How Office Perks Can Help You Create Value for Your Company

Office perks conjure up images of fridges stocked with beer or ping pong tables in the conference room. But are these the kind of perks that companies are offering today? And do office perks improve employee morale and retention? Do they make a difference when it comes to collaboration or productivity?

While plenty of companies swear by office perks as a way to get a competitive edge in the war for talent, others say that offering distinctive perks hasn’t led to benefits in productivity or employee engagement.

But office perks are most effective when used strategically as workforce tools. “One of the biggest problems with perks is people don't think creatively enough about them. They tend to think of the beer, the ping-pong, the food,” says Kate Tulenko, CEO of Corvus Health. “They should be thinking about what their people really need and asking people what their problems are. They should be approaching perks by thinking about how they can help solve real problems for their workforce.”

Here’s how you can use office perks to create long-term strategic value for your company.

Focus on Company Values and Goals

To be effective, the perks a company offers must be connected to the company’s overall values and goals. What do your target hires and ideal workforce really need to accomplish those goals? 

“You don't have a perk just to have perks. It's not just a box to tick by HR,” Tulenko says. “You have to think, What is the purpose? Is it increased productivity? Is it to foster creativity? Is it to reduce absenteeism? Is it a retention or recruitment tool or is it related to corporate culture or workplace wellness?”

Manny Medina, CEO of Outreach, says they develop office perks that help them create the corporate culture they want. “We try to align our culture and our benefits so that get the maximum impact from the office perks we offer,” he says.

Even the best-intentioned perks won’t help productivity or morale if they are aligned to company goals and values. Bryan Zmijewski, CEO of Zurb, says they offered perks like in-house massages, fully-stocked office kitchens and paid lunches. But they didn’t find that these perks led to improved productivity or employee engagement.  

Now, Zmijewski says his company focuses more on their company values and mission, which for them means increasing efforts to build opportunities for collaboration and teamwork. “We focus on finding more alignment within teams and celebrating our group successes,” he says.

Select Perks for Recruitment and Retention

While candidates certainly value overall compensation and benefits, strategically designed perks can help give companies a competitive edge. Medina says that the way to make perks meaningful is to offer perks that are focused on helping the company attract and retain the kind of talent it needs to be successful.

To attract women and parents in Seattle's extremely competitive sales technology industry, his company focuses on offering perks that appeal to working parents, like a company-paid night nurse and dinner delivery for eight weeks after the parent’s return to work. “Our biggest differentiator is how we get out of the tech bro culture by creating and incentivizing parents and women to join us who might otherwise be afraid that this is going to be a male-dominated environment that is not friendly to families,” Medina says.

Retention is a huge problem in the healthcare industry, says Tulenko, and perks designed to improve the quality of life for healthcare workers can help reduce burnout and turnover. Some hospitals, for example, include house cleaning services for surgical residents, she says. “These residents have to work 80 hours or more a week, sometimes 36 hours straight,” she points out. “They literally do not have the time to clean their house.”

Evaluate Perks Regularly for Impact

Identifying what perks to offer and evaluating their effectiveness should be a strategic process as well. “One of the first things that companies need to do is generate more ideas of what perks are needed by asking their staff, either one on one, in focus groups or through anonymous surveys what some of the biggest challenges they face are,” says Tulenko. 

Do they have challenges arriving to work on time? Would perks like more flexible hours or remote work help address that?  Or do they have stressors inside or outside of work that impact their productivity or morale? Ask employees to suggest ways that the company could help address these problems, she says.

Once you’ve identified the problem you want to solve with a specific perk, you have to decide how you are going to measure the impact of that office perk. “What’s the metric for it?,” says Tulenko. “If it's reduced absenteeism, what's your current absenteeism rate and what's the goal rate you're aiming for?” Then, periodically evaluate the data to see if the perk is helping to move the needle on that problem.