Boxed, an online bulk-goods retailer, upped the ante when it comes to employee compensation. It offered to pay a maximum of $20,000 for a full-time employee’s wedding. This benefit outshines other companies’ unique perks like Airbnb’s $2,000 travel stipend or Asana’s reimbursement for life coach fees.
Nowadays, the relationship between employers and employees are similar to marriage. Employers are reshaping Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs with these out of the box perks. Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor economist said, “There’s a trend over the last decade-and-a-half to two decades in the US where the fraction of pay going into benefits has been rising and wages has been falling.” The reason for this is simple, employees find benefits more enticing than wages so companies are really ensuring that they have something to offer that others don’t.
The rationale behind CEO Chieh Huang is very simple. According to him, this perk is a means of saying thank you to the employee who dedicated themselves to the company. It’s their way of giving back to their full-time employees.
Are perks really important
Though this particular perk seems to be a good one, it poses several questions. What has become of the employer-employer relationship? Will employees still get something if they do not avail of this benefit? Are there conditions for the employee to avail this perk?
It is interesting to note that though Boxed seem’s to have the most extravagant employee benefits, other companies also have something good to offer to their employees like Accenture’s gender reconstruction surgery. Spotify’s egg freezing and Facebook’s $4000 baby money
How must employees respond to this generous gesture aside from doing their best? Of course, it can’t be denied that employees will feel a certain indebtedness to the company when they take advantage of such benefit.
Liquid Talent founder Alex Abelin has this to say: “It’s a dangerous agreement that we have where companies take care of us and that’s how we live our life.” It becomes dangerous because all these benefits come from one source. So when something happens to the source, everything gets affected.
What employees really want from their job
Autonomy and freedom are what employees want from companies. The benefits they receive are what’s actually hindering them from what they really want. The private sector is experimenting on a solution. Colleen Poynton, Core Innovation Capital’s VP said that “there are startups that are trying to construct portable benefits, a system that moves with you from employer to employer.”
Separating benefits from US companies is very difficult due to tax incentives, however, employers should be wiser in managing perks. While it’s true that additional benefits may normally mean increased productivity, giving the employees autonomy and more trust can be just as or more rewarding.
A uniform benefit across a diverse workforce may not have the same effect on everyone. It could be beneficial to one, but not t the other. The best solution therefore is to give cash incentives. This gives employees the freedom to choose how they want to spend it.
Bellevue based Craigslist competitor, OfferUp CEO Nick Huzar has this to say in reference to office perks: “ if we’re finding people were those things matter, they’re probably not a fit.” Their lack of office perks allows them to stay frugal. New employees are even required to make their own chairs and desks on their first day of employment.
Employer-employee relationship must be kept distinct and simple. An employee’s trust and commitment to the company should not be dependent on the perks he received from his employment.