If you work for an East Anglian business, one of the best perks that your employer can offer you will be paid overtime. You will also be keen on a company laptop and the option to work from home. However, if your boss decides to open the doors and encourage you to leave early on a sunlit Friday afternoon, then your average East Anglian employee will be less than impressed.
Up in Scotland the average employee will be buoyant that their boss gives them a day off for their birthday but not so keen on the introduction of ping pong tables near their desks. Those in the South West are very satisfied with flexible working hours but don’t even try to offer them a free beer!
These are some of the findings from a survey of more than 2,000 employees working in small-to-medium enterprises by insurer Hiscox (February 2018), looking at the most and least popular UK workplace perks for SME employees.
Overall, it discovered that SME bosses were offering a plethora of perks with the most common being company sick pay, maternity and paternity leave, paid overtime and dedicated Christmas leave.
The survey found that paid overtime was the UK’s super-perk with 41% of UK workers saying it was their favourite. Also, most popular amongst employees were company sick pay, flexible hours and unlimited holidays. Perks they were least interested in were days off for volunteering, season ticket loans and again, mysteriously, free beer!
Hiscox found that London is where employees get the most perks, with East Midlands being the least well served. Men receive more perks than women - as do those in the age range between 25 and 34.
Hiscox has used the findings to create a Workplace Perks tool. By inputting information such as their region, age, annual salary and gender into the tool an employee can look at what perks their peers are receiving. Employers can also use the tool to determine what perks will be the most cost effective and allow them to best retain and attract staff.
“Attracting and retaining the right employees is incredibly important for SMEs,” explains Steve McGerr, Head of Direct Commercial for Hiscox UK. “The tool’s designed to help business owners understand what employees really value, to help them bring in the best talent. It’s not all about sweetening the pot with pricey perks like ‘beer o’clock Fridays’ or unlimited holiday. Employees value the perks that are most relevant to their day-to-day lives. Paid overtime, flexible working hours and the option to work from home are all highly valued perks, which an SME could conceivably implement.”
Simon Bland, Account Director at Zest Benefits, says more SMEs are recognising the importance of perks. “It was once the preserve of larger organisations, but SMEs now see it as a useful tool to retain and attract staff,” he says. “As a business grows just offering employees bigger bonuses and salaries becomes less economically effective. Benefits and perks can work better but you need to understand your workforce and what appeals to them.”
Bland says this tailored approach can best be achieved via staff discussions and surveys, as well as analysing the age range and lifestyles of employees. “If you employ millennials then offering enhanced pension benefits may be less appealing than bike-to work-schemes,” he says. “Understand what is causing them sleepless nights and what will keep them engaged at work. Keep it under constant review and be ready to ditch the perks which are not working.”
London-based online property marketplace Hubble offers a range of perks from a biophilia allowance, so staff can populate their desks with healthy plants, to a tech allowance including MacBook Pro and subscriptions to Spotify. It also offers health insurance through Vitality Health, which entitles staff to 50% off gyms.
“The key consideration was giving things which would make employees happier to be in our company, and perhaps help them perform too,” explains Varun Bhanat, head of PR and Business Development. “All of the perks are incorporated into a normal working day as everyone listens to a lot of music and are keen gym-goers.”
Bhanat adds that the group periodically reviews its perk offerings by asking employees what they value most. “You also need to keep staff updated with how to access the perks and also what is currently available to them,” he says. “If not, staff may become apathetic.”
Where the opinions of third parties are offered, these may not necessarily reflect those of St. James’s Place.