As an employee benefits industry leader, I am proud of how companies have stepped up their benefit programs over the last 25 years. Whether it’s offering free food; financial assistance for such things as child care, student loans and fertility treatments; time off ranging from paternity leave to sabbaticals to paid volunteer days; or innovative onsite services such as banking, health clinics, haircuts and auto maintenance, employers are trying to engage workers as never before.
But I also know that sometimes it’s the little things--the day-to-day, ever-changing “to-do” list items--that can create the biggest work-life challenges for employees. In honor of National Work & Family Month, I wanted to highlight a new trend in employee benefits: errand running. Errand running is gaining in popularity because:
- It’s equitable: Everyone has errands to run, regardless of age, gender, geographic location or ethnicity.
- It’s smart business policy: Helping employees better integrate work and personal responsibilities contributes to higher employee engagement, morale, recruitment and retention.
- It’s cost-effective: Usage is high compared to other benefit programs, so the value of the program is greatly enhanced.
Here's how an employer sponsored errand running program works:
Employees put in a request for a specific errand via phone, web, email or mobile app. Once all the details of the errand are confirmed, a designated errand runner fulfills the request. The employee’s credit card is charged directly for any expenses, so no money changes hands between the errand runner and the employee. In addition, a reputable service will ensure errand runners are fully background-checked, insured and bonded, with strict guidelines in place to ensure the privacy and security of employee information and their possessions.
While employers can choose to make this service available at no additional charge, a best practice is to charge a $10/hour co-pay so the employee has some “skin in the game.” The co-pay also serves to curb program overuse. Outsourcing to a qualified errand running company provides the employer with a partner who can coordinate all employee requests and assume liability for the program.
Common errands requested by employees include prescription pick-up, shoe repair, donation drop-offs, package shipping, personal shopping and/or returns, grocery shopping, car maintenance and pet sitting or walking—among many others. Some examples of fun and interesting errand running requests at Leverage Concierge include:
- Searching New York City to find duck eggs for a client whose son was allergic to chicken eggs
- Buying 10 pairs of ski socks and 5 pairs of goggles for a client going on his very first ski trip
- Buying a stroller and toothpaste for a client’s dog
- Moving a client’s car back and forth from New York to New Jersey depending on his schedule
- Waiting two hours in line for an exclusive Washington, D.C. restaurant that didn’t take reservations
While there are an increasing number of companies offering convenience services (like Task Rabbit), grocery delivery (like Safeway), and online shopping (like Amazon), the reality is that employees using such services still have to make and oversee the arrangements. If a wrong item is delivered, it’s up to the employee to return it. If a problem arises, he or she has to work directly with the vendor to resolve it. In contrast, an errand running service assumes all of the responsibility for making sure the errand is performed on time and in a quality manner.
Errand running is poised to become an increasingly sought-after benefit in upcoming years, and for good reason. Companies offering this type of valuable service are sure to see higher employee engagement, morale and productivity.
Cathy Leibow is Senior Vice President at Leverage Concierge (powered by ACI Specialty Benefits), a full-service corporate concierge provider to companies worldwide. For over three decades, Leverage Concierge has helped employees better balance their work and family lives, and helped companies become best places to work with innovative work-life and concierge benefits. For more information, visit www.leverageconcierge.com. Ms. Leibow can be contacted at email@example.com.