How what employees want from their benefits has changed during covid-19

How what employees want from their benefits has changed during Covid-19

Before lockdown, Lorien conducted a survey into tech candidate motivations and salary expectations for 2020. And then Covid-19 hit. The sudden change to the recruitment market was unprecedented – with companies clamping down on hiring spend to ride out the economic wave and sadly many making redundancies - leading to a situation where there were more candidates than opportunities.

As we make small steps towards normality, tech recruitment is picking up again. For candidates, this is fantastic news. For businesses, it means getting into gear about what candidates now want. With only 31% of people happy with their employer’s current employee benefits package and a massive 47% receiving no employee benefits at all, it’s a great opportunity to pull in top talent. Here, I explore five trends I’ve noticed.

Flexibility and work-life balance

In our What Tech Candidates Want 2020 research – which surveyed tech candidates in the UK on their salary expectations and motivations – work-life balance was one of the biggest drivers for candidates looking for new roles. In fact, 94% of permanent talent considered good work-life balance important or extremely important.

Covid-19 will have only accelerated this trend, as more people realise the flexibility that working from home affords. Almost two-thirds (60%) of people want to work from home more often than they did previously, and a quarter of those only want to be in the office one day a week.

My prediction is therefore that workforce flexibility and the option to work from home is set to become an expectation in employee benefits packages, rather than a nice-to-have. For companies not driven by presenteeism, this could actually be a positive thing. Flexibility can unlock new paths for talent, and specifically diverse talent.

It’s also important to note that flexibility and work-life balance are different things. Lockdown has shown how easy it can be to blur the boundaries between work and personal life – with technology keeping us connected to work at all times. Businesses will therefore need to support employees and their mental health by delivering on work-life balance as well as flexibility.


A sad sign of the times is that an interest in stability and protection has shot up over the last few months. When we released What Tech Candidates Want, job security was only considered extremely important for 47% of permanent talent in a role. And 12% of people didn’t even consider it important. 

A treacherous market has changed an optimistic outlook; where candidates were once saturated by opportunities, now there are far fewer roles on the market. As a result, income protection (24%), health insurance (22%) and life insurance (16%) are now amongst the most desirable benefits, according to a recent survey by Hooray Health & Protection. In fact, 44% of respondents who are not satisfied with their current benefits said that having income protection, life insurance and health insurance would have a high impact on company morale.

Meanwhile, a separate report by Employee Benefits found a 40% increase in demand for partner life insurance and a 70% increase in enquiries to will writing benefits, as well as a rise in people looking for protection and group risk benefits.

Cycle-to-work schemes

Lockdown has seen an uptick in bike sales as restrictions on public transport, an emphasis on social distancing and less choice for exercise and leisure (as well as one of the best spring/summers on record) pushed people to the pedal. As a result, cycle-to-work schemes have seen a 66% increase in scheme orders and a value increase of 74% compared to the equivalent period last year.

Cycling has also been encouraged by the government, whose push to get people back to work meant reducing the burden on public transport. Over £50m was promised to help people get their bikes repaired, while cycle scheme providers have been working directly with the Department of Transport to take advantage of reduced road-traffic and create more temporary cycle routes.

This is a trend that will likely continue post-Covid-19. In June, over half of employees living in cities said that they were considering cycling to work following the coronavirus pandemic, with two-thirds doing so to avoid “unsafe” public transport. Cycle-to-work schemes will also likely rise in popularity due to their eco-friendly impact and investment in creating more cycle-friendly routes.


The Hooray Health & Protection survey revealed that 22% of employees want health insurance, but a much broader trend is that of healthcare. An increased awareness around health and wellbeing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled by more time to exercise and a change in our habits – from gyms and leisure facilities to running, cycling, yoga and at-home workouts – means that people’s expectations for health, wellbeing and fitness in the workplace is likely to change.

In the UK, around one in five people have cancelled their gym memberships due to Covid-19, with 41% saying they won’t return. Where discounted gym membership or onsite fitness classes were once go-to perks for businesses, appetite may change. However, this will likely be counterbalanced by interest in fitness incentive programmes like Vitality, health and fitness perks like health scans and greater freedom around where and how to work, such as standing desks, to reduce the physical strains of being in the office (e.g. musculoskeletal problems).

I also envisage employees expecting employers to take on more responsibility when it comes to their health and wellbeing in the medium to long-term, both physical and mental.


The pandemic has shifted our priorities and as a result we may see a change in how people choose to spend their free time.  While retail and entertainment discounts were a popular benefit, few people have managed to make the most out of them over the last six months - on-demand streaming and entertainment services have replaced the pubs, cinemas and shops at the weekend.

On the other hand, the government’s ‘Eat out to help out’ scheme has been successful at getting consumers back into bars and restaurants, suggesting that the leisure industry may bounce back.

Employees may consequently look to a more diverse employment benefits package, that may offer a mix of reduced-price membership for on-demand streaming and virtual learning services, discounts for technology to help remote living, and retail and leisure vouchers that can be used in the (hopefully) near-future.

Many of us are keen to get back to ‘normal’ life again. But it’s important to recognise that things have changed. Companies hoping to attract the amazing talent on offer in the market at the moment must realign themselves to what their employees – current and future – want. Because normal life also means a tech talent market that is fiercely competitive. Building an employee benefits package that speaks to people now will help prepare you for the future – normal or otherwise.

To get ahead of the curve, download What Tech Candidates Want and get more insight into what motivates tech candidates in a competitive market.

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