Work Norms Are Changing
In 2019, about nine million U.S. civilians worked from home on a regular basis. Then the pandemic arrived. Nearly overnight, remote work became a necessity for a vast number of employees. In fact, by 2021 the U.S. remote workforce had tripled to nearly 28 million people.
Now, as Covid fades, the nature of work is taking another interesting turn. Many remote workers don’t want to rush back to the office. Instead, studies say anywhere from 50% to 72% of employees prefer working from home at least some of the time.
As a result, flexible work schedules are becoming a norm among employers that want to be competitive in talent recruitment and retention. As part of this strategy, organizations are embracing new benefits to attract and engage remote and hybrid employees. And among these innovative perks, one of the most creative and popular is virtual travel.
Why The Time is Right to Rethink Benefits
In general, working from home has been helpful for employers and employees, alike. Remote workers report lower stress levels, higher productivity, and higher overall engagement. It is even credited with reducing employee churn. Yet remote work still poses several key issues. For example:
- Blurred Work Boundaries
Research indicates that many home-based workers fail to distinguish between personal and professional priorities. Without clear boundaries, people tend to work excessive hours, which in turn, can lead to burnout.
- Social Isolation
Another challenge involves communication among distributed team members. Remote workers tend to experience more isolation and loneliness. This is especially important for employers to consider when determining how to build trust, camaraderie, and collaboration, especially in an environment where some people work remotely, while others work onsite or in a hybrid mode.
How Virtual Travel Benefits Help
Virtual travel adventures address some of the most problematic aspects of remote and hybrid work life. These experiences are an easy way to bring employees together and engage them in a shared immersive adventure, no matter where they work. That’s why many employers are adding virtual travel to their portfolio of benefits and perks.
Here’s how the concept works:
By simply logging into their computers at a convenient time, work teams can instantly jump into a captivating live tour of some of the world’s most amazing locations. From coffee farms in Costa Rica to UNESCO Heritage sites such as the Vietnamese town of Hoi An, companies can theme these team-building experiences around key destinations of interest, heritage months, or holidays.
Tours are led by live, qualified local guides who share helpful cultural context throughout the tour and answer questions in real time while interacting with participants. This helps everyone feel more connected with each other and with the location they’re exploring, as if they’re on the ground, walking through the destination together.
This kind of tour can transform getaways from costly once-a-year (or once-in-a-lifetime) vacations into fun group events that are available to all, anytime. And because these adventures are virtual, they’re a sustainable alternative to airline flights and road trips.
Why Virtual Travel Benefits Are So Appealing
By integrating virtual travel with employee benefits, companies can plan and produce formal team bonding exercises or offer employees virtual “time off” so they can casually connect. These programs offer multiple advantages. For example, they can:
- Improve team morale by providing staff with time for relaxation.
- Foster a more inclusive culture by extending a high-quality travel experience to all workers, regardless of their location.
- Create new team connections and strengthen existing relationships through shared learning experiences.
- Give employees opportunities to explore the world in memorable ways with co-workers, friends, and family — without depleting their bank accounts or PTO.
- Open employees to new cultures and perspectives they might not otherwise be able to encounter.
- Offer individuals and teams a unique and enjoyable reward they can look forward to as recognition for their work contributions.
Providing virtual travel to employees as a way of showing appreciation doesn’t have to be limited to periodic team meetings. Companies can also enroll individuals in recurring virtual travel events and add them to a diverse portfolio of ongoing benefits. This is an excellent way to make new-age perks accessible to all while diversifying benefit options.
Digital Perks Appeal to All Ages
Here’s another reason why virtual travel is gaining traction. Right now, the workforce is in a unique position, with five generations working together. To keep employees engaged, organizations must balance the various needs, interests, and expectations of today’s extraordinarily diverse workforce.
From the youngest Generation Z interns to retirement-age Boomers and beyond, each age group brings its own unique idea of work culture, compensation, and benefits that resonate.
Yet virtual travel is one benefit that crosses all generational boundaries. It’s an inclusive experience that everyone can enjoy. And it brings people together on common ground.
There’s Never Been a Better Time for Virtual Travel
In this era of economic and business uncertainty, companies that invest thoughtfully in benefits that help attract and retain engaged employees can build a competitive advantage. For example, according to Gallup, employers with higher levels of engagement enjoy a variety of advantages, compared with low-engagement organizations:
- 41% lower absenteeism
- 40% fewer quality defects
- 17% higher productivity
- 23% higher profitability
Virtual travel is just one way to elevate engagement. But its value is clear. All it takes is a relatively small investment. But this can open the door for employees who want to explore the world outside their cubicle or home office without depleting their savings or PTO.