There's a lot more to company perks these days than free coffee and good vacation policy. Done right, perks are a way for a company to show their employees who they are and what they value as a company. It's easy to talk about company values--until they cost you something. When you're defining your perk strategy, get inspired by these companies who are changing things up.

A New Way to Do Vacation

The 86 Co is a spirits company 'by bartenders for bartenders'. CEO Malte Barnekow found research to indicate that the true benefits of a holiday can only be felt if you take two consecutive weeks off, uninterrupted by work. So the leadership team created a vacation policy that offers employees 3 weeks annual leave; but if they take 2 of those weeks off in a row, they get an additional fourth week's leave. Leadership take unplugging on vacation seriously; if employees take a single call, or answer an email during their two week break, they don't get awarded an extra week. That's generous, and in some ways counter-intuitive. But they value refreshed, energized and engaged staff and encouraging such a policy ensures they get that. 100 percent of their staff took advantage of the offer, according to Barnekow. "The increased energy and creativity was very real--not only did everyone become twice as effective before their time off, to ensure they had things sorted so that they could take off without worrying, they also came back with renewed energy and fresh ideas. So the benefit was double for the company," Barnekow says.

Get Creative With Parental Benefits

Helpr App is an app that helps companies offer competitive sitting services for their staff when work-related commitments crop up. CEO Kasey Edwards believes the role of perks are to attract and retain the best talent. Helpr is a strong advocator of women's rights and equality; a big part of their mission is about supporting women in the workplace. Therefore, their maternity policy had to be robust. They offer their staff 3 months paid maternity leave, as well as subsided childcare. As Edwards says, "We have an aggressive maternity leave policy at Helpr, especially for a small company. It would be crazy not to as a childcare brand". Taking such a bold stance allows you to become a thought leader, and in some cases, even use it to drum up PR.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

The World Wild Life Fund shuts its offices every other Friday. This signature move is called "Panda Fridays" and not only helps employees attain work-life balance, it helps them reach their goal in lightening the load on the planet. Shutting the office one in every ten days helps them reduce their carbon footprint significantly: no lights, air conditioning, heating, printing or employee commuting makes a big impact. Better still, it sends a strong message to employees that the WWF takes its goals seriously; even calling them Panda Days is a reminder of the intent behind the time off.

Reinforce the Company Culture

Perks should make it clear what your company stands for. Take outdoor adventure company REI, which believes in the power of adventure. They offer staff $300 grants to put towards an outdoor pursuit of their dreams. While Burton, which is all about the snow season, gives its employees ski passes and grants them "snow days" after large snow dumps. And Airbnb, which values the discovery of travel, gives its people $2000 a year to experience that magic firsthand. Though often, it's not enough to just create a policy and expect people to take it. At Patagonia, one of the adventure-based perks encourages staff to surf at lunch. To reinforce this and make sure it actually happens, they keep a daily surf report up in reception and make company wide announcements on extra good surf days.

Connect On An Intimate Level

With many Millennials wanting work that resonates with their personal values, the lines between work and play have merged. In the past, many businesses have offered some form of mentorship or life coaching as part of training and development perks, but some companies are taking that one step further. Ideapod, a social media platform to share ideas to change the world is one of those companies. It offers each of its employees access to a Shaman--Shamanism is a healing practice that aims to connect people to nature and their inner truth. He's known fondly as the Chief Inspiration Officer and helps the team harness their own internal drive, inspiration and creativity. Co-Founder Justin Brown says, "It's all about creating the conditions in their lives where they can thrive and access ideas from within and not just respond and react." This perk not only helps the Ideapod team at work, it helps them in all dimensions of their lives. And they're not the only one's doing it. Snapchat has a Chief Space Holder who's tasked with similar responsibilities. We're likely to see more of these cross-over personal-professional perks in the future, and more benefits that address it head-on.

While many of these initiatives are big, bold actions, there are plenty of small perks that go a long way too. The technology company Grasshopper gives their employees Ugg boots in Winter. It sounds silly, but it's a very tangible gesture to show they care about happy employees. And it's a mixture of big and small gestures that count. So when you're considering your company perks and benefits, think big and small and make sure they resonate with what your company truly stands for. On top of this, use them as a chance to think through what company benefits could look like done differently. In a workplace that is evolving quickly, our company benefits and perks need to keep up.

Published on: May 1, 2017
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