Making us all more productive at work can be hard for employers—but perks and benefits often ease the battle.
While some corporations provide employees with free snacks, corporate discounts, and ample vacation days, others afford more surprising amenities and perks, like nap pods, on-site bars and treadmill desks, to keep their employees motivated.
But do these bizarre, lavish incentives improve workflow and productivity? Opinions vary.
Prof. Jeffrey Pfeffer, of Stanford University, studies workplaces extensively and says such added benefits are useful only where there’s a positive corporate culture that values employees and rewards their work beyond just attractive perks. “What matters is whether companies let employees make decisions, offer them reasonable job security, and treat them with respect. Not whether or not they give them free food,” he says. “Those are nice things, and they may represent the corporate attitude, but if they’re all you do, they’re worthless.”
For example, your company might provide an on-site masseuse to alleviate stress, but if you don’t have enough control over your work to be able to manage that stress in the first place, the masseuse won’t do so much for your productivity and happiness. “Perks and benefits are an indicator of whether or not the organization is building an employee-based culture, but they’re not a perfect indicator,” Pfeffer says. Still, there is no doubt these perks help employee performance to some degree. “Many of these perks have two functions: removing unnecessary distractions; and keeping people at work.”
Luxuries like childcare, on-site dry cleaning and generous medical benefits make employees’ personal lives a bit easier and allow them to be more focused at work. Also, you’re less likely to leave the office if you’re given free food and on-site fitness rooms. “Employees don’t waste time driving to and from those service providers,” Pfeffer says.
Some perks are more effective than others, according to Claire Tompkins, a workplace productivity consultant. Tompkins says amenities that improve employee health, such as ergonomic goodies and on-site personal trainers, can have a dramatic effect. “They’re more personal,” she says. “It’s important to feel cared for by employers and not just as if someone is cracking the whip.” But the corporate culture must be made right, too, no matter how many treats the office contains. If your boss didn’t use the nap pod, would you? “If you feel you have no input in the company, no amount of amenities will fix that,” Tompkins says.
It turns out the most worthy workplace luxuries of all are the time-saving incentives.
“Today, time is more valuable than money,” she says. “So although a financial bonus is great, perks that save people time, like shuttle services, daycare and on-site dry cleaning, are actually worth more in terms of quality of life.”
Here are 10 of the best workplace luxuries.
On-site massage chair/massage therapist
Work is stressful. How about a massage? Companies including LinkedIn, Charles Schwab, Coldwell Banker, Intel, SAS and Samsung provide chair massages to employees, though sometimes only at special events. Massage therapy services aren’t always free—but the convenience factor of having it on-site makes it an appealing perk, nonetheless.
As seen at: LinkedIn, Washington Mutual, American Express, Kinko’s and more.
Popularized by Google, this chair-helmet combination allows you to take a quick snooze on the job. After being lulled to sleep by “soothing sounds,” you are put into a perfect position for a nap, the manufacturer says, taking “pressure off of the cardiac system.”
As seen at: Google
The stress of cleaning your house may be a distraction at work—so Akraya, an IT staffing firm, found a solution. It sends professional cleaners to employees’ homes twice a month. Akraya offers another outrageous benefit: fun. The company’s website says: “OK, so we also have fun – quite a bit of it, especially when just working here is a lot of fun. Pressures abound, but we manage to handle it with élan, while finding time to break out, shoot at the pool table, or get out a couple of beers.”
As seen at: Akraya
On-site doctor’s office
Since 1984, software firm SAS has provided an on-site Health Care Center at its Cary, N.C. headquarters to assist employees with their health care needs. Health Care Center services—which range from physical exams to immunizations to breastfeeding education –are available at no cost to employees and their immediate family members covered by SAS health insurance. The 53-member staff includes 10 family nurse practitioners, four family practice physicians, three nutritionists, 10 nurses, a contractual psychologist and three contractual physical therapists.
As seen at: SAS
The Treadmill Desk (TrekDesk)
Losing up to 57 pounds a year is easy if you can just walk and type at the same time, says Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, creator of the Treadmill Desk. Dr. Levine says if you replaced eight hours a day sitting at your “normal” desk with work at a Treadmill Desk, you’d be sure to drastically decrease your health and weight problems.
Price: $479 (includes just desk apparatus, not treadmill)
As seen at: The office of the chief executive of Music.com
A baby monitor doesn’t help much when you’re at the office miles from home and baby, but a day care Webcam, which some day care centers have begun offering, can ease your mind. You can log on remotely at work, via computer or phone, and see what blocks your little rascal is playing with at any hour of the day. But the places do charge a premium for such access, and not all employers will cover it.
Price: Up to $1,550 per month
As seen at: Deloitte (underwrites the costs of child care at establishments with Webcams)
Drinking on the job isn’t encouraged at Yelp, a social media, user review and local search website—but the company does have an on-site mini bar and adult beverage machines, also known as “KegMates.” Four Yelp engineers created the KegMate, a high-tech beer dispenser, in 2010, while a group of Yelp staffers conceived the mini bar a few years back. “The beer is free for employees and guests, but it’s worth noting that consumption happens after regular business hours are over, for those who want to relax and hang out a bit with colleagues,” says Stephanie Ichinose, a Yelp spokesperson. She says other Yelp perks include a large on-site kitchen, eating area, pool tables, ping pong, videogame room, and video conferencing capabilities for company- Employees at TripAdvisor also enjoy an on-site kegerator.
As seen at: Yelp and TripAdvisor.
Dealer.com, an automotive web solutions provider based in Burlington, Vermont, serves its employees locally-sourced organic food at the on-site organic café. That’s not all. Dealer.com staff gets 50% off of ski passes at local mountains. In addition, the company offers free access to its sports complex, which features an indoor tennis and basketball court, a full gym with cardio and strength training equipment, a state of the art ping-pong table, and a 150-person theater, among other perks. Many other organizations are starting to offer employees organic food, in addition to other perks that promote healthy living.
As seen at: Dealer.com
Corporate headquarters can be a sprawling spread ostentatiously called a “campus,” and that can make traveling to meetings cumbersome. So why not give employees scooters to get around on? That’s what Abercrombie and Fitch and Google did. It could compete against the Treadmill Desk–should you be running while staying right at your desk or standing still when leaving your desk?
Price: $399 to $1,230 for electric models
As seen at: Abercrombie and Fitch, Google
On-site laundry/dry cleaning
Companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter, among others, compete for the best talent. One way to do this: offer the best workplace luxuries. These companies all offer employees on-site laundry rooms or dry cleaning services to make their lives a little bit easier.