By Jared Weitz, founder & CEO of United Capital Source Inc.
It's safe to say the standards for small business perks have risen quite a bit as of late. Even the term itself has taken on an extreme connotation. Nowadays, when people think of "perks," they think of the over-the-top luxuries pioneered by tech giants. This gives the impression that anything that doesn't meet these standards cannot rightfully be called a "perk" and will hold no value in maintaining or recruiting employees.
But for many employees, seemingly minor perks are a major reason they aren't tempted to seek greener pastures. I've personally found that when business leaders claim to have a likeminded team, it's often the employees' mutual appreciation for certain perks that bonds them together.
Here are four relatively small perks that go a long way:
1. Working From Home
More and more companies are now letting employees work from home a certain amount of days per month or week. If you have a lengthy commute, the ability to work from home can mean an extra two to three hours of sleep. Such employees wouldn't have to worry about trying to operate on limited sleep because they weren't feeling well or went to a concert the night before.
At first, you might assume that employees would abuse this privilege and lose productivity. But in my experience, employees are smart enough to only work from home when it makes sense. Think about it: If you chose to work from home simply because you felt tired in the morning after getting your usual amount of sleep, how would you know you weren't just slightly more tired than usual?
I believe the one real danger of this perk is allowing it to diminish the importance of talking to employees in person. No instant message or email can match the impact of spoken words, so make sure you take advantage of your dwindling opportunities to interact with your team.
2. Large Common Area
This is one of the various reasons a shared workplace is widely considered a wise investment. Not only is it cheaper than renting traditional office space, but your team will likely gain access to a large common area as well. Depending on an employee's responsibilities, he or she could spend the majority of the day in this open and relaxing environment. Other employees might use the common area as an escape from the discomforting silence, confinement or general awkwardness of their offices.
I advise small businesses to emphasize common areas when trying to fill positions that would benefit most from them, like copywriters. Common areas can be treated like a coffee shop, with no co-workers to interrupt your creative process.
3. Free Food or Beverages
We all have to spend our own money on our jobs. From backpacks to suits to train tickets, the overall cost of simply being a working professional in 2018 can add up pretty quickly. Anything that makes this cost go down and carries its own conveniences is, therefore, a highly coveted perk. One shining example is free food or beverages. I've worked with companies that offer free bagels and muffins, free espresso-based drinks or even a daily lunch stipend.
Not having to pay for lunch or your morning iced latte can save you a lot of money in the long run, not to mention give you one less expense to fret over throughout the day. Once employees are used to these privileges, the idea of leaving them behind for another job will seem like a huge mistake.
4. Informal Dress Code
Of all the millennial stereotypes, one of the few that appears to be true is their distaste for formal attire. Many young adults dread the thought of having to wear dress pants and a button-down shirt every day. They struggle to perform when they are not comfortable, which makes them appreciate companies that have loose dress codes. T-shirts, jeans and sneakers are no longer signs of unprofessionalism.
If you are concerned about loose dress codes, it's probably because your company regularly hosts meetings with clients, investors, etc. Rest assured, your casually dressed employees will have no problem making exceptions for such occasions.
Leveling the Playing Field
Perks like this often prove to be especially vital for smaller companies that cannot offer the salaries of their larger competitors. They make co-workers feel less like employees and more like friends who get to hang out at a workplace they actually enjoy. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how much more productive employees can be when their minds are free from the recurring thought of "I want to go home."
Jared Weitz is founder & CEO of United Capital Source Inc.