From impressive perks to professional development, companies are discovering surprisingly innovative ways to increase engagement with their teams and fine-tune work environments.
In 2017 Gallup came out with a new study of the workforce in 160 countries, and the results were downright depressing. Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, went so far as to claim that the world’s workforce is broken. Why the extreme language? According to the study, only 15% of employees worldwide are actually engaged in their current work environments. America fared a little better in polls, but still 70% of the country’s workforce agreed they were fairly unengaged and unhappy at work.
According to another study Gallup did in 2016 millennials in particular are not engaged, and old management practices are literally grinding the life out of them.
Millennials want purpose, not just a paycheck. They put a lot of clout into the work environment because work is a key component to their lives. Their essential question about a job isn’t “What does it pay?” but “Why does this matter?” Unlike previous generations, who endured nine-to-five jobs and were content to go home to find fulfillment in other ways, millennials want that fulfillment at work. They don’t thrive on monotony — and if they’re not satisfied, they’re more willing to change jobs.
The winds of the workforce are changing, but what does this mean for modern companies?
It means they need to be creative and generous, because a creative and generous work environment drives engagement. Here are seven intriguing ways companies are keeping their teams engaged.
1. More Flexible Hours
With the use of technology, it’s becoming easier to work from home or have a flexible work schedule. Companies that lock people into a nine-to-five office life are having a hard time keeping up with the appeal of flexibility.
Netflix, Upwork, Thumbtack, Living Social and Build-a-Bear are just a handful of the successful companies open to workers choosing their own hours and/or working remotely. With more flexibility comes more space for creative problem solving and an opportunity for workers to choose their peak times of productivity that work naturally for them during the week.
2. Extended Vacation Time
A study published in the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine shows that more work leads to a higher risk of heart disease. Increasing amounts of research are concluding that rest, away from stress, is vital to health. With that in mind, many companies are beginning to offer more or, in some cases, unlimited vacation time for employees to get away, destress and come back reenergized.
Companies like Epic take it to a whole other level by offering what they call the Epic Odyssey. They send teams to other countries to learn new business and team skills, and they offer a four-week paid sabbatical every five years.
Glassdoor and Virgin Group are other large companies offering unlimited vacation, while Reddit offers the same — along with a Wanderlust Fund for paid travel.
3. Emphasis on Health and Wellness
A healthy employee means a healthy worker, and the work environment can either take away or add to a worker’s health.
Google is a large company that tries hard to promote a healthful work environment, offering medical doctors, massage therapists and chiropractors.
The Institute for Integrative Nutrition provides a chef who prepares and organizes lunch every day for employees. They also offer weekly chair massages and yoga classes.
Patagonia has a work-and-play atmosphere, with company bikes, volleyball courts, yoga and time to surf during the workday.
4. Educational Incentives
Nowadays student loans are a huge burden on individuals, and a large number of companies realize how important it is to help out their employees.
Verizon offers an extremely generous tuition reimbursement package, giving up to $8,000 a year in reimbursements to employees.
Fidelity is by far the winner on this list, as it offers up to $10,000 reimbursement per year.
Bank of America offers up to $5,250 per calendar year.
Starbucks offers scholarships programs through Arizona State University’s online program and tuition reimbursements as well, and they recently implemented the Pathway to Admission Program to give employees another opportunity to qualify for help.
5. Embracing Families
Gone are the days when the mother stayed home with the children while the father worked, and businesses are learning that happy workers mean accommodating family life.
Google has four child-care facilities nears its California campus, and mothers get 18 weeks of paid leave — while a couple can get 12 weeks paid leave together.
Facebook gives new parents $4,000 in “baby cash.” They’ll help with adoption fees, and they now pay for egg freezing.
Goldman Sachs offers many similar benefits (minus egg freezing), and they offer a service that helps parents find suitable nannies.
Believing children bring positive energy into the work environment, PicMonkey has a policy that kids are always welcome in their office.
6. Creative Work Environment
While in the past, working for a company meant isolation in a cubicle or surrounded by only a company’s employees, work cultures are becoming increasingly cooperative. Companies are having fun with cultivating unique and clever ideas within their office spaces and connecting with the larger world.
Etsy opened a new space in 2016 with furnishings all bought from Etsy sellers. They have outdoor courtyards, a fully furnished roof and monthly craft nights. Employees are encouraged to work together in a collaborative work environment.
Coca-Cola recently opened its offices in Atlanta, Georgia, with a coworking space where entrepreneurs and small businesses can interact with Coca-Cola employees, driving forward creativity and innovation within the entrepreneurial community in Atlanta.
Sprint had a similar idea in Kansas City, starting a new coworking space called Sprint Accelerator that encourages collaboration across industries and businesses.
7. The Little Things
Sure, fancy vacations and really cool offices are all the rage, but sometimes it’s the little things that make a huge difference in a work environment. Smaller gifts are becoming meaningful ways to help employees feel appreciated in an increasingly hectic world.
Knowing how busy their workers can be, Weebly offers every employee a $50 monthly credit to Exec, a house cleaning and errand-running service.
At Cisco, work teams are given a Fun Fund, which can be spent on celebrations and fun activities.
Employees at AnswerLab get $400 to spend on new technological gadgets that can drive innovation.
Universal Information Services in Omaha, Nebraska, has Free Beer Fridays to thank people for their hard work during the week. (If people don’t want beer, they can have soda.)
Employees appreciate creative perks, and the best companies, both small and large, are learning it takes a little innovation to keep people engaged. Lack of creativity in a work environment can crush workers’ spirits, which is apparent in the data coming out about work engagement. But it’s possible to bring some fun and vitality to work, and truly valuing each employee goes a long way in sustaining a successful business.