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Scroll through your LinkedIn feed or try searching for a place to work and you’ll notice an uptick in trendy offices with enticing workplace perks like in-office cafés, catered meals and game rooms.
With record low levels of unemployment, companies have turned to the office as a differentiator in the fight for talent, using it to recruit and retain talent, motivate employees and improve workplace productivity.
But what does top talent really want when it comes to workplace perks? And what types of office environments are most appealing to job seekers?
We surveyed 1,000+ office workers to find out. The results make up our new white paper Forget Foosball: People want a better place to work, not play where we explore the workplace environment, amenities, tools and technology top talent say matter most.
The key finding? Top talent finds the most fulfillment at the office by being productive and values employers who offer functional amenities and services that help them work more effectively.
Drawing from that research, here are the top workplace perks employees say they value the most in the office.
The most sought-after perk? Natural light -- with more than 80% of employees and job seekers calling it a critical workplace perk. Despite this, more than half of the professionals we surveyed said they don’t have access to natural light in their workplace.
“The best workplace designs … allow daylight to come in and supplement it with artificial lighting,” says Dr. Alan Hedge, an ergonomics expert at Cornell University. “Natural light is rich in all wavelengths of visible light. It’s hard to recreate that with artificial lights.”
In fact, artificial lighting can cause all sorts of problems from headaches to fatigue, leading to decreased productivity. Part of this comes down the almost imperceptible flicker common in fluorescent and LED lighting which can cause discomfort over periods of time.
For companies, it can be difficult to bring more natural light into the workplace depending on how the space itself is constructed. In instances like these, companies should look to parts of the office that do receive natural light — like social areas, for instance — and allow employees to work there at leisure.
When asked the top two most important things it takes to be productive, professionals consistently referred to “quiet” and “privacy.” In fact, over two-thirds of employees say that barriers that block noise are important to have in their workspace — and over half say the same about privacy screens for their computer.
Despite this, a majority of professionals say they don’t have enough privacy and quiet in the office. Employees in open plan offices, unsurprisingly, suffer the most.
But there are ways to give people the privacy and quiet they need to work. Nearly seven in 10 professionals we surveyed believe private phone and focus rooms are valuable to have in the workplace, yet only 22% have access to them. Companies have an opportunity to offer their employees more private spaces like these for heads-down work.
People spend at least 40 hours a week at the office — and if their desk and chair isn't comfortable, there’s going to be a problem. In our survey, 79% of office workers said ergonomic furniture is critically important. But just 34% of respondents said their employers offer ergonomic furniture.
Professionals also look favorably on more generous workplace perks like sit-stand desks with almost 60% saying they’re important. Yet, less than a third have access to them.
This gets at an important point: People connect comfort with productivity and expect their employers to invest in making sure they have an ergonomic place to work.
For companies, it’s important to understand investing in ergonomic furniture as just that: an investment. “As soon as you start to sit down to work, ergonomics becomes vital in optimizing the workplace design,” Cornell University’s Dr. Hedge tells us. “But it’s not just the workstation — it’s the whole building.” Places like social areas, meeting rooms and lounge space should also be optimized for ergonomic comfort.
For many professionals, motivation comes when there’s a steady stream of complimentary snacks and beverages on hand, placing this perk among the most highly valued amenities.
Professionals point to this as a simple benefit that goes a long way towards helping them feel productive, and, more importantly, like their employer cares about them. In fact, four out of five office workers say that snacks and beverages are valuable in the workplace.
But in spite of this popularity, only 32% of office workers say they have access to complimentary snacks and beverages. Among those office workers, a striking — if unsurprising — 75% say they take advantage of them multiple times per week.
For companies, the takeaway is clear: A simple and functional workplace perk like complimentary snacks and beverages can go a long way to improving overall workplace satisfaction.
Several years ago, Bill Gates made a prescient prediction saying that as the competition for talent increases “companies that give extra flexibility to their employees will have the edge.”
That prediction is turning out to be true. As technology has enabled people to work in a variety of places, both within and outside the office, workers have come to expect employers to give them the freedom to work with more autonomy.
The abilities to “work from home” and “work remotely” have become top-line workplace benefits for some employees. In fact, 70% of professionals say the flexibility to work remotely is a must-have when considering a new job.
Further, the flexibility to move around the office has also become a valuable workplace perk with 69% telling us they are more productive when they can work in different places around — and outside of — the office.
In addition to complimentary snacks and beverages, office workers also point to café spaces and the occasional catered meal as being hugely attractive workplace perks.
Cafés can help provide employees with healthy meal options and also offer the chance for employees to socialize in a dedicated space. 75% say a café is valuable, but only 31% have access to one, despite the fact that cafés are relatively simple to provide — they can be anything from a selection of grab-and-go options to a full cafeteria.
Many of the top workplace perks maintain a focus on health and wellness. And when it comes to wellness in the office, some are quick to point out trendy features like fruit water, yoga at lunch, or CrossFit classes.
But workers are more practical and looking for ways to reduce stress and prevent health issues associated with prolonged periods of sitting and staring at screens. One of the most popular wellness-inspired workplace perks? On-site gyms or discounted gym rates with 71% of professionals citing them as a particularly attractive workplace perk. Despite this, just 22% say they have access to an employer-sponsored fitness center.
Similarly, 70% say wellness rooms — or designated quiet areas where people can find some quiet time — are also valuable additions to the workplace. Yet, only 15% have access to them.
This leaves an opening for companies to stand out by offering employees simple and actionable healthy workplace perks by either offering an in-office gym, discounts at a local fitness center or by converting a small office into a private wellness room.
While ping pong tables and happy hours might seem attractive on Instagram, 58% of professionals say fun workplace perks simply do not matter in their job decisions. By contrast, almost 80% of job seekers say the functional amenities and services — think complimentary food and beverages, an ergonomic workstation, quiet places to work tech etc. — are critical in their decision.
This represents something that’s often lost when talking about office design: People go to the office to be productive and expect their employers to focus on removing distractions instead of adding them.
And from increased talent attraction to improved productivity boosts, there are big results for companies that invest in getting the workplace right.
To learn more about our research into the perks employees really care about, explore our white paper Forget Foosball: People Want a Better Place to Work, Not Play.