Nontraditional Benefits, Unusual Perks Growing In Popularity

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Apr. 7, 2014 12:00 am  

Southwest Power Pool built a cafe at its new headquarters as a way of enticing employees to stay on campus during leisure hours.

Nationally, about 30 percent of a company’s compensation expenses per employee go toward benefits. These include all the typical perks: health insurance packages, sick days, vacation days, 401(k), etc.

But increasingly, companies are looking to offer benefits that fall outside the normal range: flexible hours, paid lunches, ice cream on Fridays. These perks might not be mentioned in the company handbook, but they’re becoming more important in attracting a new generation of employees and keeping the old ones.

The big name in this area is, of course, Google, with its on-staff masseuses, travel insurance and free corporate cafeterias. But Google doesn’t have a corner on the market. Many smaller companies, including some in Arkansas, are trying to make work feel more like home.

“People are really starting to move toward the flex time, working from home, bringing their dogs to work. It’s becoming really common,” said Kelly DeStafano, state director of the Arkansas Society for Human Resource Management.

She said a major driving force behind this trend is younger generations becoming more comfortable with flexible hours.

“It’s pretty interesting to see the marked differentiation in the workplace,” she said. “It surprises them that we expect you to be even on time. If office hours are 8 to 5, then 8:15 is the same as 8.”

She said that workplaces are realizing that this mindset doesn’t necessarily mean a decrease in work ethic.

“The same person might check their email 10 times on their cell phone when they’re at home,” she said. “I know it’s caused a lot of conflict in workplaces, but it’s just a different way of doing the same thing.”

One example of the shift in attitude in this area is the 40-employee law firm of Cross Gunter Witherspoon & Galchus in Little Rock. Managing Director Rick Roderick said the firm spends about 35 percent of its per-employee costs on benefits and turnover is very low.

“We rarely lose anybody,” he said. Business Manager Julia Strickland said the firm has kept about 50 percent of the employees who joined the firm when it started 17 years ago.

“When you look at the people that do leave, a lot of it is retirement,” she said.

For three consecutive years, CGWG earned gold-level distinction at the Governor’s Work-Life Balance Awards. Roderick said the company’s recognition was due especially to the firm making a concentrated effort to allow flexibility.



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