Making the Business Case for Subsidising Household Subscriptions

Streaming-Service

By Dee Coakley

The recent revelation that Netflix lost a further one million subscribers over the past quarter must serve as a wake-up call to employers that their people are really feeling the pinch.

When times are hard, it’s the nice-to-haves and luxuries that are first to be cut from the family budget, even though these are often the small sources of joy that keep people going through difficult moments. Already, one quarter of households are reconsidering their subscriptions, with nearly half of this group making cuts to their film and TV streaming services.

As the cost of living crisis escalates, progressive organisations want to support their employees in every way possible – not only in terms of pay but by adapting their benefits packages to better align with people’s most pressing needs.

So is there a case for employers to consider subsidising home entertainment and funding other ways of helping stressed-out team members relax outside of work?

Benefits need to reflect day-to-day circumstances

The idea of providing entertainment-oriented benefits to help staff unwind and preserve wellbeing and morale is not new. For years, employers have paid for all manner of different office-based pleasures – from happy hours and wine trolleys to ping pong and pool tables.

Some of these benefits look out of place in today’s culture, while others feel increasingly irrelevant given that more and more workers are spending most of their time away from the office and working from home.

Hence, since the start of the pandemic, there has been a pronounced shift toward providing wellbeing benefits such as online gym classes, wellbeing days or access to paid meditation apps. These are great options for remote workers, and it’s no surprise to see that they now rank amongst the most important workplace benefits.

However, having fun is still an essential part of keeping staff balanced and happy – one that seems to have largely fallen out of the current conversation about benefits.

Employers who want their teams to log on feeling motivated and energised each morning would be wise to consider how they can help employees let off steam and enjoy themselves once the working day is done.

If subsidising a £10 a month household entertainment service sounds trivial, consider that in today’s society, most people don’t own their entertainment – they access it on demand. Cancelling a subscription service means forgoing access to much of the content that helps them unwind and switch off from the pressures they face in their busy lives.

Letting employees choose the benefits that matter

While making sure fun is part of a company’s benefit package, there will be people who would still want to opt out of them. Varying expectations and preferences is what makes creating a meaningful benefits package for a remote-first workforce so hard. People live very different lives – and we all have our own ideas of what constitutes a luxury or nice-to-have. When households want to trim their monthly outgoings, they will take substantially different decisions on what to cut.

Ultimately, everyone wants a benefits package that supports their personal life circumstances. When it comes to home entertainment, Netflix isn’t the perfect benefit for everyone; nor is Audible; or Crunchyroll; or Britbox.

This is why progressive organisations need to consider moving from a one-size-fits-all approach to a new model of flexible, self-managed benefits packages.

Using this model, employees receive a budget to spend on the options that make sense for their lives – from home entertainment to health to education & training. Employees who want to use their benefits ‘budget’ for unwinding and living room leisure are free to do so, selecting from a variety of pre-vetted suppliers in the home entertainment category. Colleagues who prefer travel-related benefits, gym memberships, or grocery or pet food subscriptions can choose these options instead.

Crucially, the self-managed approach to benefits solves one of the biggest challenges facing global employers, who are fast realising that desired benefits vary wildly according to local statutory provisions and cultural norms.

There’s growing evidence to suggest that households will have to cut back further on non-essential spending in the months ahead, with entertainment services likely to top the list of fun things that can no longer be justified.

So it’s time for employers to get smart about the benefits they offer and look at how their packages can extend into people’s lives outside work. Being there for employees is about more than pay – it’s about showing empathy and delivering support that is emotionally on-point.

About the Author

Dee CoakleyDee Coakley is Cofounder and CEO of Boundless – a global employment platform that supports flexible employment across borders. She has held leadership positions at fast-growth startups such as Masabi, Bizimply and Axonista, and has overseen operations in multiple countries over the past decade.

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