Seven employee benefits that will make you salivate with envy

10 June 2015 -


As Pepsi and Virgin unveil incentives for boosting employee engagement, we find out about some of the boldest perks at large in some of the world’s biggest firms

Jermaine Haughton

Trouncing the UK government’s measures for shared parental leave, Virgin Group revealed this week that it has offered staff up to one year’s paternity on full salary as part of a new company drive to boost employee engagement. Going some way further than the new UK rules – which enable parents to split 50 weeks of leave between themselves in a way that suits them and their managers – Virgin’s new policy has been offered to new parents working for the company, irrespective of gender or whether they have adopted.

At this point, though, the policy is targeted specifically at the company’s investment and brand licensing division Virgin Management – so it will affect only 140 employees in London and Geneva. In addition, only those who have been with Virgin for at least four years will receive the 100%-salary rate when they take their parental breaks. More recent hires will receive a salary calculated at a proportion of how long they’ve been at Virgin.

Other companies, though, are far more liberal about the numbers of employees who can take advantage of their benefits – and some of those benefits have been developed with no shortage of imagination. Here are Insights’ favourites…

1. Pepsi: CBT

Following Virgin’s news, it also emerged this week that the soft drinks giant is rolling out a programme of free cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for staff to limit absences. Predicted to save the company up to £200,000 a year, the in-house mental health service helped staff go back to work around 63 days quicker than they would have via the NHS during a pilot phase. Mainly through the use of a telephone-based, early-intervention model of stepped care, the scheme could produce as much as a 20-to-one return on investment ratio, according to current estimates. (Source)

2. Zynga: dog park

The US wellspring of the Farmville app has a so-called “wooftop” dog park built on top of its San Francisco HQ, where employees can walk the dogs in peaceful surroundings walled off from traffic noise. Dog-owning staffers can also leave their pets outside the company cafeteria in a “barking lot”. Zynga says that the scheme – which also takes care of dog registration and health records – has encouraged staff to become more sociable. You can even find an employee’s Vine of the facility on the web. (Source)

3. Anytime Fitness: tattoos

Showing ample commitment to its own get-fit-stay-fit ethos, the US gym chain settles up the inking bills for employees who get themselves tattooed with the company’s logo – an offer that also extends to customers who have reached particular fitness goals. All staff or customers have to do is submit photos of their tattoos to HQ and describe why they wanted their own depiction of the brand’s “Running Man” logo, and they are paid back for their 15 minutes of pain. At the firm’s 2013 annual conference, top-flight tattooist Jimmy Hayden – the go-to guy for basketball legend LeBron James – was even booked to ink the delegates. Why? Because according to chief executive Chuck Runyon, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” (Source)

4. Clif Bar: green reimbursements

Staff at the nutrition-bar maker are compensated for purchasing eco-friendly vehicles and home appliances. Through its Cool Car programme, employees who buy a company-approved hybrid, diesel, or electric vehicle are reimbursed by up to $6,500 (£4,100), while those who bike, walk or take public transport to work receive $1,500 (£966) per year. Also, Clif Bar’s Cool Home initiative refunds staff who retrofit their home with solar panels or improved insulation to the tune of $1,000 (£645). (Source)

5. DPR Construction: wine bar

In a particularly brassy move, the US sustainable-building firm has installed an on-site wine bar at it each of its 16 locations, with additional saloons in its head office in Austin, Texas. Described as the “social epicentre of the office” by one manager, the wine bar serves a number of functions by providing a meeting place for the company’s 100 employees, as well as venue to hold meetings and schmooze clients. On one afternoon every month, employees attend the wine bar to toast milestones, ranging from new contracts to new babies. (Source)

6. Fox Kalomaski: botox leave

In 2009, it emerged that the UK ad agency was among a growing number of UK firms giving women “botox leave” in efforts to deter employees from taking sick days for their beauty treatments. Staff are given two hours’ leave from work to make sure they can make their annual jab appointment with their preferred Botox doctor without jeopardising the normal run of business – particularly during busy periods. (Source)

7. SC Johnson: concierge service

From dry cleaning to overdue library books, the cleaning-products manufacturer provides staff with fetcher-carriers to take care of daily chores and enable them to focus on their projects. Rather than employees using work time to organise and carry out their chores, they can focus on work-related tasks while support staff alleviate their stresses. (Source)

While some of those benefits are far from conventional, the managers behind them clearly feel that their perks have a positive effect – particularly in aiding employee engagement. And with UK productivity at an all-time low, new research has suggested that greater investment in benefits can significantly boost employee engagement and performance. Published on 3 June by incentive specialists Red Letter Days For Business, the findings showed that just over one third of UK staff feel engaged, while 48% are moderately engaged and the remainder actively disengaged. But 80% of those who consider themselves highly engaged said that they were rewarded or praised for jobs well done.

Red Letter Days for Business CEO Bill Alexander said that employee engagement is a “low-cost trick” that the government should get behind to resolve the issue of poor output. “It’s clear a small level of investment into correct training for managers to develop and encourage their staff will have a positive impact not just on engagement, but on productivity too.”

For further thoughts on employee engagement, download CMI’s recent Management 2020 report.

Image of Pepsi can courtesy of Mejini Neskah / Shutterstock.

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