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  • Employee Perks: Do they Work or Distract From Work?

Employee perks and benefits have been helping businesses to win over talent since their invention. Back in the day, a company health plan or 401K may have been quite impressive, but times have changed. In order to compete for top talent and retain their best employees, many best-in-class companies are pulling out all the stops in their employee perks. Unlimited PTO, an in-house spa, 12 months for maternity (or paternity) leave, all real perks that real people are currently taking advantage of around the country.

Yes, I’d like my smoothie in the spa and yes, I will be taking my calls there as well.

But, do employee perks work, or distract from work?

Employee perks work, but not all of them work for you very hard. Some of them work like the guy who makes you add clauses to your employee policies. Others can work wonders.

The ways in which employee perks work for you, and their effectiveness, relate to what the purpose of what your perks are what they are intended to be. What they are intended to be, is the official story: the verbatim version of the resource, benefit, or policy that’s in the “perks” section of your company’s policy and job descriptions. What it actually is, varies.

An employee perk that’s working for you can:

  • Improve your employee brand for job seekers and review writing employees.
  • Improve the work/life balance of your employees.
  • Improve the work that your employees do, their efficiency, and the enjoyment they get from it.

Getting all of these results from a single perk, or from a combination of employee perks, is possible, but it is entirely up to the perks themselves and how they relate to the work that your employees are doing. It will also relate to how your employees relate to the perks. Essentially, when choosing the employee perks you use, you need to know what your people want from work and it definitely helps to know what their idea of a sweet gig looks like.

Decompressing from workplace stress is key in maintaining long-term performance, but perks that allow for downtime are only part of the picture. The best perks are ones that your employees engage with on a professional level. Empowering your employees to explore a niche in their field, learn a new skill, or update an old one will make them feel valued, as you are literally investing in their career advancement. Today’s self-learning, knowledge-thirsty workforce value employers who place a high value on continuous learning and development. By providing these resources (as well as your standard fare of freebies, benefits, incentives, time off and time sort-of-off), you can realize greater employee output, greater employee happiness, and maybe even some great pictures for the “About us” page on your company’s website.

Sometimes, a distraction is exactly what your team will need. However, by emphasizing perks that increase on the job enjoyment, such distractions will become less and less necessary as time goes on.

Employee Perks and Your Employer Brand

Employee perks are becoming just as important for hiring employees as it is for keeping them happy. Today’s job seeker has options, and having a killer perks program is key in standing out from your competitors. The reason for this, is the changing way in which candidates are evaluating job opportunities

When a job seeker sees that you’re hiring or sees the ad for your open job, they’ll head to an employer review site like Glassdoor to read reviews about how great your company is to work for… or not. In the age of transparency, claiming to be a great place to work will only help your company if your employees agree with you. If employees aren’t actually thrilled about their work arrangements, then they can (and do) write about why, in detail, for the whole Internet to see.

Negative reviews can have an unwanted impact, both on your current employees and the employees that you hope to hire in the future. Today’s job seeker is a smart shopper, and won’t have their mind made up by a single vindictive review, but they will look for an overall trend of happiness or misery at your company. They will also trust employee testimony over anything else, as this is essentially a peer review.

Having a solid perks program in place, however, will increase your company’s appeal for job seekers by giving your employees plenty of great workplace experiences to write about online. As your targeted perks program helps job satisfaction and productivity to increase, the picture that your employees paint of your company will become brighter and brighter as a result, strengthening your ability to hire top talent.

You can claim to “love your employees” on your company’s website, but this will never do you as much good as putting your money where your mouth is. While employee perks aren’t going to transform a repetitive job into the most exciting job ever, using the right kind of employee perks will help to increase employee performance and job satisfaction across the board. This trend of enjoyment, along with the existence of the perks themselves, will be attractive to job seekers and will promote increased retention and productivity in your employees.

Employee Perks

By emphasizing the right kinds of employee perks at your company, you can facilitate an increase in the productivity and job satisfaction of your employees. The “right” employee perks to use will vary from company to company, but the bottom line is that they should do more than act as a break from the workday. The right employee perks don’t distract us from the fact that we’re at work but help us to get more out of our jobs, both in terms of satisfaction and output.

Not all jobs are glamorous, but that doesn’t mean that the work can’t still be satisfying, if not enjoyable. Employee perks can help your employees to get more out of their jobs and can make up for the tedious aspects of work.

The effectiveness of your employee perks program, however, depends on both the work itself and how these perks relate to this work. Vacations and distractions help us to avoid burnout, but the best perks are ones that enhance the enjoyment of work by facilitating the easy completion of that work. According to an article from FastCompany:

As our meta-analysis of decades of research shows, people perform best when they enjoy the work itself, find purpose in the impact of their work, and see potential for future opportunities… these motives are so powerful that they account for an incredible 28% increase in sales revenue among frontline sales employees.

Yes, you want your employees to enjoy their jobs more, but there is a huge difference between enjoying your work more and enjoying that your work takes you out to pizza every Friday. All the evidence is showing us that increased performance and increased job satisfaction go hand in hand.

Employee perks can increase productivity at your company, but as more and more companies push the limits of the ridiculous, it is becoming clear that the “why” is more important than the “what,” in terms of employee perks. Each perk in your perks program should be aimed at addressing a specific need or desire of your staff, whether that’s the desire to attend industry conferences or work from home. An employee perks program works for you by improving the relationships of your employees with their work, making this work more pleasant and empowering them to take on greater opportunities in the future.

