Ever wondered what your employees are saying about their quality of life at your company? But then finding it difficult to implement perks on a budget? We've got you.

We tapped into 2018's working force pulse to list the five most desired - and implementable - benefits that increase workplace happiness.

With the modern day job market as competitive it is, it is as important as ever to offer in-demand perks and work benefits. Glassdoor's survey on benefits revealed that 57% of job candidates report benefits and perks being amongst their top considerations before saying yes to a job. Furthermore, with the ever-increasing work-related mental ill health, crucial steps must be made to keep your workers happy.

Online platform Employee Benefits features a running poll which shows an overwhelming majority of those surveyed prioritising soft benefits over hard cash:

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Glassdoor suggests that workers are now prioritising perks over salary increases, with 90% of 18 to 34 year olds saying they would prefer benefits over pay, 70% of those aged 45 to 54, and 66% of those aged 55 to 64. After all, we do spend on average 40+ hours a week of our lives at work.

So what makes a good work perk, and how can this be implemented in the most budget-friendly way? Rather than pouring money into salary and benefits packages, it's a question of understanding the motivations behind why your workers chose you and how you can keep them keen. Let's look deeper...

1: Freebies

If you aren't a company based in a coworking space with free food and drink on tap, you might want to start by taking inspiration from some of their ideas. Dollar signs flashing in red? We thought so too, until we saw Google's price to value chart.

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Starting with a survey of your employees of what benefits and perks they would value most might help you try to prioritise according to your budget. If you are based within a residential area, for example, perhaps getting sponsored by a rent-a-bike start-up might be the first place to start. Or work-subsidised access to local childminding services – and so on. (If you asked me it would 100% be nap pods all the way.)

Try to provide as closely as possible to your employee's direct wishes as you can. Nobody wants free food if it's not fresh, or of a low quality. As Trevor Felch points out, Google employees can use an internal system called "Foodback" to provide feedback and suggestions. Which brings me onto the next point.

2: Surveys

What if your employees aren't after the more "millennial" freebies? After all, we don't all have the time (or desire) to use our entire lunch break on practising our ping pong skills.

Well... ask them! Conduct a quarterly survey of all of your employees, tailoring each survey to their previous answers and recent implementations. If one month they ask for better desk sharing facilities which you then implement, ask them whether they are happy with the new service. And if you've partnered with a food service to provide a free lunch on a Wednesday, ask them what they think of it.

Remember to be as clear and transparent as you can with your employees about implementing changes, and the driving forces behind those decisions.

Free stuff doesn't keep people around as much as asking them whether or not they're happy in their current situation. It is clear from many studies that often a healthy work-life balance wins out over freebies. So find out whether they feel that you are getting this balance right.

You don't only have to survey the people who work for you. Research whether your company is being talked about on work forums, and what is being said. Check your reviews on review websites, and try to implement anything threatening a good overall reputation. When it comes to hiring new talent, these will be the first places potential candidates will look.


Photo by rawpixel / Unsplash

3: Flexibility

If you're finding freebies difficult to implement on a budget, try offering more flexibility around remote work. Conduct a survey of your employees to find out how much of their day is spent on their commute, as this is often one of the largest factors causing a negative work-life balance, or a pessimistic view on productivity.

If you find that, for example, 70% of your employees are spending more than two hours a day on their commute, try offering them a remote working scheme. The first few weeks of your scheme will tell you how successful your idea is. Try not to worry that this will decrease overall office productivity, as recent studies have shown that in many cases work productivity increases on flexi hours.

Your business can also benefit from introducing flexibility with remote work as it also actively reduces overheads spent on office space, increases your talent pool for recruitment, and also makes you a more eco-friendly organisation. Win-win.

4: Communications

With 10/10 of the time-wasting activities on this list relating in some way or form to communication, it's not surprising that the way that businesses communicate internally directly influences work-life balance. Nobody likes it when a break in the communications flow ruins work focus and leads to lower productivity.

One low-cost method to increase workplace happiness is to do a deep-diving survey of your internal communications flow, in order to find each flaw that leads to a slower overall process.

Remember your business is only as good as your employees. If they are wasting their time, it's because, say, the communications process is not good enough, or because they aren't challenged enough. Often, the ability to evolve in order to suit the employees is all it takes.


Photo by rawpixel / Unsplash

5: Plants

Or, more accurately, the design and feel of the workplace. While studies show that workers prefer flexible working hours over other employment benefits, the physical design of the workplace was also found to have a huge effect on employee satisfaction. Don't only think about your office layout. Make sure you're inviting the outdoors into your office: from greenery, to colours, to access to natural light.

A whopping 90% of employees stated that the layout and design of their office plays a large role in their happiness at work. Half even said that they would not accept a job without inspecting the workplace first.

With such huge numbers, it seems vital to invest in some office greenery, or newer, brighter paints for the walls. At the very least conduct a survey about your space.

Ambius head of innovation Kenneth Freeman said: “Bringing elements of nature and natural light — or providing modern biodynamic lighting, which closely mimics natural light — into the workplace and enabling workers to be involved in the design and use of their workstations has positive effects on performance, including increases in productivity, creativity and a greater sense of well-being.”

Even if you can't afford new lighting, asking your employees to be involved in redesigning your office space is a great place to start.


Photo by Samule Sun / Unsplash

Don't transfer your mate Dave's advice to the workplace when he tells you to "treat 'em mean to keep 'em keen": remember that it's not only what your employees can do for you, but what you can do for your employees.