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Company Perks: Do They Really Boost Creativity and Morale?

Company perks are a fashionable trend among small business employers, but taking time to craft a deliberate strategy about what to offer may actually pay off with greater employee creativity and productivity.

Company perks have become popular among US businesses, although some of these perks are more extravagant than others. For example, the company HQ Innocent features an on-site area called "Chill Out", where employees can enjoy ping pong and foosball, as well as free breakfasts and lunches on Mondays. The employer's goal is for these activities to "stimulate the brain, to relax and to have fun in a community-like environment." And, presumably, for employees to be better at their jobs.

In a recent article, creativity expert Eric Weiner begs to differ. He acknowledges that, at first blush, giving employees tools to relax and have fun will result in more creativity in the workplace. But, Weiner concludes, "Discomfort, and even a degree of hardship, are what drive creativity, not bean bag chairs and ping pong tables." He cites studies showing that "most creative work was done by those with the fewest choices—that is, with the most constraints."

Other business experts and employers disagree. They point to research demonstrating that perks and other unstructured activities do get creative juices flowing, which then translates into benefits to businesses. Among these benefits:

  • The opportunity through games and lunches for employees to better know each other and bond as a team
  • A greater sense of employee fulfillment and pride at being part of an "enlightened" business
  • Meeting the needs of younger employees for a workplace atmosphere focused on collaboration and appealing to peoples' "fun side"

Just as importantly, the right company perks can enrich your employees' lives, thereby making them more satisfied with their jobs and more motivated to help customers. As business owner Jim Belosic points out, "when employees are happy going to work, they work harder to make others happy. To this end, paying for healthcare, a new laptop, or a phone bill are great investments for the company."

When it comes to choosing what perks to offer, Belosic also advises employers to pay attention to what their workers really want. By spending some extra time with employees, "like through quarterly lunches with individuals" or meeting "in a casual setting where you have the opportunity to talk about non-work things," you'll get a stronger sense of the kinds of perks that truly matter in their lives.

At the same time, certain perks can benefit your business as well. What about offering an employee referral bonus? Current employees who refer a new hire who lasts beyond a probationary period receive cash awards for their recommendations—a win for everyone involved. Or you can offer free, in-house seminars where employees can gain some additional expertise either in work-related areas, or on such topics as financial and investment planning. Anything that improves the quality of their lives (both personal and professional) strengthens their ties with your business, an invaluable contribution to long-term employee retention.

When perks can trigger creativity and a renewed sense of purpose, employees thrive and the company they work for grows stronger. Is your company offering the right perks to help your employees succeed?


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