Pamper and please for perks

Pampering your staff is back, and I’m not talking about free coffee or monthly birthday cakes. Even with unemployment levels being what they are, fear of retaining employees (especially your stars) is running rampant, with non-traditional perks being the latest attraction to recruit and retain employees.

This week’s trend looks into a few of these newfound perks to pamper. Today’s workforce is so different as many work from home, are mobile and spend most of their time at other locations, and many work around the clock. (Thank you, technology.) Some of the most popular perks today are ad-agency creative and extremely effective — unstructured time, idea jams with cash rewards, a day off every 60 days for philanthropy (at a charity of the employee’s choice), dog-friendly days, multiple cafés that are complimentary, free onsite laundry and dry cleaning, baby cash for new parents, mind massages and eyebrow waxing!

Work spaces (“offices” sound passé) and lounges (“break rooms” are a thing of the past) are tempting employees to jump ship or costing employers a bundle in renovations to retain great staff members. With the turning economy, there is definitely a “mini boom” in office remodels. Private offices and cubicles are being replaced with brighter, more open workspaces with fewer walls and a playful decor. Think shared spaces with long tables occupied by “teams,” bench seating and exposed ceilings with lots of natural light. Tech and social media firms are known for their perks, and Facebook is a prime example with its new 1 million-sq-ft (92,903-sq-m) headquarters and a no-private-office or cubicle priority. Although mini-conference rooms are available when privacy is needed, even executives will occupy freestanding desks.

Starting with the king of pampering policies, it’s not hard to imagine Google offering one amazing list of perks! In fact, its workplace may sound like a fantasy to many and childish to some. Renowned chefs prepare some unbelievable cuisine, and the aura of the brightly colored offices equipped with bouncy balls and drool-worthy art are blatantly obvious. 

But one of the most famous Google perks is that employees are allowed to devote one day a week — or 20% of their total work time — to anything they want!

The break room has been replaced with a variety of themes such as a comfy sofa lounge, adult game room (as AOL offers) or, in the case of Target, a cozy mountain cabin space for employees to relax, get away and simply re-energize from their work. 

I’ll leave you with a water-cooler conversation list of corporations that have gone above and beyond the standard with their perks. As you scan the list, keep your own property or business in mind and take special note that not all of this outside-the-box pampering requires massive budgets to implement. In fact, a prime example is the keep-it-simple staff pleaser offered by the CEO of DreamWorks. Enjoy!

SAS Institute (North Carolina): Subsidized Montessori childcare and a free health care center.

Patagonia (California): Days off for parents to participate in their children’s classroom activities.

Pixar Animation (California): Free film screenings onsite during the work day. Office décor resembles a film set. Interns get their names in movie credits.

Zappos (Nevada): Use of fleet vehicles to and from meetings and the airport. Pet insurance. Tank-top Tuesdays. Nap rooms. Laughter yoga classes.

Kimpton Hotels (California): Housekeeping Olympics with blindfolded bed making and a vacuum dash competition. A US$10,000 employee prize for best service.

JM Family Enterprises (Florida): Complimentary haircuts. A fleet of yachts for employee use. (You know, just in case!)

DreamWorks (California): Accessibility to CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, who sends a daily update to the staff making it feel as though 200 — instead of 2000 — people work there.