Perks That Can Build Better Workplaces

work coffeeRecently, a surprising number of people have reached out to me to talk about perks and how they can enhance the workplace. After all, at Great Place to Work, we are seeing the conversation move beyond perks, focusing instead on the practices and behaviors that establish the foundation for a truly noteworthy workplace culture – how to imbue work with a sense of meaning, how to encourage an ownership mentality through transparent communications, and how to give employees a voice in decisions that affect their work environment.

PREMIUM RESEARCH: 2012 Staffing Industry Firm Survey & 2008-2011 Cumulative Index

Sure, we can all gawk at Google’s new 17,000 square foot fitness facility, but don’t we know that there is so much more to what makes Google one of the most coveted workplaces in the world?

Sometimes I just need to face the facts: people care deeply about those additional benefits, which can actually be an important part of the great workplace conversation, but not just for the reasons you think. Perks can indicate the sort of workplace culture a company is trying to sustain.

Take free food, for example. The Best Companies to Work For in Silicon Valley all sport multiple cafeterias and a myriad of meal options. Clients often ask, “Do we need to provide free food in order to attract talent away from our competitors?” Perhaps they do, but they first need to recognize that the reason those companies decided to offer complimentary, on-site, meals daily, is so employees would not leave campus during lunch, thus increasing their productivity, and more important, creating an environment that cultivates the camaraderie and creative thinking that makes innovation happen. When employees share meals together, compete in 5Ks together, or play Xbox in the break room, they’re enhancing their relationships with one another, diffusing stress and generating those warm, fuzzy feelings about their employer that increase loyalty and pride.

MORE: Inside the Best Staffing Firms to Work For

Concierge services, fitness centers, on-site child care and flexible work arrangements certainly can be considered perks, but the companies that offer these perks carefully select those that will most address their employees’ unique needs and reflect a sense of caring. For instance, at many professional services firms where employees log long hours, often on the road, the benefit of a concierge service or the flexibility to work from home one day per week can help protect against burnout. For another company, flexibility might be achieved by offering hourly employees predictable weekly schedules, or providing employees with an online scheduling system that allows them to adjust their shifts as needs arise. While these two examples might not be characterized as “perks,” the motivation is the same: to offer employees the tools that support their work-life balance and show respect for their lives outside of work.

Perks have a purpose, and when the conversation shifts to contemplate what they can help companies achieve, talking about perks can help all of us understand how to create a better workplace.

Leslie Caccamese

Leslie Caccamese
Leslie Caccamese is director, strategic marketing and research, Great Place to Work®.

Leslie Caccamese

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