Water­cooler

Perks that work and keep staff hap­pier and more pro­duc­tive.

The Australian - The Deal - - Contents - Story by: Ver­ity Ed­wards is Edi­tor of The Week­end Aus­tralian's Week­end Pro­fes­sional. Ver­ity Ed­wards

WE all love a good of­fice perk; the odd free movie ticket, bot­tle of wine, good car park or sub­sidised gym membership. But some­times they are just win­dow dress­ing in a world of tight pay packets and job in­se­cu­rity.

A study by Cor­po­rate Bod­ies In­ter­na­tional direc­tor Leanne Scanes found health pro­mo­tion ini­tia­tives work. Hap­pier and health­ier staff are more pro­duc­tive, there is less ab­sen­teeism, fewer are ill and turnover de­creases. But there is no obli­ga­tion for Aus­tralian work­places to pro­vide health­care or mon­i­tor well­be­ing. De­spite the pro­grams of­fered, it is usu­ally those pre­dis­posed to go­ing to the gym who are likely to take up a sub­sidised pack­age. The most in need are the least likely to take part.

Uni­ver­sity of Syd­ney’s joint head of the Age­ing, Work and Health re­search unit, Philip Bohle, says while gym ac­cess, yoga and stand-up desks might im­prove health, man­agers need to dig be­low the sur­face and look at work-life bal­ance, men­tal health, the of­fice en­vi­ron­ment and flex­i­ble hours, to de­ter­mine if staff are en­gaged and pro­duc­tive.

There are non-tra­di­tional perks that may com­pen­sate for lower pay in tough times, and make work­ers feel hap­pier about the en­vi­ron­ment where they spend much of their work­ing lives. The Aus­tralian Hu­man Re­sources In­sti­tute has pub­lished a list of un­con­ven­tional perks, which keep em­ploy­ees happy, lead to higher staff re­ten­tion. Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany MDA moved of­fices in Syd­ney where park­ing was a pre­mium. MDA of­fered work­ers $10 a day if they car-pooled, used public trans­port or rode bikes. Along with DVDs and movie tick­ets, Mad­man En­ter­tain­ment holds a short-film fes­ti­val, en­cour­ag­ing staff to cre­ate en­tries dur­ing work hours. Cal­i­for­nian cloth­ing group Patag­o­nia en­cour­ages em­ploy­ees to surf in the mid­dle of the day, sell­ing a life­style and a good work en­vi­ron­ment. In­trepid Travel of­fers staff 75 per cent off trips with 50 per cent off for part­ners. It helps staff be­come more pas­sion­ate about travel. It might not cost a com­pany much, but pro­vid­ing sim­ple benefits may keep em­ploy­ees on­side, and hap­pier.

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