The new benefit your employees want is time alone

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I remember reading many stories about a few Google employees who lived in RVs parked outside the company’s global headquarters in Mountain View, California. Their reasoning was simple: why throw away my money when the company provides everything I need?

Back then, it was a fun story, one that could only truly exist within the lavish and bizarre world of tech. Today there is a more horrified emotion that characterizes my reaction to these stories. I have come to see many benefits in the workplace not as a benefit for employees, but rather as a way to keep them in the office longer, later, and to encroach more on an already broken meaning. of the work-life balance that has saturated employment in the 21st century.

Yes, there is an element of businesses providing lifestyle benefits to their employees that feels attractive. It means some sort of luxury or comfort for workers, as if to say, “You can come home anytime you want, but you won’t want to when you see the snack bar!” But there is also something deeply sickening about it, as it involves a belief that is now all too common in many companies, but in the tech industry in particular, which is a place to work should be nearly impossible. to distinguish from the house.

I once worked with an engineering chief who said it very well. During a bare-handed meeting, he was asked why the company did not have (despite a number of nice amenities in the office) “nap rooms” or spaces where people could hang out. rest before returning to work? With a wry little smile, he said, “This is not your house. It’s work. We don’t want you to spend 12 hours a day here. We want you to come in, do your job well, and come home with your family and friends.

We’re already seeing a lot of differences in the way businesses have responded to the work-from-home transition. Many have adopted it. Others have allowed it, but are desperate to get workers back to the office, fearing productivity may secretly decline (despite evidence to the contrary).

In most cases, it seems that employers are looking for a way to “recreate the office” and try to occupy only a little more space in the lives of their employees. And they do so by offering perks that closely mimic those they previously operated in offices.

Ironically, the employees are closer to the desk than they’ve ever been before: it’s no longer an engineer or two who decide to live in the parking lot, but the global majority of knowledge workers who sleep next to the parking lot. office. Working days have also become longer.

So, in the age of remote working, what kinds of benefits should employers be offering their employees? The answer is simple: let them do their jobs well, come home and give them the space they need to build their own lives outside of work.

Disconnect between employee benefits and company benefits

Many tech companies are now sending their employees boxes of snacks. The employer believes this shows that they care about the health of their employees. And for many employees, it can also feel that way. But I see something more selfish at play. It implies that people are going to be sitting at their desks, working while they eat. It also suggests that your employees need to recognize that they are being treated well enough to forgive long nights and early mornings serving the company.

The “business benefits” aren’t inherently bad, but they shouldn’t be confused with the real ways businesses can actually help their employees. No amount of free snacks will compensate an employee for wasted time with family and friends that will not be recouped.

So what are some examples of real employee benefits? Here are some examples:

  • Pay your employees well
  • Covering 75% or more of their health care premium costs
  • Encourage leave, not out of policy, but out of need
  • Do not send messages or emails to your employees after 6 p.m.
  • Provide flexible, non-linear workdays that allow employees to keep fluid schedules

It’s not just about protecting employees; it’s also about preventing attrition. The Great Resignation is the result of millions of people living in a time of chaos and wondering if it is worth the stress to continue working. It is up to the employer to prove that he is worth it, and that it should not come at the expense of their well-being.

Flexible working days are the future

There is now a silver lining for all of us to spend more time with those we love, and employers have a huge opportunity to aggressively defend this concept even by changing company policy.

Companies like Dropbox are doing away with the traditional workweek, implementing non-linear workdays that allow employees to work around a three to four hour period when everyone is expected to be online and available for meetings. , then to adapt his days as he sees fit.

There are powerful changes that emerge as a result of non-linear working days. They limit the number of meetings within an organization by reducing collaboration time into fewer hours: a welcome change given that, according to a report generated by my firm, meetings have increased by 69.7% since start of the pandemic.

It also allows employees to have a more fluid life, which better reflects the state of care and education. People need to be able to take the time to care for their families and take care of themselves without fear of reprisal from their employer.

Finally, he recognizes something that we have known for many years: there are not many productive hours in the day. Employers tend to view the hours worked in a week as proportional to overall productivity, and the reality is that many of those hours don’t lead to better results.

If you choose to embrace non-linear workdays, don’t fall into the trap of using them to create an “always on” culture. The after-hour is always the after-hour, and free time is always free time.

Mission is what matters

What happens at work is also important for employee happiness and fulfillment, but it doesn’t come from creating a workplace that people never want to leave. This is because people feel a healthy sense of attachment to their work, care about the mission they are in, fully and confidently knowing that it can always take a back seat to their personal needs.

Give them that sense of purpose, and your employees won’t look elsewhere for free snacks.


Henry Shapiro is the co-founder of Reclaim.ai, A Smart Friend For Your Calendar based in Portland, Oregon. Prior to Reclaim, Shapiro was Vice President of Products at New Relic, where he worked on new customer acquisition and new product development.


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