As return-to-office transitions prove to be a tough sell, many companies are opting for the carrot over the stick by offering special return-to-work perks. Some notable examples include offerings from:
Google: Tech giant, Google, held a private concert with Lizzo and plans to continue offering events with “food and swag”.
Deliveroo: This food delivery company is offering daily breakfast, free massages, and smoothie bikes.
DailyPay: The financial services company is offering pet stipends for employees who return to the office.
Some criticize these perks as ineffective uses of an organization’s resources. Nick Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University, told the New York Times:
Employees aren’t going to come in regularly just for the frills. What are you going to do next? Get Justin Bieber and then Katy Perry?
To further evaluate the appropriateness of these offerings, it’s important to identify the various purposes that different perks can serve in an organization’s return-to-office plan.
Companies like Google are orchestrating return-to-work celebrations.
There are many potential motives for these types of perks. Their purpose may have been to create a feeling of excitement that leaves employees eager to jump back into the office. Along the same lines, employees may suspect these events are a sign of what’s to come, believing their companies have a newfound focus on cultivating exciting and fun experiences.
These celebrations may also help employees reconnect and build strong relationships with old colleagues or new workers they have yet to meet in person. By restoring and building new bonds in the context of an exciting celebration, employers may be hoping their employees will develop a strong desire to return to the office.
Rest And Relaxation Perks
Other businesses are making their offices a haven for rest and relaxation. For example, Kirsty Seaborne, head of people at Deliveroo, told the Financial Review that the company plans to offer breakfast, free massages, and smoothie bikes.
These perks make the office a place to go to feel good. As employees continue to recover from the sustained periods of stress they endured throughout the pandemic, these perks may prove highly valuable.
Aside from improving mental wellness, companies may offer rest and relaxation perks to establish a culture of health. By encouraging employees to engage in healthy behaviors at the office, organizations can quickly instill norms promoting these activities that spread through the employee population.
Another reason for offering happiness-promoting services is that happy employees are more productive. Thus, aside from promoting employee health, these return-to-office perks may help workers be more engaged and efficient with their work.
Companies like DailyPay offer various financial rewards to help employees feel a return to the office is worthwhile.
After years of financial struggle and rising inflation rates, these perks may signal to employees that their organizations are acutely aware of their financial needs and of the potential strain a return to the office can put on their budgets.
Like rest and relaxation perks, financial perks are more about improving each employee’s individual well-being than strengthening their relationships. However, financial offerings are less likely to make the office a place for fun or excitement. While celebrations and rest and relation perks make the office a feel-good destination, financial perks help employees reduce stress throughout their day and come to work with fewer financial concerns.
Financial perks can also save employers money. Some offerings (e.g., commuter perks) may reduce an employer’s taxable income and allow them to pay less on payroll taxes.
While many companies are adding on perks, some are taking them away. For example, Facebook parent company Meta announced it would be removing some of its notable services, like free laundry and dry cleaning.
At first glance, such a move may seem surprising. How could taking away unique perks help Meta with its return-to-work initiative? The answer lies in Meta’s larger perk strategy. While they have removed some offerings, they have added or expanded on others that are likely to have a more significant impact on the day-to-day well-being of their employees. A Meta spokesperson told the New York Times:
As we return to the office, we’ve adjusted on-site services and amenities to better reflect the needs of our hybrid workforce. We believe people and teams will be increasingly distributed in the future, and we’re committed to building an experience that helps everyone be successful.
As part of this plan, Meta has expanded employees’ yearly wellness stipends from roughly $700 to $3,000.
Such a shift may signal that an organization is more concerned with employees’ return-to-work experiences than with organizational optics. While concerts and laundry services are helpful, they may have a bigger impact on news headlines than on the lives of employees who work there.
The perks companies choose to support their return-to-office initiatives often reflect larger organizational goals and strategies. Sometimes, companies may be hoping to re-establish a sense of camaraderie and solidarity among employees. In other cases, the plan may be to support employee happiness and instill a culture of health.
To make the most efficient use of perks in your organization’s return-to-office transition, it is important to keep these various purposes in mind and identify the offerings that serve broader goals.