza," Lewis said.

"You have to respect the idea that there are a lot of employees who look at the circumstances and say, 'I don't feel safe no matter how far I am from the people I sit," said Lewis, whose practice more than advises 1,800 clients from startups to Fortune 100 companies across the country.

There are people who feel comfortable attending concerts and sporting events but don't feel like going back to their offices.

It's not just about feeling safe, either. There are also people who feel comfortable attending concerts and sporting events but don't feel like going back to their offices because they feel just as productive at home, Lewis added.

In fact, more than a third (35%) of US workers would accept a wage cut if it meant they could permanently work from home on a full-time basis. This was the result of a survey of 540 people carried out by SHRM earlier this year.

"Many employers who did not want to offer teleworking options at the beginning of the pandemic have found that employees are actually more productive at home than at work," Jessup told MarketWatch.

However, not everyone is that careful or beneficial. Jamie Dimon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of JPMorgan Chase
+ 0.34%
told the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council earlier this week that it hopes 50% of US-based employees will return to work in some form by July.

"I'm about to cancel all of my Zoom meetings," he said. "I'm done with it."

Jennifer Jarquin feels safe working from an office because she is fully vaccinated, but she does not have the option to work from home.

Jennifer Jarquin

"We want people to go back to work and I think that sometime in September / October it will look the same as it did before and everyone will be happy with it," said Dimon. "And yes, the commute, you know that people don't like to commute, but so what."

Few large corporations are willing to make such bold, if not provocative, statements. Instead, they see how the introduction of vaccinations goes first and evaluate how it affects people's thinking.

In fact, 27% of companies have not yet committed to a specific return to work regime. This was found in a recent survey of 55 HR managers and return to work decision makers.

Workers may cling to the greatest perk of all: a hybrid home / office arrangement. According to a survey by the independent media organization Reset Work, hybrid agreements that combine in-office and remote work are the clear pioneers for companies.

63% of businesses prefer a hybrid home / office model versus 6% of businesses planning a complete removal.

Most companies seem to realize that they have to offer a compromise. 63% of businesses prefer a hybrid model, compared to just 6% of businesses planning full removal and 4% planning full-time office work.

Not everyone will have a choice. After working in the office 2 days a week and from home the other 3 days, Jennifer Jarquin, 25, woke up Monday morning with a mixture of fear and excitement – the kind she last thinks about the first time every year School day remembered.

But instead of tearing off labels from new school supplies, she buckled up and headed back to work at a civil engineering company in Las Vegas – commuting 5 days a week.

She has resigned herself to going back to work full time. Your employer told employees that people could work from home but would have to cut their wages. "It's fair," said Jarquin, "and it makes good business sense."

Unfortunately for them there were no advantages for the "back-to-the-office".

Related Articles