Whether it is free lunches or private healthcare, many companies now offer various perks alongside the usual paid holiday allowance. Technology companies are known for providing staff with extravagant perks, including snack bars, gym memberships and yoga classes.
However, research suggests it’s the simple benefits that matter to us the most. A survey of 2,000 people in the UK by the employee engagement firm Sodexo Engage found that finishing early on a Friday is the most desired perk.
From summer hours, nap rooms and even fertility treatments, employees said that heading home early at the end of the week is the benefit they desire. But why is it so important to us — and do early finish Fridays pay off for employers too?
“There’s often a lot of pressure for employees to progress and hit targets, which is why offering perks like flexible working and Friday hours supports a healthy work-life balance. It also shows that as a business, you value your employees whilst encouraging them to perform their best for a great return,” says Emma Yearwood, director of HR at Sodexo Engage.
“Whether you provide practical benefits or alternative perks to improve a person’s lifestyle, what’s clear is with 59.8% of people saying that they’re more likely to stay at a company if they provided great perks, getting your employee benefits right is vital for staff retention.”
One of the key benefits of allowing employees to finish early on a Friday is that flexibility is an easy way to boost morale. As we have seen in the last year, the traditional 9-5 is fast becoming a thing of the past. The pandemic has brought vast changes to the way we are living and working, with many office employees now working from home and deciding their own hours.
We’ve encountered the usual challenges of home-working, like feeling a little stir crazy, struggling with isolation and juggling work with childcare. According to some researchers, though, working “atypical” hours can actually make us more productive.
Of a poll of more than 575 full-time employees, only 10% of remote workers have been working the traditional 9-5 shift during the COVID-19 crisis, with 41% have been working “atypical” non-eight hour schedules.
Among those working atypical schedules, 91% reported better work quality, overall performance (90%), focus and engagement (89%), and ability to meet deadlines (88%). Those working atypical schedules were also more likely than their typical counterparts to feel successful developing professional skills and meeting performance standards.
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Giving employees more flexibility may mean they are more likely to "own" their work and do a good job on their terms by boosting trust and job satisfaction. On the other hand, rigid work
schedules which require workers to be at their desks until 5pm every day may actually undermine productivity, engagement and ultimately, happiness.
Employers may argue that allowing workers to work fewer hours is bad for business. However, research suggests this is untrue.
According to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), letting people leave early on a Friday - or any day of the week - makes little or no impact on the bottom line. Workers are likely to make up the time if they need to, meaning offering flexibility is a low cost way to boost morale.
Research into shorter, four-day weeks suggests a similar outcome. In 2019, researchers at the University of Reading’s Henley Business School surveyed a number of businesses that have adopted a four-day working week and found that they were making savings of almost £92bn ($127bn) (around 2% of total turnover) each year.
Two thirds of UK businesses operating on a four-day week reported improvements in staff productivity, with staff taking fewer days off sick.
Ultimately, employees appreciate having more control over their schedules as they juggle personal and professional obligations. Of all the work perks, treating people like adults giving them more control over their lives is the most important. An early finish on a Friday or flexible working recognises that workers are humans with personal lives and responsibilities - and it benefits businesses too.
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