Do employees want trust or toys?
Maria Mander, October 09, 2018
Flexible working and trust has always been more important to me than the salary. Without flexible working I wouldn't have been able to manage Child Care and be there for all of the very important ...
Read More Allison Stott
October 11, 2018 19:07
Some may argue that combining work, play and sleep in the office is actually bad for wellbeing
The other day a tweet caught my attention. Remotive founder Rodolphe Dutel tweeted: 'Dear tech companies, employers don’t need ping-pong tables or beer fridges at work. Employees need flexibility to do their best work and enjoy life. For instance, working remotely. Please offer trust, not toys.'
It clearly resonated with a lot of people – it’s attracted 1,200 comments, 31,000 retweets and 134,000 likes. And not just from those working in tech, but across all sectors.
The idea of the ‘hipster office’ with slides, bars and games consoles started in Silicon Valley, but the trend was quickly adopted by businesses around the world that wanted to appear cool, friendly and fun. But are these perks really the incentives employees want?
Work, play, sleep
Arguably, break-out spaces for socialising can be good for morale and collaboration. It’s important to take time away from your desk and interact with teammates. And features such as quiet zones and even nap pods encourage staff to rest when they need to.
But some may argue that combining work, play and sleep in the office is actually bad for wellbeing. It could be perceived as the business creating a space where you can live 24/7 and, in practice, people need to be able to separate their personal and work lives.
After-work socials, extravagant Christmas parties and even team holidays abroad are other benefits some businesses promote. But, again, how much of an incentive are these? They may sound generous in theory, but such perks ask employees to sacrifice their personal time for the business. Employees are giving up time they might otherwise have spent with loved ones to be with colleagues – people they may not wish to engage with outside of work – doing something that may not be their idea of fun.
For some businesses there is also the issue of drinking cultures. Whether celebrating successes, anniversaries or engaging in client entertainment, often activities focus around alcohol. This not only isolates people who don’t drink (whether for religious, health or personal reasons) it also seems to go against modern trends. Drinking rates among UK adults are at their lowest since 2005, with research suggesting Millennials aren’t drinking as much as previous generations did when they were younger. Although this social side of business might be thought of as a ‘treat’, for many it simply isn’t that tempting and may have the reverse effect of alienating people.
A balancing act
There’s been a huge movement towards improvements in wellbeing over recent years, which is reflected in the kinds of benefits employees want. People are moving away from the idea of round-the-clock working and always being busy as a sign of success. As employees, we’re more aware of the risks associated with burning out, and don’t want to ‘live to work’. We’re more open about mental health and able to prioritise our self-care.
The traditional nine to five – or in a lot of cases eight to six or later – doesn’t necessarily fit with our changing attitudes or behaviours when it comes to looking after our mental and physical health. Especially when you consider that a commute of an hour or more one way isn’t uncommon for a lot of people. This is just one of the reasons people are asking to work more flexibly; either at home, working different hours or even reducing a five-day week to four or three days.
And if we’re honest the traditional nine to five isn’t even necessary for a lot of jobs. Technology means it’s never been easier for people to work from anywhere at any time. But a lot of businesses have been slow to adapt and give staff what they want. As Dutel’s tweet suggests, it’s often down to trust. Some employers fear that if they can’t see and hear their team in the office then they’ll bunk off. But this paranoia needs to stop.
It’s up to businesses to look at ways they can implement real flexible working options for all staff. They need to create a working culture that promotes working smarter not harder. And they need to look at incentives to make sure they’re not being blinded by glitzy gimmicks. Staff benefits need to have people, their wellbeing, health and happiness at heart.
The expectations and hopes we have from our careers are changing. More of us are choosing to be self-employed. And while the economy is one factor causing this trend, the want and need to be able to work flexibly and create a lifestyle that allows time for all aspects of our life (family, friends, health, creativity, travel and hobbies) is another. If businesses want to compete with this they need to look at how they can offer trust and flexibility as an incentive – and start to put the treats away in the toy box.
Maria Mander is founder of Mander Wellbeing and a corporate wellbeing coach