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3 Reasons Office Perks Are the New Normal

Kimberly Cassady

Chief Talent Officer, Cornerstone

It's no secret that Millennials—the founders of social media and the first generation of employees raised on technology—have different aspirations and desires than their Baby Boomer parents. And there's no better place to witness these changing desires than to take a look at the evolution of office perks.

Simply put, the modern workforce demands more from employers. While standard medical, dental and 401k plans are still the backbone of any benefits package, many companies now boast flexible work schedules, unlimited vacation time and on-site lunch. A few even go so far as to offer free massages, gourmet coffee and yoga classes in hopes of attracting top talent and keeping their employees satisfied.

According to a report from the Society for Human Resources Management, working from home was virtually unheard of and wellness programs were rare twenty years ago. In 2016, the percentage of businesses that allowed remote work was 60 percent and climbing.

So, what are some of the driving forces motivating companies to rethink their office perks?

1) People Work at All Hours

Employees used to go into the office, work for eight hours and then leave whatever they had to finish up for the next day. Today, due to mobile technology advancements, people now take their jobs with them wherever they go.

"We now text and email everything and all of this can take place on our personal phones," said Jennifer Martin, founder of Zest Business Consulting. "The result is that the lines have been blurred between what is work time and what is business time."

Whether it's answering calls on nights and weekends or checking email on vacation, today's workforce is always on. Over the past ten years, telecommuting has increased from 20 to 60 percent. The trend has pros and cons: While some feel work-life balance is ever harder to achieve, technology has also enabled flexible work hours. A recent Stanford study found that allowing employees to work from home increased productivity by 13 percent.

2) Our Work Culture Impacts Employee Wellness

Over the past few years, a number of reports have been released about the importance of breaks and the physical impact of working at a desk all day long. Studies show that it's best to work for 52 minutes and take 17-minute breaks in order to be more productive, and sitting all day at a desk has been called "the new smoking."

As a result, wellness programs have grown in popularity.In hopes of cultivating a more productive workforce, employers are encouraging their employees to get up from their desks and go on a walk to refocus, attend a yoga class or take advantage of on-site massages and meditations. From awareness to accountability, employers are taking a more proactive role in improving their employees' physical and mental health.

3) Unemployment Is Low

At 4.6 percent, the unemployment rate in the U.S. is at its lowest in ten years. A low unemployment rate means increased competition between employers for the best candidates, forcing companies to find new ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

"Employers are having a hard time attracting and retaining top talent. The demand for perks is expected in order to attract the best employees," said Julie Wootton, a human resources consultant and recruiter for San Diego Human Resources Consulting Inc. "Some employers have the philosophy that by creating a great work environment, it will attract and retain top talent."

So whether you see them as necessary or extravagant, office perks are far from fluff: The trend is driven by real changes in the workforce, and can benefit your company as a whole. "The positive work environment transcends itself into [all business] relationships," said Wootton. "A happy employee is more likely to create a positive experience for customers, colleagues and partners."

Photo: Creative Commons

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