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Quirky employee perks and their benefits

September 22, 2022

In the Battle for Talent, benefits are a powerful weapon in an employer’s armoury.

And in a previous blog we explored how some companies are extending their core offering beyond pensions and private medical insurance (PMI) to align with changing employee attitudes around health and wellbeing.

But creating an appealing blend of incentives for existing and would-be workers is about more than the fundamentals of healthcare in today’s market. From on-site childcare to free food and ‘Yay Days’, here we take a slightly sideways look at some of the more unexpected and unusual perks that companies are using to attract and retain talent.


Knowing that your employer sees you as a person rather than simply a resource is valuable to employees, and what better way to convey that message than by supporting their passions? Google is famous for its policy that allows employees to allocate 20% of their paid work time to pursue innovation. Other firms also enforce regular periods of innovation where individuals are free to focus on a personal passion. For companies that have made it work, it is a genuine win-win, with employees left feeling more fulfilled and therefore more energised and engaged at work.


Holiday is a major priority for many employees, and while most people are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid leave, some companies now even offer workers access to unlimited leave. Travelzoo offers employees an annual stipend of $1,500 and three additional vacation days as part of its Travelzoo Experience – after all, if you’re a travel firm and likely to employ workers with an appetite for seeing the world they are selling, it makes sense to encourage rather than suppress your employees’ sense of wanderlust.


As a nation of animal lovers, pets are very much a part of our families. Firms are increasingly understanding about the squeeze this can place on their employees, particularly when settling in new pets or having to deal with trips to the vet. Mars Petcare, manufacturer of brands including Pedigree and Whiskas, is one of a number of companies to offer employees so-called ‘pet-ernity’ or ‘pawternity’ leave policies in response, helping workers take time out to deal with animal-related issues.


Facebook’s Life@ package of employee benefits touches on all areas of employee life. This includes a variety of health and wellness offerings, extensive leave policies, financial advice services and access to emergency back-up child and adult care. Life in the office also comes with added benefits, including access to free food at the on-site catering facilities.


The outdoor-loving employees at the California headquarters of clothing company Patagonia certainly understand the meaning of the phrase life’s a beach – they are encouraged to hit the waves when the surf is good. It all stems from the top, where founder Yvon Chouinard (whose memoir is titled Let My People Go Surfing) wholeheartedly embraces flexible working.

Similarly, US outdoor retailer REI offers workers the chance to take ‘Yay Days’ in order to “try something new, challenge themselves in a favorite [sic] activity, or work on an outdoor stewardship project”. But it is entirely in line with the firm’s ethos as a member-owned co-operative that invests the majority of profits into the outdoor community – the company even closes all stores on Black Friday to give all employees a day off to ‘#OptOutside’ with family and friends.

Indeed, many of the examples above are benefits that might represent a break from the wider norm but are aligned to the company in question’s underlying purpose or cultural identity, which means they are more likely to be valued by its people.

As such, while it’s true that fundamental employee benefits, such as pay, pensions and healthcare provision, will always remain the key priority for employers, there is clear room for creative thinking. Far from being quirky or gimmicky, the right perks can be highly attractive and effective if they are truly valued by the workforce of today and the prospective employees of the future.



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