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Studies continue to show that workers (especially Millennials) desire more than a paycheck. Job satisfaction can come from working in organizations that have meaningful and authentic social and environmental values. It can also come from a whole host of benefits beyond those traditionally found in the workplace for salaried employees, such as health care, dental, vision, paid time off, and retirement savings.
Here are a few of these “non-traditional” benefits that can lead to greater job satisfaction:
1. Unlimited Time Off
While there are a few companies that offer unlimited paid time off without restriction, other companies provide it for company-approved volunteer activities. The theory is that workers are adults and should be treated as such. In other words, if they can get their work done and still engage in activities that are meaningful to them, they will ultimately be more loyal to the company, perform better and more efficiently, be more energized and strive to exceed expectations.
Some of the companies offering unlimited paid time off (PTO) (without being restricted to volunteer activities) most notably include Virgin and Netflix. According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s research, this leads to a more engaged workforce because management is trusting employees to manage their own time in a way that serves their personal needs while still getting the work done. It also can be a BIG selling point in attracting talent. Finally, it can help a company cut down on the expense of tracking PTO.
Of course, unlimited paid time off, be it for personal growth, leisure, or volunteering, is not for every business. Some businesses (manufacturing plants, restaurants, small retail stores) require employees be available for set and regular hours. But in businesses that have the flexibility to offer unlimited PTO, the benefits can be profound.
2. Workplace Amenities
It used to be that employers would entice workers n private offices, an impressive holiday party, free coffee, and maybe tickets to see the local sports teams play or to the symphony. In the dot-com craze, when shared workspaces became the norm, video games, a ping pong table, free snacks (sometimes, free meals), on-site gyms, and a keg on tap were used to induce recruits. These days, some companies are taking work place amenities to a whole new level with nap rooms, meditation and yoga rooms, on-site child care, weekly happy hours, free concerts, alternative commuting options and public transit passes, and on-site health services.
Of course, having the amenities can attract talented candidates, but the key is also giving them the freedom (i.e. permission) to utilize the amenities without any negative repercussions.
An interesting development in some workplaces has been the use of fieldtrips for workgroups and teams. This type of collective activity allows for out-of-the-office bonding and has also been shown to improve performance, increase productivity, build morale, and relieve stress.
These collective experiences could be taking time off for a volunteer charity project, a sporting event (I recommend a baseball game given its length and flow that allows for conversation), a ski/snowshoe/snowmobile/surfing day, a nature hike, rock climbing (outdoor or indoor), a cooking class, or even group participation in an escape room. Outings that challenge employees physically and mentally can inspire creativity, build trust, and bring the team closer together.
More and more companies are realizing that providing the benefit of a sabbatical to long time workers, leads to more engaged, dedicated, and harder-working employees. It can also attract and help retain top talent, counteract burnout, and lead to new-found creativity and perspective for returning workers.
Sabbaticals are considered a time to recharge, a time to study, travel, or simply do something away from the rigors of the workplace for an extended period of time. In fact, Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies To Work For 2016” list includes 20 well-known companies that offer fully paid sabbaticals. And, according to the 2016 SHRM Benefits Survey, sabbaticals are increasingly popular among today’s employees.
5. Summer Hours
Everyone likes to enjoy their summer – especially, those workers who have kids that are out of school. Accordingly, many companies implement “summer hours,” allowing workers to take Friday afternoons (or sometimes, the complete day) off. A recent survey of Fortune 1000 companies showed that this is the new perk--with 42 percent of companies participating, up from 21 percent in 2015.
Of course, encouraging summer hours also takes the confidence that workers will be responsible for completing tasks on time, fulfilling commitments, making up the time throughout the week, and not abuse the privilege. Implementing Summer Hours with a certain amount of flexibility is the key, as some workers will not prefer to work more during the week to have less time at the office on Fri; others might just want to leave work a couple of hours early on Friday.
In the end, as is the case with many of these benefits that cultivate employee engagement, workers want to be engaged on their terms around their own needs, interests and passions. If a company can tap into those things, then talented workers will follow.