How beneficial are unusual employee benefits?

Written by
Jitesh Patel

09 Aug 2016

09 Aug 2016 • by Jitesh Patel

Although most businesses now embrace some form of employee reward programme, in a work culture where 50+ hour weeks are increasingly considered the norm and competition for talent is fierce, businesses must find new and exciting ways to engage and inspire employees.

What do you want from your office environment?

Peldon Rose recently surveyed over 700 office workers and the research revealed that a staggering 89% of office workers value friendships at work, and that nearly a quarter (23%) would welcome more interaction with their colleagues. This underpins the company’s philosophy that spending more time with colleagues will result in a positive, creative and mutually supportive work environment, stimulating a sense of loyalty and commitment to the company. Peldon Rose as an organisation organises two annual holidays for all its employees: a ski trip in the winter and a European city break in the summer. The minibreaks, which are organised by employees to appeal to as wide a range of people as possible, are incredibly popular and are always over-subscribed. The trips create lasting friendships and importantly contribute to the company’s very low staff turnover and reported high job satisfaction levels.

What do Netflix do?

The workplace survey also identified a desire amongst office workers to be given greater freedom to manage their own workload, with nearly a third (32%) saying that they wished that they were more trusted by their company to manage how and when they work.  While this devolution of power from employer to employee may feel counter-intuitive, it is being championed by some of the most forward thinking companies of our time.  At Netflix's California headquarters work hours aren't tracked; the company only measures what people get done — so, as long as employees do their work, it doesn't matter when or for how long they're in the office. 

To support its people-focused ethos, Brighton-based digital agency Propellernet offers its employees benefits with the ‘wow factor’, including annual entry into a lottery-style ‘Dreamball machine’. Each staff member writes their ultimate dream on a ball – this has ranged from swimming with dolphins to seeing the Northern Lights – and if the firm hits its targets the machine is spun, making a dream come true for one randomly chosen staff member. Unsurprisingly perhaps the company is regularly named as one of the UK’s top 10 small places to work for helping it to attract and retain the top talent.

While it is not unusual for companies to have a designated or ‘corporate charity’ many companies miss valuable opportunities to turn fundraising into activities which bring their organisation together. Making it company policy for staff to have paid work time ring-fenced specifically for them to take part in fundraising if they wish ensures that employees feel empowered and encouraged to get involved in charitable activities and more inclined to feel positive about their workplace.

It is important however that the selected charity should reflect the core values of the company so employees can understand and support the connection. As design specialists Peldon Rose is concerned with offsetting office stress and promoting workplace wellness so its chosen charity this year is the mental health charity, Mind. The company meets the cost of all fundraising events to boost staff participation and teams are encouraged to find creative ways of fundraising and promoting the charity, fostering a sense of fun, teamwork and wellbeing.

It is no longer enough for businesses to make token gestures towards employee benefit packages - a weekly fruit bowl or a subsidised cup of vending machine coffee. In fact, far from being an afterthought, a successful employee engagement scheme must be part of a company’s DNA, reflecting its core values. Organisations that embrace this will be rewarded with high performance and low staff attrition, and have the power to attract top talent. Done well, ‘employee benefits’ can benefit not only employees, but ultimately the company’s bottom line.