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One-off perks ineffective in boosting morale

Chances to exercise or opportunities for a greater work/life balance might work better

Employers are using ineffective quick-fix perks in an attempt to boost employee morale, according to research from Cyclescheme seen exclusively by HR magazine.

The study of 1,000 UK employees found that only a quarter felt generally optimistic about the future, with 58% saying economic and political uncertainty has made them feel anxious at work because of fears of redundancy (23%), higher workloads (24%), and negative atmospheres in the workplace (20%).

Around a quarter (23%) of workers polled said their employer provides them with one-off perks (such as company drinks, an early finish or discount vouchers), with 35% of those receiving such perks believing they are used only when their employer thinks morale is especially low.

However, just 15% of employees surveyed said quick-fix benefits would improve their happiness at work. Instead, participants suggested they would respond better to more chances to exercise (34%), more time to switch off mentally (28%), or opportunities for a greater work/life balance (37%).

Almost half (47%) of those getting one-off perks said they believed that their employer used them to compensate for long working hours, and 37% of employees thought they are used because their employer does not want to invest more time and effort into improving long-term happiness and motivation among staff.

Adrian Warren, director at Cyclescheme, said employers should understand the link between happiness and better performance. “Helping employees to be happier more often and for a longer period of time is one of the most powerful ways a business can improve morale and productivity,” he said. “Often leaders think that giving staff ‘popular’ perks like team drinks or a company lunch are what employees want most, but it’s having initiatives that will help them adopt healthier behaviours over the long term that are of the greatest value."

Warren added that employers are not currently getting recognition right. “It’s clear that not enough employers are helping employees get the right benefits that make a genuine impact on their health and happiness,” he said. “In an uncertain economic climate, companies must do more to listen to what employees want and give them initiatives that will have a lasting effect on their wellbeing.”