When Lightspeed Commerce Inc. employees headed back to their office this year, they found a space double the size of their last with a restaurant serving free meals, a smoothie bar and a barista to craft custom drinks.

“We’re making it a very unique experience and the entire office is kind of a lounging area where we want people to just feel super comfortable,” says J.P. Chauvet, chief executive officer of the Montreal-based software company.

Amenities aren’t unusual for technology companies, which have long offered luxurious office perks for talent acquisition and retention, but they’ve been beefed up in recent months to lure staff back to company workspaces and to entice prospective hires. It’s seen as a necessity even as remote work gains popularity in C-suites and staffing cuts continue across the sector.

Read: Employers using flexibility, perks to ease return to workplace

The thinking at many companies is that staff might not be interested in returning to the office without something to ease the transition, such as a splashy new space with catered lunches, room for workouts and other perks like childcare. Many have also highlighted these efforts and their Instagram-worthy digs online and in negotiations with prospective employees in the hopes it will make the difference for top talent.

“All companies are trying to recruit and retain talent and they’re trying to be as creative and as innovative as possible,” says Michael Halinski, associate professor of organizational behaviour and human resource management at Toronto Metropolitan University. “Whether that means adjusting work arrangements or adjusting benefits or perks, organizations are going to continuously try to do different things to reinvent themselves.”

Lightspeed’s choice to revamp its space was made early in the coronavirus pandemic, says Chauvet, adding most employees have been delighted with how much more space there is for meetings and after-work gatherings. He also credits the new office with helping the company reach one of its best months for performance last year in March — the same month employees returned to the office — and believes it will help with hiring roughly 300 workers in the next five weeks.

Read: 23% of employees saw workplace perks ‘wiped out’ during pandemic: survey

But many workers would prefer to avoid physical office spaces. A Hired.com study of 2,000 technology professionals in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. found job seekers have preferred remote-only roles to primarily-remote or non-remote roles since June 2021. As of June 2022, 93 per cent of job candidates surveyed preferred remote or hybrid jobs.

“Commercial offices are now having to compete against many workers that enjoy remote work due to the time savings of commuting and flexibility of working closer to where their families are and the ability to get a jog in on their lunch break,” says Aaron Short, CEO of B-Line, a Halifax-based workplace management and security platform.

He insists morale and the broader culture of companies are suffering because of remote working and, while people are happier when they have flexibility around where they work, they also need in-person collaboration.

Read: Employees facing work-life balance, mental-health challenges amid return to workplace

Despite the push for remote working, Natasha Koifman is keen on keeping her office. The head of public relations firm NKPR Inc. bought a new building in Toronto that her company will move into next summer. “We’re currently in the office Tuesdays and Thursdays, but my goal is for people to want to come in all the days. The goal is to create an environment that feels as cozy for them as their house does.”

Amenities aren’t the be-all and end-all for many workers. The Hired.com study found flexible work schedules, paid time off, health benefits, retirement plans and performance-based bonuses were the most compelling perks a company could offer beyond compensation in 2022.

But Koifman says company culture matters, too. She’s long celebrated employee birthdays and anniversaries because she knows it makes workers feel included and valued. “I care about the people I work with, they matter to me and so, if that’s the case, how are you demonstrating that? It’s not just in the office space, but it’s also in the everyday of how you work with your people.”

Read: Employees want flexible working, better benefits to return to workplace: survey