Hangover Days, Informal Dress Codes and Dogs in the Office - how to make quirky perks work in your organisation

By Madlena Pozlevic, Employee Experience Lead at Perkbox

We can all agree that the majority of today’s workplaces look vastly different from those of a generation ago. Open plan offices are now the norm, as are perks like flexible working and private health benefits.

But what about the more 'controversial’ changes to our office environments like hangover days, office romances and dogs in the office? Do they make sense or are they simply a step too far?

1. The Pros

With the average employee now spending 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime, it makes sense that employers adjust perks at work to reflect this. For example, for many of today’s employees, it simply wouldn’t be possible to become a pet owner if their office wasn’t dog friendly - with the associated costs of pet sitters and the alternative of leaving a dog at home alone for long periods of time, which isn’t feasible.

Dogs at work can be a win-win, with research we carried out last year finding that 65% of employees believe that having dogs at work supports employees’ physical and mental health. What’s more, a further 72% of the UK’s workforce think dogs are particularly useful for overcoming stress at work.

The same applies to policies like informal dress codes. It goes without saying that if your employees feel comfortable at work, this can contribute to their wellbeing and productivity. It can also have a role to play in attracting talent – which helps explain why major corporations, such as JPMorgan, General Electric and IBM have all recently made a commitment to a more relaxed dress code as part of an effort to attract younger employees.

2. The Cons

But, the elephant in the room is that there is a fine line between informality and productivity – too much informality can cause HR issues. Be this workplace romances between employees at different levels of seniority, to employees sharing confidential work information with colleagues via Whatsapp or an office environment that creates excessive distractions.

When it comes to office romances, they may be more prevalent than you initially think. Our recent research shows many working Brits admit to having had a workplace romance throughout their lives and 31% have gone as far as cheating on a partner with a co-worker. We’ve also all heard about scandals like McDonalds’ which had to fire their Chief Executive for ‘violating company policy’ and having a relationship with a colleague.

It’s also important to create an office environment that doesn’t become one big distraction for employees. Ping pong tables and Friday drinks are great, but with 91% of employees more likely to be satisfied with a workplace that offers them a variety of work settings – workstations, breakout rooms and communal couches, combining office perks with functionality is king.

3. How to strike the right balance

It’s crucial to remember that every organisation is unique and a ‘one size fits all’ approach won’t be successful anywhere. A good idea could be to set up a working group of employees who help you understand the preferences of all your members of staff. If a large amount of your employees don’t like dogs, a dog-friendly office may not be the route to go down. But if on the flip side, a lot of people are dog owners, it may be a perk that makes sense.

The demographics of your workforce should also influence what types of policies you have in place. For example, maybe having ‘Hangover Days’ makes sense if your organisation is made up of millennials. This is the approach The Audit Lab has adopted with their thinking being that ‘Hangover Days’ are an alternative perk for those who don’t have children and don’t avail of flexible working.

After spending some time reflecting back, it’s now your turn to focus on your own office environment. Do the perks echo what employees really want? Are there some unnecessary formalities in place? What can be done to make some positive changes? It’s your time to take action!

The Business Transformation Network have shared this article in partnership with Perkbox.

This article was a featured article from Friday 28th February 2020 - Tuesday 10th March 2020