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Is this the end of trivial office perks?

23 November, 2021
Is this the end of trivial office perks - illustration of peope with bikes and banner with motivational messages

Only a couple of years ago, nap pods and ping pong tables were considered the ultimate in office perks. Not any more. The future of work sees a new, empowered, hybrid workforce rejecting such trivial office perks in favour of a more holistic, balanced approach to working life. Nap pods and play spaces may have looked generous but were, in fact, designed to encourage people to work longer hours. Will they still incentivise your existing staff and attract the right calibre of candidate in the future?

Meaningful office perks

With companies trying to lure their staff back to offices, many organisations are re-introducing pre-pandemic-style incentives such as company baristas and snack bars. Unfortunately, study after study has found that staff are beginning to see through these cynical, self-serving initiatives. They are looking beyond gimmicky office perks for things that really mean something to them.

The working-from-home genie is out of the bottle

For many, working from home has been a revelation and they are unwilling to return to purely office-based work patterns. It is unclear how many organisations will continue to offer remote working but studies show that the freedom to work from home, at least some of the time, is top of the office perks wishlist. The last couple of years have seen a fundamental shift in office culture, which is set to become permanent. The pandemic has caused many workers to re-evaluate their priorities in terms of work/life balance, moving to the countryside, getting a pet or putting mental health first. Companies such as Lloyds Banking Group and HSBC are set to offer WFH as standard as they commit to shedding a percentage of their office space. Goldman Sachs, on the other hand, think that working from home is ‘an abomination’ and that free ice cream will have staff flocking back to their desks.

Better than working from home

People want something from the office that makes it better than working at home. In essence they are looking for the safety and comfort of home with the added sense of energy, belonging and social interaction provided by the office. Those working from home have remained productive – or even increased productivity – without free coffee and table football. They no longer want the long commute or the extended office hours. They want safe places to work with provisions such as showers and bike racks so they can avoid public transport. Having experienced more quality time with family or the chance to take on extra curricular activities, these are now essentials, not nice-to-haves.

Not only that, the caring, sharing attitude brought about during the pandemic has made people sit up and think. Many now prefer to work for an organisation that aligns with their values, and to feel that they are making a difference. These considerations can often be more important than pay or status.

When WFH is not a perk

Of course, for some, working from home was miserable, isolated and stressful. They missed the interaction in the office while they struggled with home schooling, juggling job and personal issues, loneliness or declining mental health. Savvy employers are aware of both sides of the working from home debate. Their challenge now is to find new ways to engage, attract and retain employees. Whatever they come up with, it must work for everyone within the company regardless of where they are based.

Are office perks now redundant?

With the seismic shift in employee expectations, free pizza and Fruity Fridays aren’t going to cut it any more. However, you still have to find ways of attracting and retaining the best employees, and perks still have a part to play. So what are the most sought after office perks post pandemic?

Remote working / WFH allowance

As we’ve said, now that people have had a taste of remote working, many don’t want to relinquish this perk. This may mean working from home a day or two each week or full time with planned in-office catch up days. There has  been a spike in employers offering a working from home allowance to cover home office set up costs and even internet and phone bills. Organisations refusing to allow any remote working run the risk of being left behind when it comes to recruitment.

Flexibility

Employee-specific flexibility is seen by many as the future of work. The flexibility to work from home, in the office, in a co-working hub, or a hybrid working combination is probably the most important incentive after the remuneration package. Flexibility has proved particularly beneficial to previously disadvantaged groups like working mothers and carers. A flexible work pattern is not only an attractive office perk, it also opens up a whole new section of the workforce, allowing companies to tap into a wealth of experience and talent that was previously passed over.

Wellbeing

Wellbeing was a buzzword long before the pandemic and covers physical, emotional and financial health. However, instead of being a nice-to-have, wellbeing support is now a must-have, with companies offering subsidised counselling, yoga and meditation sessions, virtual exercise classes and even company personal trainers running lunchtime virtual workout sessions. Of course, all of this is pointless if employees are feeling overworked, burnt out, over-monitored or undermined. Again, it all comes back to the work life balance that employees crave.

Values

Not an office perk as such but increasingly important to the modern workforce. Rather than fancy offices, Playstations and freebies, employees want to connect with their employer at a deeper, values-driven level. Young people in particular want to work at a place they believe in. They value contemporary issues such as climate change, diversity and equality, and want to work for organisations who can demonstrate that these things are core to their values.

Volunteering days

Closely aligned with values, volunteering days demonstrate a company’s willingness to stand by those values. People feel proud that they are able to make a difference. Research suggests that employers who encourage their staff to give something back to their local community – and give them the time and means to do so – have a happier and more engaged workforce.

Child / Adult care

This trend may have originated in Silicon Valley but, encouragingly, it is now a sought-after office perk here in the UK. Organisations committed to recruiting a diverse workforce need to recognise and allow for the difficulties and expense of child and/or adult care. This could mean offering paid leave for employees needing to care for a child or adult relative, contributions towards care expenses or subsidised on-site childcare provision.

Better holiday allowance

Judge your employees by what they achieve, not by the time they spend in the office. Trust them to do their job and reward them for efficiency. Experiments allowing people to take Friday off if they have finished their work by Thursday have proved very successful in various sectors and countries around the world. If this is a step too far, a generous holiday allowance signals to prospective applicants that this is a company worth considering. Few respected organisations offer the bare minimum of 20 days plus bank holidays. A sizeable percentage of jobs being advertised also offer a day off for your birthday. Free time has become more important and is a powerful bargaining tool. Even if your company can boast all the office perks above, a miserly holiday allowance could prove to be the deal breaker.

Office perks, the bottom line

Things have changed in the world of work and of office perks. Organisations unwilling to adapt are in danger of losing their most talented staff. Workers are increasingly migrating to companies that are keen to listen to their workforce and provide a flexible working environment, a values-led business model and a package of meaningful office perks. And as we all know, a contented workforce is key to increasing employee engagement, efficiency and retention, all of which can only improve your bottom line.

Is it time to update your office perks package?

Only your employees know the office perks that really mean something to them. The best way to start any update is probably by talking to your workforce and finding out what they really want. At The Big Picture People, we specialise in bespoke board games, tailored specifically to your business. They offer a fun, interactive way to explore options, communicate company values or explain organisational changes. Games are a great way to break down barriers and involve people at every level. Not sure how this would work for your organisation? Book a free 30-minute consultation to find out more.

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