The Most Popular Employee Perks Of 2014

Feb 19 2014, 6:32pm CST | by

The Most Popular Employee Perks Of 2014
Photo Credit: Forbes Apple

During a trip to California last fall, I stopped in to visit a friend of mine who works at Dropbox.  He zipped over to the reception area to fetch me on a Razor scooter, provided to employees to make getting around the office faster (and cooler), took me past the morning yoga class currently in session, the fresh squeezed juice station and granola wall, and the made-to-order stir fry bar, to the plush music room, equipped with instruments and big soft couches arranged in a lounge/bar atmosphere.  At the time, I was struggling to raise another round for my start-up, and was packing my own lunch for the plane to save money. It was as if I had walked into a physical representation of the opportunity costs of running my own company — and it was painful.

I have never really lusted after material things, and while rumors of free on-demand massages at the Google offices always made me smile, the allure of corporate perks was never enough to lure me. But this trip to Dropbox got me wondering.  For companies that have cash to burn who are trying to attract and retain young talent, what benefits are best? Cost aside, I asked tech employees to offer up their list of favorites, and got over 150 responses in less than two hours.

In addition to all of the traditional perks like 401K matching funds and free medical and dental benefits, employers are becoming more innovative — and employees love it! Based on my sample, here are some of the most interesting and popular perks in 2014.

1. Game Rooms

What appeals to twenty-something techies? Games. Not surprisingly, a lot of companies have game rooms with classic games (e.g., pool, darts, and foosball) as well as arcade games. Some companies took the definition of “play space” to the next level. For example, killerinfographics.com recently added a “climbing wall and 2
kegerators with locally brewed beer” for employees to enjoy at any time.

Employers want their employees to have fun, which raises commitment and creativity levels, but bosses also feel that their companies get a lot more out of having game dens. As Jay Graves, CTO of Double Encore (a mobile design and development agency) explaines, “I like these types of things because they bring people together who might not normally interact on a day-to-day basis. Foosball, darts, and video games are games that people play in pairs, teams, or groups. Spending time together, both while working and ‘off the clock,’ are key to (creating) a company’s culture – especially one that depends largely on collaborative efforts.” His company just added Marvel v. Capcom to their “game corridor.”

2. Good Eats

Free food is always appreciated, and is popular at every scale. Smaller companies offer special weekly treats like the Doughnut Day Thursdays at shopkeep.com or Pizza Fridays at overit.com. “Every Friday our company buys various kinds of pizza to share with our employees,” says Overit employee Alison Krawczyk. “Although this may sound like a simple idea, compared with start-ups who offer retreats to faraway places, this treat is not just about food. It gives us a chance for all of the different departments to come together, socialize and celebrate the end of the week. At a small company with lots of work to do, we spend most of our lunches at our desks. Pizza Fridays allow everyone to take a break away from the screens, and connect over something good to eat.”

Other companies have opted for more of the all-you-can-eat style goodies. Moz.com has a never-ending cereal bar and apartmentlist.com has a 24-7 on-tap keg to keep employees happy.  But for companies that can afford it, free catered breakfasts and lunches are definitely in vogue. ONTRAPORT offers its employees their choice of two daily breakfasts, including a breakfast burrito
bar, daily lunch including a salad bar and free daily “Worksnaxs” including press juiced from Ah Juice,
in Santa Barbara.

Some companies have figured out how to get more bang for their perk buck by making sponsored lunches media-worthy events. For example, for the last 2 years every Thursday has been Theme Day and Lunch at goodbyecrutches.com. Themes have included Jimmy
Buffet Day, Smurf Day, and Pirate Day. See minute 2:08 of their video for some fun pictures. “For a 5 minute picture and a 15 minute lunch, it’s got the best ROI of
anything we do. It is a great team building exercise that’s affordable, evergreen and easy. Our lunches are great content for social media (all the weekly pictures get posted and
shared)
and it helps us build relationships with both vendors and customers,” owner Tom Schwab told me. “These lunches are also a good recruiting tool for the company. Those that like the culture are drawn to us.” And the company takes it a step further by turning these culinary adventures into end of year gifts, too. “At the end of the year, we give everyone a Snap Fish ‘Year Book’ of photos from the lunches we’ve had. It’s a
prized gift.” Talk about getting bang for their buck!

