Tech companies – and not just the giants – have gained an impressive reputation for offering perks to employees that can range from the seriously sublime (Microsoft rewards staff with a hand sculptured work of art for every 5 years of service) to the faintly ridiculous (AirBnB’s Dublin office allows staff to bring their pets to work).
Feeding staff well has always been a huge part of the package. The food on offer in many of these companies has achieved near legendary status with Google one of the first companies to offer free food to their employees. Facebook’s Menlo Park Headquarters in California has been designed to mimic a downtown urban environment, including numerous food choices.
These kinds of perks also entice staff to stay onsite for longer and encourage informal collaborations with fellow workers while moving around the campus so have a number of productivity benefits as well.
Do Perks Matter?
But do all these perks really matter, in the intense battle to attract and retain talent in the global marketplace? Not according to a recent study by LinkedIn, which found that what employees actually care about the most are core benefits such as time off and flexibility. 44% of employees rated health coverage, paid time off and parental leave as the factors most likely to keep them at their companies. By contrast, only 19% said they would stay for in-office perks such as food, gyms, and games rooms.
Flexibility is particularly important at certain life stages and for the largest demographic within the workforce – parents – who can face an intense juggling of career and family responsibilities.
More Irish employees than ever want to avail of flexible working conditions. They don’t always get the chance, however. Although practices are changing slowly, Irish companies have been notoriously reluctant to introduce measures to enable staff to work outside of the office, mostly due to fears around loss of control.
Commuting in Dublin
Cutting out the commute seems like a no-brainer.
Shortly after I moved back to Dublin from living in London, I took a taxi to the city centre. The driver and I engaged in idle chit chat about the heavy traffic (probably not even so bad that particular day) and he commented that the city’s biggest problem was that everyone living in the north side seemed to work on the south side and vice versa. After spending 15 years crisscrossing the city on a daily basis and experiencing some spectacular traffic jams, I can only concur.
A recent report ranked Dublin’s traffic congestion as among the worst in Europe. Inrix, a global company that specialises in transportation analytics, reported that Dublin drivers spent a staggering 246 hours in traffic in 2018.
According to the report’s ‘Hours Lost in Congestion’ metric, which compares the total number of hours lost in congestion during peak commute periods compared to ‘free-flow’ conditions, Dublin was the third-worst city (200 cities from 38 countries were analysed). The other European cities where drivers spend the most time in their cars were Rome (254 hours), Paris (237 hours) and London (227 hours). Dublin also has the slowest city centre in all of Europe, an extraordinary statistic.
AON, a global HR consultancy firm, identifies Employee Engagement as an organization’s great differentiator in their 2018 Trends report, which surveyed 8m employees in 1,000 companies globally. Engagement is especially important during times of change and instability. Engaged employees are advocates for their companies, plan to stay long term and strive to give their employers their best efforts. A key driver of engagement is “Enabling Infrastructure”. Essentially empowering employees to do their jobs and do them well.
So while playing ping pong with your colleagues might be a fun thing to do, and free food is always welcome, employees are mostly interested in using their time well and efficiently and having the autonomy to do their jobs in the most effective way possible.
“The trouble is, you think you have time.” Buddha