Massages and Pets and Kegs, Oh My! Creative Perks for Improved Morale and Retention

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Employee perks are like frosting on the cake of a workplace: they might not be necessary, but they definitely make life sweeter.

Employee perks are like frosting on the cake of a workplace: They might not be necessary, but they definitely make life sweeter.

For any workplace hoping to attract top-notch employees, the run-of-the-mill benefits package of retirement and a 401(k) doesn’t cut it.

Workers now see greater profitability in companies that offer employee perks as incentives or rewards for exceptional work: One poll found 57 percent of respondents placed benefits and perks within their top considerations when job searching.

These unique perks can be tailored to fit individuals and small groups, and are especially valuable for small and mid-sized businesses looking to encourage productive, happy employees through a little enhanced job satisfaction.

Related Article: De-stress the Workplace: 5 Ways to Foster Employee Well-being

What Are the Benefits?

Improving and updating your employee benefits program isn’t a luxury reserved for idealistic startups. Claims that benefits help a company overall are supported by the cold, hard numbers and stats.

Incentives provided by businesses to employees have been tied to boosts in:

  • Morale
  • Engagement
  • Loyalty
  • Retention
  • Productivity

Together, these signifiers of job satisfaction offer the business owner a higher return on investment than they would otherwise enjoy.

If you need any more encouragement, attrition due to low employee perks can come at a high price. A 2012 study from the Center for American Progress states that the cost of employee replacement could be as high as 20 percent of that employee’s salary.

The cost of disengagement of retained workers is also high: Companies lose $450 million each year due to disengagement. Productivity can also fall due to absenteeism, errors and accidents.

Deciding to invest in your workforce is a smart business move for longevity and sustainability over time. If workers are excited to come to work every day, you’ll see the enthusiasm reflected in their work and reap the benefits.

What Can You Do?

1. Provide Longer Than Required Parental Leave

Want to increase employee retention? Give new parents a reason to stay long-term with longer or unlimited parental leave. You’ll relieve the stress that comes with trying to organize a huge life change without adding an uncertain financial situation.

Netflix is the poster child for this perk, as the streaming video company offers a full year of paid maternity or paternity leave to each employee who has just become a parent. Spotify offers six months of paternal leave, which isn’t shabby either.

This particular perk demonstrates a company’s investment in their employees’ ongoing work-life balance. Even if you don’t offer six months off, paying for some portion of the required 12-week leave is a great start.

2. Flexible Scheduling/Work Environment

Blinds.com picture of an office setting

Allowing your employees to have flexible work hours and a choice of location cultivates trust and respect in your company culture. Better yet, it’ll measurably impact the amount of work accomplished by catering to employees’ needs. Some might work better in the afternoon, while others are at their best in the morning or working remotely several days a week while they keep an eye on their kids.

Online freelance provider Upwork even has a name for their flexible schedule. The business holds “Work Online Wednesdays” to allow employees to stay home during the middle of the week. Those who ask for the same option on other days are accommodated, proving that even Upwork’s flex schedule is itself flexible.

Blinds.com takes it one step further. In addition to allow employees to work from home, they provide flexible work stations around the office to increase creativity and communication.

You can accommodate diverse needs with a flexible scheduling policy: Increase the positive vibe and satisfaction in the workplace, all while increasing your business’s productivity.

3. Unlimited Vacation Time

At Automattic, employees have an open vacation policy with unlimited holidays and PTO, and are able to work out of their own home.

In places with progressive policies, such as Netflix, employees may even be reminded to take vacation.

Unlimited vacation and sick days display the trust you place on your employees: You know that they’ll still come to work, and they know that you care about their well-being.

Employees may even clock more time at the office than before: Research shows this perk saves companies an average of $1,898 per employee. HR professionals have been found to agree that vacation time boosts workers’ morale, retention and productivity.

If you’re not opting for an unlimited amount of vacation time, morale certainly wouldn’t be hurt by a measured increase in the vacation days that are allotted to employees.

Related Article: Awesome Employee Benefits: Attract and Retain Talent With No or Little Cost to Your Business

4. “Family” Meals

Picture of gourmet steak meal

Some companies, like Google, provide lunch or free vending machines chock full of healthy snacks in order to make sure employees stay fueled.

Dropbox steps it way up and offers free breakfast, lunch and dinner in addition to snacks and drinks. The “Tuck Shop” chef changes the menu daily and creates meals that can only be described as works of art. (Check out their Facebook feed for proof.) They also have a music studio, treehouse and game rooms in the office. It’s like the Disney of work.

Obviously, bringing in a world-renowned chef isn’t possible for every company. But you can take small steps by providing healthy snacks or by having several periods in the day for "family meals".

This perk brings workers together by building a community around good food and company. That level of connection can be tough to forge, making this perk a great addition to any employee benefits package.

5. Access to Mental Health & Relaxation Services

One perk many employees might not have the courage to ask for: access to mental health services. Just as your physical muscles need the gym for you to stay at the top of your game, so your mental brain power needs a break or a change in pace in order to keep making smart decisions from nine to five.

By providing your employees with access to an on- or off-site therapist or other relaxation practices like yoga, in-house massages or meditation time, you’ll avoid burning out your employees. After all, the workweek has been increasing for decades: Since the 1970s, workers’ leisure time has been cut by 37 percent. It’s time to give them a break. 

6. Group Activities

Picture of two men carrying kayaks

Company-sponsored activities outside of the workplace are another great way to practice team building. These outings can reward exceptional individuals while spreading cheer and relaxation among the rest of your workforce.

A wide variety of options are possible. WebpageFX hosts game nights, bonfires, Wine and Paint events, beer tastings and more to keep their employees happy, and they’ve earned the title of Best Place to Work in PA because of it.

When planning your own events, focus on the local businesses or public parks unique to your company’s hometown. Your team might enjoy a hike on a nearby trail or they might enjoy a catered dinner from the best restaurant in your city.

7. Support a Cause

More than 85 percent of Millennials want their dollar to go towards something other than just a traditional consumer purchase. They want to be part of a cause or support one that has a positive impact in the world around them. Also, Millennials want to see their contributions not as individual donations, but as investments — and since they’ll see their job as a major investment, supporting a cause is a natural fit

Twitter employees volunteer at a local foodbank as part of their #FridayForGood initiative. Former example WebpageFX makes donations to Pencils of Promise based on employee performance. They've already funded two schools and are working towards their contribution to the Water Project as part of their next #FXBuilds project. Mirage Spa and Recreation gives customers 15 percent off when they bring in items to donate to the local food pantry. 

Consider supporting a local non-profit, matching donations that your employees make to causes they support or taking the initiative and starting a charity tied to your enterprise. The latter approach worked for TOMS, a shoe company famous for matching each pair of shoes sold with a donation of a second pair to an impoverished child.

Related Article: 6 Ways Yoga Can Improve Productivity at Work

8. Make the Workplace Pet Friendly

Picture of coworkers at office party and one with a puppy.

Having a company animal doesn’t just mean you get have a cute and cuddly pet to love on you, that’s just a bonus. Dogs in the workplace have been shown to reduce stress levels and increase morale.

They don’t even have to be an added expense: Simply let your employees know they can bring their four-legged friends in with them.

As part of their extensive perk package (which also includes $2,000 a year per employee to vacation anywhere in the world), AirBnB allows employees to bring pets to work.

You don’t have to offer $2,000 a year to engage your employees. Get creative and take the team out for a trip to the beach, the zoo or your local tennis court. Adding an employee perk today will pay off with a rock-solid company culture tomorrow.

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