When your employees enjoy their work, find purpose in their work, and trust that this work will lead to greater opportunities, they will experience greater levels of output and job satisfaction. A well-designed perks program can help you get there, but only if you’re aligning your perks with these 3 performance factors and the desires of your employees.

When you’re considering which perks would be the best for your staff, make sure that each perk is improving the working lives of your employees in one of these areas:

  • Enjoyment
  • Purpose
  • Opportunities


Getting your team tickets to a basketball game will definitely increase the team’s short-term enjoyment levels, but this is not the only sort of “enjoyment” perk that you should provide. When your team returns to work, they may have bonded over the game, but their enjoyment levels will dip down to normal working levels. In order to get more from your employees, and for your employees to get more from their jobs, you should focus perks on increasing employee enjoyment while they are on the job.

Now, this will be harder for some jobs than others, and it will take different forms for these jobs. For jobs that require a good deal of customer interaction, perks like telecommuting or flex-time may be out of the question. If the way that work is done can’t be changed, then the best way to facilitate greater enjoyment of that work is to create a fun environment in which to do it.

Perks for Enjoyment:

You should have perks that both allow employees to decompress and enhance their enjoyment of work.


Inexpensive and tasty, keeping a stash of snacks, sodas, and energy drinks around the office is a great way to make work more homey and enjoyable. A team lunch, dinner, or holiday bar crawl great way to enjoy some quality time with the people you work with within a more relaxed context.

Telecommuting / Flex Time

Offering employees the chance to work from home allows them to complete tasks away from the hustle and bustle of the office. It also gives employees a greater ability to balance work and home, increasing their enjoyment of work.

Team Activities

Team activities (no, meetings do not count as activities), like team games, team outings, and/or team nerf gunfights will help employees release stress in the short term and grow closer in the long term. Don’t forget to take some pictures for your company’s website!


If you don’t find purpose in your job, the only thing that’s driving your success is the fear of failure. You want your employees to have a better reason for coming to work than survival, and the right employee perks can help you reach this goal.

We all have different reasons for working, you know, other than we have to, but one of the most motivating reasons to do your best, is that you feel that your work matters. When you feel like your work doesn’t matter very much in the grand scheme of your company, however, you probably won’t be motivated to go above and beyond in your job.

Some of your perks should be explicitly aimed at nurturing the purpose that your employees feel while they’re doing their jobs. Rewarding employees for going above and beyond their job duties is one way to promote purposeful work, but you want their purpose to be doing great work, not just getting a bigger bonus. By tying incentives to company performance and company values, you are giving your employees everything that they need to find more purpose in their work.

Perks for Purpose:

These perks align employees with company values and give them a greater sense of purpose at work.


If you work for a huge company, it can be easy to lose yourself in the grand scheme of things. By instituting a profit-sharing perk, either quarterly or annually, your employees will feel a direct connection to your company’s performance. This connection will give your employees greater purpose, as they will feel the effects of your company’s success or stuttering.

Values-Based Incentives

Values-based incentives programs are tied to performance but differ from traditional incentives programs by rewarding employees for embodying the core values of the company and innovating for the company. By rewarding those who embody what your company stands for, you are both promoting the behavior that you want and tying that behavior to the success of employees and the company itself. This connection to the values of your company will give employees a greater sense of purpose at work.

Champion Causes

Some people have multiple callings, finding purpose in their professional work as well as charity or creative work that they do on the side. Organizing an afternoon for your team to volunteer for a local cause will help them to feel purposeful outside of work, while still associating your company with that sense of purpose. Additionally, allowing employees who are involved in causes to propose and organize these events will show them just how highly your company values their cause.


One of the greatest concerns of employees is that they don’t see any opportunities for the future at their company. Providing employees with opportunities to attend conferences, try new work and advance their education will both increase their happiness and their effectiveness on the job.

Providing opportunity perks to your employees will also show them that your company is planning for their future. By taking these opportunities and making the most of them, employees are able to pave their own way, finding that a large portion of their career path can be facilitated by your company. By offering professional development perks, you can enrich the working lives of your employees and enjoy the benefits of more engaged staff.

Perks for Opportunities:

These perks and policies provide new and exciting work opportunities to employees, giving them a chance to branch out or go above and beyond what’s expected of them.

Development Opportunities

Giving your employees the opportunity to learn more about your industry or an emerging development in their field will engage their minds and fill them with cutting-edge information. By giving employees the opportunity to attend conferences and conventions in your industry, you will reap the benefits of their knowledge and they will be grateful for the opportunity to grow professionally.

Educational Opportunities

Offering your employees the opportunity to further their education or learn a new skill is one of the best perks that you can offer. Driven employees love to learn and will jump at the opportunity to further increase their skills. By offering educational opportunities, you allow your best employees to become even more skilled, and it’s all thanks to your company.

Organizational Opportunities

Giving your employees freer movement within the hierarchy of the company will help employees to engage and create even more opportunities for themselves. With turnover on the rise, sometimes the only way to retain a talented employee is to give them an entirely new job. By giving employees the opportunity to branch out in the work that they do for your company, you are showing them that they’ll have a place at your company and letting them discover that place for themselves.

You don’t need to be a tech giant or a fortune 500 company to have an effective employee perks program. An effective employee perks program is one that helps your employees to get more out of work, not one that tries to make work into some cut-rate carnival. By choosing perks that promote enjoyment, purpose and opportunity, you will help increase the performance of your employees, thereby increasing their job satisfaction.

Some extra slack or a fun outing will still help, but the perks that work are the ones that contribute to a more driven, relaxed and rewarding work environment.

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