Five cool ideas from the post-pandemic workplace

Five cool ideas from the post-pandemic workplace

Including swag-laden onboarding kits, UberEats credits and WFH stipends

Photograph by Daniel Ehrenworth
Bright Idea No. 1: Custom onboarding kits for new hires

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the HR, payroll and benefits software company Humi has been offering its new employees onboarding kits prior to their first day of work. The perks include work-from-home essentials (a monitor, laptop and accessories), company-specific swag (a deck of cards, notepads, hats and sweatshirts) and customized items (like the new hire’s favourite snacks). According to Andrea Bartlett, the company’s director of people operations, “Those are the kinds of things we would learn about each other naturally if we were working together in person.”

Bartlett’s team selects the contents of each kit based on conversations with incoming staff about their tastes, hobbies and interests, and on a survey that screens for dietary restrictions, go-to restaurants and ideal work set-up, among other things. Some new Humi hires have taken to LinkedIn to post photos of their onboarding kits, each displaying a MacBook Air flanked by Humi-branded clothing, a handwritten note from senior staff, and treats like Swedish Berries, Nerds, Sour Patch Kids and Miss Vickie’s chips—proof that catering to the 3 p.m. slump pays dividends.

Illustrations by Ally Jaye Reeves
Bright Idea No. 2: A $500 wellness stipend

For years, Penguin Random House Canada has provided its employees with an annual $500 reimbursement for physical activity—a gym membership or yoga class, say. Since the pandemic, the publisher has made that same perk available for any wellness expense. That could mean an aromatherapy diffuser, an ergonomic chair or even camping gear. Anika Holder, VP of HR, says the change reflects an evolving definition of good health. “In these times, wellness is customized to the individual,” she says. “It can be anything that covers the critical basics of life, and those basics vary according to the person.” In her case, improving wellness involved a new desk, reiki treatments and high-end headphones to drown out her kids’ simultaneous Zoom classes.

Bright Idea No. 3: An app-based desk-booking system

When the live-video commerce platform StageTEN began welcoming some of its staff back to the office last September, it turned to Kadence, an app used to book in-person spaces, desks and parking spots. This way, team members can reserve one of StageTEN’s socially distanced desks (until capacity has been reached). Kadence also allows employees to see who’s in the workspace on any given day, making it easier for colleagues to coordinate. “The return to the office has helped our staff accomplish more,” says director of operations Karin Anderson. “It’s also allowing them to see their friends.”

Bright Idea No. 4: Flex time and cash incentives

Early in the pandemic, e-comm startup SnapCommerce switched to a remote model, making it a permanent priority. To help employees adjust, the company offered a one-time $500 WFH stipend to kit out home offices, a $360 annual wellness benefit and a weekly $25 UberEats credit. It has since instituted flexible hours, whether that’s starting and ending a little later or blocking off time midday for errands. The result: morale and productivity are up. “Giving staff time to take care of personal hurdles means they work when they focus best,” says Natasha Lakhani, VP of people and talent. “It’s win-win.”

Bright Idea No. 5: A smart way to use empty offices

Just Boardrooms is the Airbnb of meeting-room rentals: the company doesn’t own office real estate, but rather acts as a platform through which companies can rent out their underused spaces. Prices for one of their 50-plus workspaces in the Toronto area range from $25 to $90 an hour for a small meeting room and up to $325 an hour for a luxe spot at the Design Exchange. “The nature of work is forever changed,” says managing director Anthony Santilli. “I don’t think we’re going back to working 100 per cent from the office or 100 per cent from home. There will be a need for a third space—and here we are.”

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