Employee ‘perks’: why there’s no such thing as a free lunch

Andreas recently wrote a blog post about why he decided to ask for a four-day week. What follows is a response to that post and why I think it’s important for businesses to have an open mind around the working hours of their staff.

This is not about a catch all ‘flexible working’ policy per se, nor is it about working ‘compressed weeks’, it’s about ensuring that staff trust their employers enough to know that if they want to discuss alternative working arrangements, it will be considered, based on their specific needs.

There are many articles that discuss four-day weeks, flexible working and compressed hours. In fact, this is nothing new. One particular Political Party even attempted to leverage its popularity by including a 4-day working week in their latest manifesto (PDF) .

We have several people at Red Badger who do not work a typical five-day week for various reasons.

One big reason being parenthood.

 

Here is a list of countries with the least worked hours in a year (according to the OECD ranking)

  1. Germany
  2. Nederlands
  3. France
  4. Luxembourg
  5. Belgium
  6. Switzerland
  7. Austria
  8. Sweden
  9. Denmark
  10. Norway

In these countries, it is considered strange that this subject is even considered newsworthy and perhaps this will be same in the UK soon. In 2014, the law changed to ensure that any request made for flexible working was dealt with in a reasonable manner providing you have been an employee for over half a year. Yet this benefit is rarely discussed or openly advertised on new job adverts, instead, free gym memberships and a free drinks fridge take the glory.

I wonder how beneficial, benefits like free food and drink, really are. I used to work for a business that had its own professional kitchen and a chef to feed the staff. Three amazing meals a day starting at 7.30am with a full cooked breakfast, lunch and then an evening meal served at 7pm. Unlimited drinks and snacks. There was excessive consumption. Work hard, play hard.

I believe it is a myth that driving people to work long hours will get better results for the staff or the business and no amount of benefits can offset an unreasonable workload. So-called ‘Burnout’ is a problem for many industries and employers need to be aware of the risks caused by pushing staff to work not only beyond reasonable hours but also pushing them to be in a job they are unhappy in.

According to an entry in Wikipedia, the characteristics of a burnt out employee includes, physical tiredness, disengagement from their job and many other symptoms that are also seen in depression.

How will unlimited alcohol help that? Or a free breakfast?

What people really need is an employer that has their best interests at heart.

As a company grows, proliferating this sentiment gets more difficult because necessary processes and procedures are put in place which mean that individual needs can sometimes be eclipsed by the collective needs of the staff and of course, the business. Red Badger listens and acts on the needs of staff as much as possible. Do things slip through the net? Of course. But being open and honest about it is just one way that allows people to trust that, at its heart, Red Badger always strives to do the right thing.

Google has recently published a suite of tools to help managers be better at their jobs which is commendable, however, one particular example caught my eye regarding a tool they call ‘One Simple Thing’ designed to improve well-being and work-life flexibility.

Sounds like a great tool.

And then I read an example, ‘I will leave the office by 6pm twice per week to be able to play with my daughter before bed.’ This perhaps highlights the cultural differences between some companies. Leaving on time and getting home to see your kids before their bed should be the norm every day of the week, not something you hope to do a couple of times a week.

We have a growing group of parents at Red Badger, with kids at various stages of life. Rewarding and challenging in equal measure, time with our kids is finite and precious which makes it a no brainer, to respond positively to a request for a four-day week to spend more time with the family. Everyone has different ways of balancing their work life and their home life and employers need to accommodate that.

For Red Badger, every request will be considered from all angles, but so far, the conclusion has always come down to one thing. Is this is going to make a significant, lasting positive impact on the life of someone? If the answer is yes then what are we waiting for.

We’ve never had a client comment on a four-day working week and no project has ever fallen behind due to this arrangement. Of course, each case is considered in its own right, but so far, the decisions made to change a working week to four days has paid off. We have satisfied clients and fulfilled staff who are motivated and committed to Red Badger.

Asides from being committed to their work, happy parents raise happy children. So in a very real way, a little consideration for the personal needs of employees can impact tomorrows society and is an example of how business can take a moral responsibility for the well-being of future generations.

Interested in joining a company like Red Badger? Get in touch.

 

References

http://money.cnn.com/gallery/news/economy/2013/07/10/worlds-shortest-work-weeks/index.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_time#OECD_ranking
https://www.gov.uk/flexible-working/overview
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupational_burnout
https://rework.withgoogle.com/guides/managers-care-professionally-personally-for-team/steps/use-one-simple-thing-for-goal-setting/