3. Physical Health

While gym memberships or gym subsidies are the most common health perk, many companies are now bringing fitness into the office by sponsoring yoga, pilates or crossfit. Some companies, like Practice Fusion, have given each employee a fitbit tracking device to help them keep on top of their progress. BTC Revolutions made it even more social by giving their employees UP Bands and creating a team online where they can share workout
successes and motivate each other.

Social exercise is not just for the wealthy high tech companies. Gravity Payments has a weekly running club, where team members can be excused from
their work for an hour to go on an organized run around the neighborhood.
”We find this helps clear people’s minds, provide a mental break, and
increases camaraderie among employees,” reports employee Ryan Pirkle. WizeHive UX designer Avi Zuber told me his company promotes regular exercise challenges. “These get us
up from our desks and moving our bodies at least once a day. It’s not all
that competitive and it gives us all a great breather.” These ideas cost little to implement and are perfect for new companies trying to prioritize employee health and increase loyalty and cohesion along with fitness.

While not nearly as common, some companies are encouraging fitness by subsidizing employee enrollment fees in races and other fitness challenges. For example, last year Kount’s Marketing Program Manager Jennifer Howard and VP of Operations Rich Stuppy participated in the Boise Dirty Dash on the company’s dime.

4. Mental Health

Health perks are not just limited to the physical realm. Employees at Medallia in Palo Alto, Calif., are given cash to “seek out and overcome their fears, whether business-related or personal.” Some have taken professional boxing courses, others singing or dancing lessons, and one employee who “never felt he was funny and didn’t like public speaking” learned to do a stand-up comedy routine and gave a performance at the company which his wife and kids attended./>/>

5.   Time Off

Interestingly, most of the employees that responded get more than the traditional two weeks paid vacation. A growing number of companies offer unlimited vacation days (modeled off Netflix and Hubspot), while others, like Moz, give employees an additional incentive to take the days they are entitled to. “Our biggest (and in my opinion, best) perk is our paid vacation
policy,” one Moz employee told me. “To encourage the staff to use their vacation
time (21 days is standard for all employees), the company gives us a bonus
$3,000 in vacation reimbursements for food, lodging, entertainment, and
transportation. Our team has gone everywhere from Iceland to India using
that bonus!”  The CEO believes these perks are essential to keeping amazing people on his team.

A number of companies are now following the 4-day work week model. Jacques Bastien, the young CEO of Boogie, is trying out a 4 day work week / 2 hour lunch combo with his team of eight. “In most cases, we work from 8AM – 1PM, take a two hour lunch break, then start back at 3:00PM. We then work from 3:00PM – 7PM. This means we work 9 hours a day and 36 hours a week. We close the office on Wednesday so we don’t work for more than 2 days consecutively. With this new schedule, we all have more time to handle our personal lives, and we get an extra 52 vacation days a year (technically speaking).

Paid maternity/paternity leave is another important benefit for employees. Paul Hibler, Founder of start-up American Gonzo Food Corporation, gives all managers 1 extra week’s paid time off when they have a child or adopt (separate from disability or FMLA).

Paid sabbaticals also appear to be on the rise. For example, Capterra offers a five-week, fully-paid sabbatical every five years to
each of its employees. The CEO pointed out that cost to the company is five weeks of productivity or “10% of their work
in the year that they take their sabbatical.” However, another CEO noted that it is only 2% over the course of their five-year employment, and he thinks the benefit to the company and the employee’s health and personal growth is well worth the cost.

Finally, I was pleased to see that many companies offer paid leave for community service projects. Some organize office service days, and many will match charitable donations to the community up to a certain amount.

6.   Company retreats.

Company outings range all over the map from happy hours to full celebratory vacations. According to Tarek Pertew (whose company focuses on connecting talent with young, hiring companies), Expensify represents one extreme. They bring their employees on annual month-long company trips to an exotic location. 2013’s destination was
Dubrovnik. While a month of travels sounds like fun, for families with kids you have to wonder if this would really be a manageable perk.

Tarek also told me about AirBnBs “local destinations”, which sounded like fun, too. Seemingly, AirBNB has built “mini cultural destinations” throughout their SF
office. “So if your team wanted to go to Bali for a week, they would book
that trip and simply go the 3rd floor, where an entire area has been
designed to feel like an AirBNB location in Bali.”

