Startup culture has driven new conversations about workplace perks across more traditional industries. Over the past decade, it’s become increasingly common to walk into the workplace and find a pool table, free snacks and even beer on tap. Do these perks really contribute to employee happiness, retention and productivity?
These perks may sometimes feel like fluff and, like junk food, can leave people feeling unsatisfied if not combined with benefits of more substance. As COVID-19 changes the way people work and as job-hopping becomes more common among today’s younger workforce, it’s crucial for organizations to offer meaningful benefits and evolve with their employees to retain talent.
Parsing the most impactful perks from the more frivolous can help professionals target their resources and energy toward benefits that boost recruitment and retention over the long-term. What should institutions avoid? Here are a few perks that don’t contribute much to employee retention.
1. Free Snacks
Free food may draw people in, but it doesn’t typically keep them there. With fewer employees working in the office due to COVID-19, snacks have proven the limits of their appeal. Even as workers transition back to the office, this type of perk is not likely to prevent someone from making a change in their career.
Rather than free snacks all day long, consider offering healthier and more substantial food perks. For instance, a catered lunch during a team event may be a better way to show appreciation through food. Keep in mind, free food on its own doesn’t mean as much offering genuine value and care for employees.
Free food is a relatively low-cost benefit, so it’s not beneficial to ditch completely if it’s already a staple of your workplace. Leaders should just be mindful that it’s a thoughtful, well-organized work culture that will really make the difference for current employees.
2. On-Site Amenities
On-site conveniences like a gym, shower and laundry at the office don’t have much of a lasting impact on why people choose to stay with or leave a company. Most people don’t mind doing laundry at home or attending their local gym, so these small conveniences are often underutilized but quite costly to implement.
From a cost-benefit perspective, organizations are better off allocating money from this perk to more meaningful benefits. Companies can survey their employees to gauge what matters most to them and invest in benefits with more staying power.
3. Mandatory “Fun” Activities
What’s enjoyable for one person may not be for another, so mandatory “fun” at the office is bound to leave someone less than enthused. Instead of mandating — and paying for — an all-office team-building event, consider offering various activities that employees can choose from and attend if they wish.
An example of this creative spin is to allow employees to choose either attending a baseball game with the company or taking the afternoon off. Sports fans will enjoy the game, and others will appreciate the extra time for themselves.
Workplaces can also provide meaningful team building opportunities for after-hours, allowing employees to participate if they are able but not requiring their presence. Volunteer programs have been great initiatives for credit unions and other institutions who want to make a positive impact while engaging their teams.
4. Work Flexibility With Strings Attached
COVID-19 has shown employers that there are myriad opinions for work preferences. Some people love remote work, while others can’t wait to get back to the office. The ideal for many might be a hybrid option.
However, extensive remote work has also exposed problems with people finding a positive work-life balance. Many employees are extending their workdays at home much longer than they would in the office. When this is an organizational expectation, being available 24/7 can harm productivity and easily contribute to burnout.
Organizations should aim to provide some structure around remote and hybrid work and offer employees true flexibility to meet the ebbs and flows of their workday.
5. Nap Pods
This may not be a super popular perk, and there are many good reasons for that. While there is definite value in sufficient sleep, nap pods don’t give quite the same benefit. Also, sharing a space like this with co-workers doesn’t seem like a great way to minimize the spread of germs when office cleanliness is top of mind these days.
Nap pods may even result in some negative effects on company culture. If the sales team is experiencing a busy quarter and Jim is heading off to take a nap, his co-workers may either praise him for taking a well-deserved rest or may feel he’s not pulling his weight.
Instead, encourage employees to end their workday at eight hours. Company leaders should have people turn off their computers and avoid checking email after that time.
What Employees Really Care About
Any job should be mutually beneficial, especially if employers and employees are looking for a long-term commitment. This is why understanding what truly matters to workers is important in today’s competitive job market.
People feel valued when their employer cares about their well-being. Often, these are not tangible things but are scarce resources like time, energy and true flexibility.
Finding ways to invest in workers’ professional development and ensure they love their work is another key to long-term employee satisfaction. In Wrike’s recent Happiness Index Survey, “meaningful work” was the top happiness factor for employees.
One-Size Benefits Do Not Fit All
What matters to one person is not always important to someone else. Furthermore, what’s important today may change in five or 10 years. If companies are striving to hire for longevity, they should take these changes into consideration.
For example, younger team members may value student loan repayment assistance over retirement or health insurance benefits. This is a huge opportunity to attract younger employees, considering only 3% of employers offer reimbursement programs, but 70% of 2016 college graduates had student loans averaging $37,000.
On the other hand, team members with families may value more time off options. Offering employees the opportunity to choose benefits that matter to them gives optimal flexibility, helps them feel valued and leaves them feeling that their unique needs are met.
Substance Over Style for Employee Retention
As workforce demographics change, the benefits that matter most will evolve with them. Companies will need to offer perks that bring substance to their team’s changing needs. Organizations that allow workers to choose the benefits that matter to them will likely see increased employee retention, happiness and productivity.