Workplace wellbeing and flexible work-life balance is starting to take precedent over higher paychecks as job seekers' priorities shift, Bay of Plenty recruiters say.
Good workplace culture was "more than just fruit in the staffroom" and a tight job market meant employers were having to "pull out all the stops" to attract quality candidates.
Candidates were also questioning the reputation of potential employers and seeking flexibility and work from home options.
This comes as a new business study shows 59 per cent of Bay businesses surveyed reported workplace culture was positively impacted by remote working.
The study also revealed nearly half of Bay businesses have made a habit of enjoying a work-life balance post-lockdown.
Ryan+Alexander co-director Bernadette Ryan-Hopkins said jobseekers were asking more upfront questions about an employer's attitude towards workplace wellbeing and flexibility.
"We had seen a tilt towards a greater focus on wellbeing in the past decade pre-Covid but it is more top of mind now that people have, in some instances, had a taste of a more balanced lifestyle during lockdown.
"It's more than just fruit in the staffroom now - employers are looking at gym memberships, extra leave, flexi-time and can also include initiatives to give back."
Ryan-Hopkins said the best shift post-Covid was the belief that employees need to be seen in the office to be productive.
"Companies that were slow to pick up the remote working lifestyle are now embracing it - and that is beneficial for all.
"I think employers have realised that flexi-time and working from home are now expected as par for the course rather than a nice to have."
Ryan-Hopkins said money was now only a "very small part" of what attracted and retained employees.
"Culture, flexibility, a great boss, a supportive team and a company that promotes work-life balance are becoming more and more important to candidates.
"So if a company doesn't put a focus on these things, they may miss out, or worse, lose their great staff to an organisation where these things are important."
The Staffroom Ltd director Jill Cachemaille said candidates were placing more emphasis on workplace wellbeing when considering a new employer.
"I think job seekers are actively seeking feedback on employers' reputations in the market as to how current and past staff are treated and listened to."
Employees were seeking options such as company-paid vaccines and immunisations, subsidised gym memberships, stress management and access to nutritionists, she said.
Cachemaille said employers were starting to understand the importance of wellbeing too.
"I don't think it's at an all-time high but it is on their agenda and they are mindful that it is something new they need to consider.
"The challenge is finding the balance of introducing wellness programmes/options for employees without it taking over."
In a "candidate-tight" job market, Cachemaille said employers needed to pull out all the stops to attract high-calibre candidates.
"Being able to advertise a company as an employer who cares about wellness will be a valuable message that might give them the edge over another employer."
QJumpers recruitment software and services company consultants Annette Weatherall and Kathryn Stewart said workplace wellbeing was "crucial" to businesses now and face-to-face meetings were being appreciated more than before.
"They know that it has been a stressful last 12 months for their employees, with the uncertainty mixed in with stress from having to work alongside other family members at home, or the opposite – loneliness from working at home."
Businesses were trying to encourage a mix of working from home and in the office, Weatherall said.
"They are offering employees the choice – as long as they come into the office for important meetings when required.
"This choice is very important to employees and is definitely a must to include when advertising any job."
Stewart said businesses had also ramped up their technology for staff to work remotely, including wellbeing-focused tools such as internal communication, collaboration and engagement.
Successful Resumes Bay of Plenty branch principal Miriam O'Connor said jobseekers valued working in an environment supportive of their health and wellbeing and will leave organisations that don't have good employee wellbeing practices.
O'Connor said jobseekers wanted to know about robust health and safety policies, flexible working arrangements, work from home options, diversity acceptance and even subsidised gym memberships.
"Job seekers are now more likely to want to know about remote working and flexible options that will help them to achieve a better work-life balance, reduce stress, enable less time commuting, more time with family and better time management of their workload.
"These things being made clear during the recruitment process definitely make the workplace a more attractive place for job seekers to apply to."
O'Connor said it was now a common expectation that many office-based jobs can be partially done from home.
"Many organisations post Covid-19 have moved to a model where their staff do 2-3 days at home and 2-3 days in the office ...
"We are definitely seeing more promotion of positive workplace culture that support employee wellbeing now than we did a few years ago."
O'Connor said employers were increasingly aware workplace wellbeing initiatives lead to "improved retention of staff, improved productivity, better staff and team morale, less absenteeism, and improved ability to attract the right staff".
Headings including "inclusive, fun, environment"; "great team culture"; "supportive team environment"; "great team culture"; "flexible work environment"; "ongoing training and growth opportunities"; "work-life balance"; "career development and training"; "work from home opportunity"; "friendly, supportive team" were commonly seen in job advertisements, O'Connor said.
But she said it was important for employers to live up to the promise.
"They need to walk the talk. The reality needs to match the promotion or they will lose good staff and quickly build a reputation for not looking after their people."
The latest 2degrees Shaping Business Study found 59 per cent of Bay businesses surveyed reported workplace culture was positively impacted by remote working.
The study surveyed 37 Bay businesses between February 12 and 23 and looked into the impact the last year had on businesses and their investment in technology, ways of working, workplace relationships and culture. It was part of a national survey of 1000 businesses.
Asked what habits Bay businesses had continued since the March lockdown, 49 per cent said enjoying a work-life balance.
Chief people officer at 2degrees Jodie Shelley said the study showed the biggest challenge of working remotely was feeling isolated and disconnected from colleagues and clients so it was important people stayed engaged.
"I think that's a big impact on culture.
"It's really hard working remotely where work is only 10 seconds away. Our advice is to keep to your routine, log on at the same time, take your breaks, get out in the sunshine even if it is for 10 minutes."
Shelley said psychological safety and trust was "crucial" in maintaining positive workplace culture from afar.
"Trust is a very big part of working remotely. It's important to be clear about what your expectations are."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said staff were typically an organisation's best asset.
"Employees won't be performing at their best if they are distracted because their wellbeing is being compromised."
Cowley said there was a shortage of skilled staff and businesses had to attract and retain quality staff to navigate challenges and uncertainties ahead.
"Some people are motivated by money, but they don't often stay around for long. People are beginning to value wellbeing over the short-term flattery of being paid more."
Leaders should lead by example, ensure staff take holidays, time off, encourage healthy and active lifestyles, be aware of their own emotions and stress impacts on staff, he said.
"Managers need to recreate the water-cooler chat and team rapport.
"Managing people remotely requires managers to be more people-focused and proactive."