woman and coworkers eating pizza and laughing

5 Work Perks that Boost Employee Engagement

by Kimberly Horton, on September 10, 2019
With more and more employers reaching for fun and creative perks to set themselves apart, it can be hard to figure out what kinds of things employees will actually appreciate and what’s just a gimmick.

Plenty of high-profile companies are using perks to enhance their employer brand, from REI, which offers paid days off for employees to enjoy outdoor activities, to Twitter, where employees can get catered meals and on-site acupuncture.

At best, perks are a low-cost tool that can help attract and retain employees. At worst, they can backfire. Overworked employees may come to resent walking past that nap room if they never have time to use it. Sure, that rock-climbing wall looks cool, but does it even fit the lifestyles of your employees?
Let’s take a look at some of the quirky work perks that large firms are implementing in an effort to attract and retain the best talent.
1. Volunteer Time Off
It doesn’t matter if you’re a multinational conglomerate like 3M and Colgate-Palmolive, or a small family business, we can all pitch-in and help our communities. Not only is helping others a great way to de-stress and feel good, it can help your company. Fortune reported that two thirds of millennials were more interested in working for a company with a history of activism than one that didn’t value it. Additionally, those who participated in company volunteering programs were four times more likely to talk about their volunteer time outside of work. This means offering a VTO program can improve your recruitment with the younger workforce and increase word-of-mouth referrals.
2. Pet-Friendly Office
Let’s face it, it’s hard to say goodbye to puppy dog eyes at the door when we leave for work in the morning. Two out of three employees agree pets should be allowed in workspaces, and half of those employees are willing to spearhead the effort to make it happen, showing just how close this issue is to employee hearts. Setting up your office so that employees can bring their pets to work safely and without causing distractions can offer real benefits. Not only can having well-behaved pets on site be a fun stress reliever, just having a dog or cat around decreases blood pressure and decreases stressful reactions, it can be a substantial cost-savings for employees who would otherwise pay for pet day-care or walking services.
Adding four-legged employees to your office can seem daunting, but you don’t have to go all out like Amazon’s Seattle HQ, which can have 7,000 dogs on any given day, to show your employees’ pets some love; avoid a ruff start by slowly introducing pets to your workspace for short amounts of time.
3. Paid Birthday Off
Everybody has a birthday, and everybody likes time off, making this perk a perfect and inclusive opportunity. Offering employees a paid day off on their birthday is a way of acknowledging their special day that’s a step up from the usual cupcakes and card. Places like Texas A&M, Redsquid, and even Richard Branson’s Virgin Media already offer this easy to implement work perk. If you’re concerned that your employees won’t want their birthday shared, put a twist on this perk and honor company loyalty with a day off on their work anniversary instead. 
4. Free Food
Everyone needs to eat, but today’s around the clock work culture can stress employees and make them skip out on a midday meal. A 2018 study by Tork reported 38% of employees don’t feel encouraged by their companies to take a break to eat, and 20% were worried regular lunch breaks would make their boss think less of them. However, that same study showed 81% of those who take consistent lunch breaks wanted to be more active in the company. Lead through example by stocking the break room with healthy snacks or providing a catered lunch once a month. Feeding employees makes them feel appreciated, improves productivity, and saves them time if it means they can grab something to eat in the lunchroom instead of going off-site.
Talk to your team about their preferences, and plan around any allergies, dietary needs, and religious restrictions to make sure everyone has something they can eat.
5. Gym Membership
Unlike an on-site gym, which employees may be too busy to use, a free or discounted gym membership lets people choose when and where they want to work out. Offering gym memberships can not only help reduce healthcare costs by improving fitness, they can also reduce employee stress and boost productivity. By investing in your employees’ health, you are showing you care about their wellbeing. When employees feel cared about and appreciated, they are more likely to stay, reducing turnover.
Whether you have 20 employees or 2000, when it comes to attracting employees, things like compensation, benefits, and flexibility are still what matter most. But handled the right way, offering a few fun perks can be the icing on the cake and improve employee engagement and loyalty.
Look for perks that align with your company’s mission and culture, and that fit your employees’ actual needs. Make sure that perks are inclusive, and that most people on your team will actually be able to use and enjoy them. Finally, communicate with employees so they know what’s available and how to participate.
Done thoughtfully, perks can make your employees feel understood and appreciated, while acting as a low-cost way to boost your employer brand. Want to take advantage of work perks but don’t know where to start? Contact LandrumHR for your HR needs.
Kimberly Horton

Kim Horton has nearly 20 years of Human Resources experience in corporate, financial, manufacturing, customer service and consulting environments, collectively. She currently serves as an HR Manager for LandrumHR. Her experience in the field has been acquired through focus on employee relations, training and development, team building, employment law compliance, strategic planning, high-level talent assessment and succession planning, employment law compliance, and employee compensation and benefits. Kim holds a Master of Arts degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. During her course of study, her primary research and thesis focused on procedural and distributive justice in both formal and informal mentoring relationships and perceptions of fairness. Her work was selected for presentation during a poster session at the national Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology (SIOP) conference. She has also taught at the college level for both graduate and undergraduate courses in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. Kim is a member of the national chapter of Society for Human Resources Management.

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