The Perks of Perks

Summer Fridays, gourmet catering, pre-cation, onsite childcare, education subsidies, unlimited vacation days, and complimentary gym memberships. These are just a handful of examples of the growing trend in employee perks – the corporate response to a workforce that feels unengaged, undervalued and overworked. For generations in the US, it was a point of pride to average an 80-hour workweek. In select industries, sacrificing your weekends or pulling all-nighters became an accepted, even recommended part of the job.


Increasingly, however, employees have had enough. After the death of a Bank of America intern in 2013, an unflattering light has been leveled on the American culture of work-life balance – or rather, the lack of one. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Better Life Index, released this past June, the US ranks 29th for work-life balance out of the 36 developed nations surveyed. This is doubtless correlated with the national focus on productivity over personal care.

The ranking is further exacerbated by the utter lack of family support from either a national or corporate level. As a result, parents in the US are often forced to choose between a healthy family life and success at work. Women in particular face a difficult dilemma, often electing to postpone having a family indefinitely, unwilling to sacrifice hard-earned careers.

Employees are looking for more, leading employers to ask the dreaded question, “what’s this going to cost?”

Surprisingly, not much.

Take the four-day work week. At surface level, the idea of reducing your work week by 20% seems like the fast track to missed deadlines and plummeting profits. The reality, however is much different. Companies that have implemented the change report notably increased productivity, improved employee retention, boosted creativity, and (unsurprisingly) happier employees. With the associated spike in productivity and morale, a ten-hour, four-day work week may ultimately prove more valuable than an eight-hour, five-day week.

Providing free gym memberships, though an additional expense, can be viewed as a strategic move when viewed as an investment in employee wellness. According to a study published in Harvard Business Review, “every dollar invested in intervention yielded $6 in health care savings.” Additionally, it decreases the chance of employee defection: “organizations with highly effective wellness programs report significantly lower voluntary attrition than do those whose programs have low effectiveness”. By investing resources in the health and wellness of your staff, not only are you accruing loyalty, you’re also potentially saving yourself significant money down the road, both in health care costs and training expenses.

Another major bonus to the perk-heavy corporate culture is that it attracts top talent. Even lesser benefits like having a free drinks fridge or a game room can leave a lasting impression on prospective hires.You can bet when they’re bragging about their job to friends, they’ll mention the tricked-out game room before the deductible on dental insurance.

These new benefits, as arbitrary as they might seem, go a long way towards improving the culture of an office and demonstrating that a company cares about employees’ well-being as much as their output. When staff feel valued in this way, not only are they more likely to remain with the company, but they will be motivated to put in their best work.

Office culture is changing and employees are looking for more than just a paycheck. With more and more entrants into the workforce who prioritize quality of life over salary, it’s time for companies to get creative. Improving your company culture isn’t just an altruistic choice, it’s a savvy one.

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