Employee perks often shape our common perceptions of the startup world. Imagine casually dressed developers and designers lounging on beanbag chairs, enjoying a beverage from the complimentary espresso bar. Later, a team breaks off to brainstorm over a game at the ping pong table, or de-stress with the in-office massage therapist before heading to a big meeting. While these perks are different than the "standard" benefits that a company typically offers its employees, they can play an important role — especially in the startup world. Here's a closer look at the difference between employee perks and benefits, and how to get a maximum return on your investments with each.
The difference between benefits and perks
Employee perks typically fall beyond the scope of standard employee benefits. Employees at most companies expect some form of benefits: health insurance, dental insurance, or a retirement plan, for example. Employee benefits play an important role in the total compensation that your company offers, and are a major consideration for both recruiting and employee retention.
Perks, however, are outside of the traditional benefits offerings. While they vary from company to company, some examples include catered lunches, flexible scheduling, in-office amenities like sports areas or massage therapy, nap pods, or even administrative services like dry cleaning or booking dinner reservations. Perks are a way that employers can go past their staff's expectations to show they want to create a great work environment. Often, perks are added once a company becomes a bit more established, even though they still might be offered in the startup phase.
Retaining employees through employee-focused perks
One major advantage of perks is their ability to help keep your employees happy. Employees who enjoy coming to work and feel valued may be more likely to stay at a company for the long-term. For example, some companies experiment with unlimited time off or flexible scheduling as a way of letting top talent find a better work/life balance. Other perks are focused on making life easier or more relaxed for staff, such as on-site yoga classes or service-oriented amenities. Another approach to employee perks is creating fun spaces: ping pong tables or pinball machines are a great example. The key is to determine what stress points you can alleviate for your staff and create positive associations with the workplace. Employee-focused perks can help create an environment that employees won’t want to leave.
Enhancing productivity: perks that let your team focus on their work
Another aspect of employee perks is focused on maximizing productivity. Could certain tools or a flexible schedule actually help your team get more done? Companies often look at perks as a way to help employees improve work/life balance without sacrificing work productivity time. For example, some offer concierge services, help with tasks like getting laundry done, or even seasonal onsite personal income tax preparation assistance. By determining what's taking your employees' focus away from their work responsibilities, it's possible to design perks that may help make them more productive.
Target your corporate objectives and team
Perhaps the most important takeaway is this: Design your perks with your objectives and your employees’ lifestyles in mind. What objectives are you hoping to achieve? And perhaps, most critically, what is meaningful to your team? Investing thousands of dollars in sports and leisure equipment, for example, isn't going to improve your workplace culture and results if your team is hungry for a more flexible schedule or help with simple lifestyle tasks that prove difficult when working long hours or constantly traveling. If you're going to invest in employee perks that go beyond standard benefits, consider how to align the perks you choose with your team's most important priorities.