At least once a week there’s a blog or article written about the weird and wonderful perks that companies are giving their employees. Is there a competition that nobody told me about... has the category of "weirdest perks" been added to the Olympics or something?
Not to be difficult or controversial, but if this is a new category, I don’t want to enter! Instead, I’d suggest creating a new category called "happiness perks." Why? Because I’d rather focus on adding a bit of happiness to my workforce than introducing perks that are so bizarre that many don’t partake and/or understand. Also, as far as I can see, there are no studies/scientific research on the positive benefits of wierdness, but there is for happiness! Besides at Reward Gateway our strategy is to ‘make the world a better place to work’, so it fits in well with what I believe can make a difference with employee engagement.
So which perks for employees can bring happiness to your people? Below I’ve listed some to consider which are based on studies/scientific research. Some you may challenge, saying they are not perks. But as the definition of perk is to "make more cheerful, lively, or interesting," and I think they do just this.
A gratitude program
According to a study done at Eastern Washington University and another one by the University of Pennsylvania, there is a direct link between gratitude and happiness. By having in place a gratitude program, or in HR what we call a recognition program, we create an environment and opportunity where gratitude is regular and often. The studies show that there is a noticeable difference in happiness experienced with as little as using these 2 little words: thank you. By having a recognition program, whether formal or informal, online or paper-based, we have a better chance of creating happy moments for our employees, often for both the receiver and the sender.
A workplace that makes you smile
A 2011 Michigan State University study found that employees that smile are happier and more productive. After reading this I immediately thought of the workplace, and using the workplace to creating "smile moments." Inc’s World’s Coolest Offices shows some great examples of "smile moments," ranging from an elevated eagle’s nest where employees can curl up with a laptop, a food-truck inspired staff canteen, and even a slide which brings you down from a ‘crow’s nest’ meeting room. You may be thinking to yourself, great, but these all cost a lot of money, how can I do this? My suggestion is that if you don’t have a big budget to think of low- or no-cost ways to create this in your workplace, working with your employees to find their best "smile moments."
A wellness approach
A study by the University of Bristol showed that people who exercise on workdays are more productive, happier and suffer less stress than on non-gym days. Now I’m not suggesting that we all rush out and build a gym in our offices or introduce on-site exercise classes, as many of us don’t have the money and/or the space. What I am suggesting is that we look at how we can educate, encourage and support an approach and attitude to wellness. A few simple ways are by encouraging employees to get up and walk around during break times or at lunch, offering discounts at local gyms, offering discounts on wellness products, or even encouraging walking meetings.
Researchers at London School of Economics looked at the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness, and found that the more people volunteer, the happier they were. This should be no surprise as other evidence shows how volunteering can create social relationships with other volunteers and recipients, which as Michael Argyle says in The Psychology of Happiness “can be described as perhaps the greatest single cause of happiness.” If you don’t already have a formal or informal approach to volunteering, my suggestion is to work with your company and employees to find ways to do so. It can be as simple as organising a team volunteering event in your local community, which can not only create happiness but boost morale and support teamwork.
Let me conclude by offering one final tip, and that is whatever you do create happiness perks for employees that will fit your company, that employees will understand and relate to and will stick. I wish you all the best in achieving happiness at your company!
Debra is our Group Reward Director at Reward Gateway. She's our Rewards guru, having over 20 years experience as a rewards leader, speaker, teacher and an author of a book on employee communications. She's most recently known as the co-author of "The Rebel Playbook for Employee Engagement," which she's writing with Founder Glenn Elliott.