When you have the budget for them, picking between workplace perks to offer your employees can be one of the most rewarding parts of any job, as you try to decide what extra bonus will end up making your employees love coming to work the most. But as recent data shows, you don’t have to spend big on lavish perks in order to please your employees most. Sometimes what employees want most isn’t something that will make work more fun, but rather more comfortable.
Want Versus Have
One of the keys to creating a great employee perk program is recognizing that what your employees want from their job should also align with your company vision. Some of the most desirable perks may not be the most expensive ones, but rather ones that make employees feel as though they’re saving money on things they would buy anyway by working for your company. And looking at a recent comparison of what employers offer their employees versus what they want, we can see some clear discrepancies in what perks companies should offer more often.
Top Perks Employees Have at Work:
● Casual dress code (48.7%)
● Flex time/remote work (34.6%)
● Mentoring/development programs (20.2%)
Versus Top Perks Employees Want at Work:
● Flex time/remote work (31.8%)
● Free gym membership (24.1%)
● Free food or catered lunches (19.4%)
The biggest discrepancies between the wants and haves, then, are gym memberships and free food — both things that work like gift cards you’re giving your employees.
Why Free Is Good
Why do employees want these benefits so badly? It has a lot to do with some of the logic for why people prefer getting gift cards as presents instead of real money. As Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics Dan Ariely (@danariely) writes in the Wall Street Journal, gift cards come with many of the benefits of real money, but without the guilt.
“When we get money, we’re likely to feel guilty about spending it on our more self-indulgent desires. But when we get a gift card, the guilt is much reduced and sometimes eliminated. Interestingly, the particular level of guilt alleviation depends on the type of gift card. For example, if the card is an American Express gift card, it is basically the same thing as money, and it doesn’t ease much guilt. But if the gift card is restricted to Tiffany’s or REI, that money suddenly becomes more valuable. A dollar without guilt is worth more than a regular dollar.”
This is why employees want things like gym memberships and free food — they don’t feel guilty having extravagant lunches when they’re paid for, even if the employer could have spent the money on raises or bonuses instead.
Running a Better Perks Programs
Employees want some perks more than others, and offering your employees the ability to eat for free and not worry about spending money on gym memberships (and actually use them, maybe!) can make for some excellent perks at work. And it goes along with our motto about benefits: the most expensive, alluring perks, the ones that make headlines and make your company look like a cool place to work, aren’t always what’s best for your company or your employees.
Take, for example, game rooms. Though they’re the most popular workplace perk of last year, the Jobvite poll we cited earlier doesn’t actually hold them in high regard — only 8% of employers had them, and only 4.4% of employees wanted them. They may make your place popular, but they won’t make anyone work better than, say, offering a more lenient break policy.
Employees want perks so they can feel valued, and employers want them so employees will be more inclined to be productive. So on both sides, there are very utilitarian reasons for workplace perks, and companies should use that as a hint for what to offer: useful perks that give employees what they need, and not flashy items that will be forgotten weeks later.
Bio: Tim Olson
Tim Olson, CEBS, CMFC and Managing Partner of the Olson Group, has been working with Nebraska employers for over 33 years and has been in the employee benefits industry since 1980. Presently, Tim works with employers assisting them with self-funded and fully insured medical and dental programs, consumer-driven health strategies, term life, long term disability insurance, section 125 flexible benefit programs, voluntary benefits, retirement programs, and executive compensation plans. Tim currently works with more than 200 employers participating in 500 employee benefit plans, and covering more than 30,000 employees throughout Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas. You can read more about Tim and his insight on employee benefits needs on The Olson Group Blog.