Imagine a business where you were actively encouraged to sleep on the job, where there really was such thing as a free lunch and where you were required to spend a portion of your week doing whatever non-work related activity tickled your fancy. Employees would be delighted. But as a business owner you’re more likely to worry about the expense and endorsing bad work habits.

Yet such a world, pioneered by the tech behemoths of Silicon Valley, is becoming more and more common. Millennials, who by 2020 will make up 40% of the working population, are particularly infamous for demanding flexible work schedules and a strong work-life balance. But such ideas have also spread to the population at large – according to a 2015 Employee Insight report, 66% of staff consider good perks and benefits a motivator in whether they stay at a company.

Savvy business managers can make an implementation of employee perks work for them, and do so without commanding am Amazon-sized budget. Here’s how:

Nap pods

Budget-friendly option: Break culture

Google’s nap pods may be quirky, but they’re rooted in science – taking a 10-minute nap boosts cognitive performance for as long as 155 minutes. Luckily for employers unwilling to turn their office into an Ikea, similar benefits can be gained if employees simply take regular breaks for their work. Data from the productivity app DeskTime shows that the most productive employees take 17-minute breaks from every 52 minutes of work they complete.

Employers who make the effort to instil this break culture in their offices should therefore see a corresponding spike in overall activity. Communicate to employees the importance of resting their brain at regular intervals, and make it clear that such pauses are encouraged. Most importantly; lead by example! After all, your own brain needs refreshing too.

Unlimited holiday

Budget-friendly option: Flexitime

A company who owns an airline may have less salubrious reasons for allowing employees unlimited holidays, but Virgin’s recent announcement made it only the latest in a growing list of companies offering an uncapped holiday allowance. The reason for such a generous offer? Such policies correspond with rising levels of employee productivity and morale. Improving the latter is crucial to boosting the former; research shows that happy employees are 12% more productive.

You can create similar effects in your company by allowing flexitime work schedules. Putting faith in your employees to manage their own workloads is certain to be extremely popular – 74% of workers rank it in their top five most important aspects of a job. Lack of flexibility is also one of the most common reasons cited for quitting a job, so a further benefit to businesses of implementing flexitime is that it will reduce staff turnover, saving time and money in rehiring and retraining costs.

Still worried about employees taking advantage of these policies to slack off? Don’t be. According to Kickstarter, employees actually took less days off when they were entitled to unlimited holiday.

Free on-site restaurants

Budget-friendly option: Snack basket

In Silicon Valley, top company chefs are poached more often than their breakfast eggs. This is unsurprising when you consider the finding that providing a free lunch for employees gives a 150% ROI. It’s not just that free food tends to make people happy (although, as demonstrated above, that does help productivity), it’s also about the type of food they’re being given. Workers who are properly nourished are more productive, more engaged and more creative, yet according to YouGov less than a third of adults are ‘fairly’ or ‘supremely’ healthy eaters.

Filling a food cupboard with healthy staples such as fruit or wholemeal bagels alleviates these problems. Furthermore, encouraging worker to linger on site when taking a break opens up time for them to socialise with their colleagues. Such socialising is extremely beneficial for businesses - a Gallup poll links strong social connections to boosted productivity, more passionate workers and a much higher retention rate.

Egg Freezing

Budget-friendly option: Birthday cards

Facebook’s offer to give female employees up to $20,000 to freeze their eggs may well be one of the more bizarre office perks out there, but it stems from the same principals as Google’s ‘baby bonding bucks’ for new parents or Boxed’s promise to pay for the weddings of its employees. Policies like this are intended to show that the company cares about the people they hire and values their contribution to the company.

Being nice to people is a virtue in itself, but an appreciative culture can also boost your bottom line. Surveys show that feeling valued by their employer motivates 93% of employees to work as hard as possible and convinces 85% to recommend their workplace to others. Conversely, 67% those who feel undervalued admit to slacking off, and half of them started looking for new employment within the year.

You don’t need to pay for expensive fertility treatments to make employees feel appreciated. Simple things such as acknowledging birthdays or other special occasion shows workers that they are regarded as more than just another cog in the wheel. Such acknowledgement encourages stronger employee loyalty and motivation.


Budget-friendly option: Idea box

This was one perk that was too much even for Google in its fully-fledged form; giving employees time to do their own thing each week apparently caused so much “goofing off” that they abandoned the policy. On the other hand, it was personal project time that lead to the creation of Gmail, Google Earth and Google News, so it would be foolish to write the practice off entirely.

Encouraging employees to occasionally switch their attention away from work gives them a chance to refocus and approach the task at hand with a new freshness. Allowing everyone, even junior staff, to voice their ideas, however wacky, cultivates creativity and makes people feel valued. You could find yourself amazed at how much a different perspective could revolutionise unproductive work practices.

By Beth Leslie, graduate jobs content writer for Inspiring Interns