7.   Freebies

Most companies offer their employees free or at-cost versions of whatever they sell (e.g., memberships, furniture, courses, cars, etc.), and that is definitely nice if you happen to like or need whatever the company you work for is offering. A lot of companies offer other one off perks or freebies as well, including:

  • Netflix subscriptions
  • Magazine subscriptions
  • Tickets to sporting games and movies
  • Customized shoes (usually Nikes or Converse)
  • Free make-up or spa services
  • Babysitting
  • Petsitting
  • Technology products (MacBook Airs,
iPads, iPhones, iPods, and LED Monitors were the most popular)

Summary

While the companies above battle to keep employees happy with increasingly elaborate perks, owners like Patrick Lynch from The Frontier Group and I are living in a different reality. “I would like to offer a somewhat different perk that is incredibly important but not quite as sexy: continued employment. There are countless small business owners like myself that sacrifice personal compensation for the sake of keeping their team in place — not having to downsize during tough times, not having to reduce hours.This may not be as cool as a juice bar or foosball table, but it shows employees that their CEO cares and values them.
I think that is awesome.” I have to agree.

 

Source: Forbes Apple

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

2014 Mac Mini Achieves Low Upgradability Score from iFixit
2014 Mac Mini Achieves Low Upgradability Score from iFixit
The new Mac Mini scores only 6 out of 10 points with respect to upgradability
 
 
Apple Pay being Released with iOS 8.1
Apple Pay being Released with iOS 8.1
The service of Apple Pay has been launched with the introduction of the iOS upgrade
 
 
Apple On Track To Sell 62 Million iPhones
Apple On Track To Sell 62 Million iPhones
Analysts say that growth will set new records this quarter
 
 
Apple’s Earnings Coming From In-App Purchases
Apple’s Earnings Coming From In-App Purchases
Apple believes the majority of Apple Pay income will come from Apps
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Keira Knightley was 'a goody two-shoes'
Keira Knightley was ''a goody two-shoes'' when she was younger. The 29-year-old actress claims she was a ''boring'' well-behaved child and never skipped school because she didn't want to upset her parents or teachers....
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Kat Dennings is in love with Kim Kardashian
Kat Dennings thinks Kim Kardashian's butt is ''amazing.'' The '2 Broke Girls' actress was ''very nervous'' when the 'Keeping Up with the Kardashians' star filmed a cameo for the show's 80th episode and was too shy to...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Taylor Swift doesn't 'need some guy' for inspiration
Taylor Swift is ''figuring out how to cope'' with life on her own. The 'Shake It Off' hitmaker hopes her upcoming album, '1989,' will prove she doesn't ''need some guy'' to help her ''make a great record'' or to feel...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Sarah Hyland is 'great'
Sarah Hyland says she is ''great'' after obtaining a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend. The 'Modern Family' star is happy to be focusing on her career again after a judge recently granted her a three-year...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
India re-elected to UNHRC for two years
United Nations, Oct 21 (IANS) India was Tuesday re-elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the term 2015-2017 in a keenly contested election in the UN General Assembly in New York. Other...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Spanish nurse cured of Ebola
Madrid, Oct 21 (Xinhua) Spanish nursing auxiliary Teresa Romero was pronounced cured of the Ebola virus disease according to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines after the results of a second test confirmed...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Gurdwara closed in Belgium
Brussels, Oct 21 (IANS) The mayor of the town of Vilvoorde in Belgium, Hans Bonte, has ordered the closure of the local gurdwara, Guru Nanak Sahib, for one month. Belgian media Tuesday charged that the Sikh temple "...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Air strikes kill 28 militants in Pakistan
Islamabad, Oct 21 (IANS) At least 28 militants were killed when the Pakistani army launched an air strike in the country's northwest tribal town of Datta Khel Tuesday, military said. In a statement, Inter Services...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Report reveals large-scale torture in China's 'Black Jails'
Beijing, Oct 21 (IANS/EFE) The use of hotels and factories as clandestine prisons where thousands of people -- mostly women -- are tortured to prevent their complaints against the government from coming to light has...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Clinical trials of Ebola vaccine start Nov 1 in Switzerland
Geneva, Oct 21 (IANS/EFE) The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced Tuesday that it will begin clinical trials Nov 1 in Switzerland of one of the two anti-Ebola vaccines currently under development. WHO Assistant...
Read more on Business Balla