Luxury or excessive? Most extravagant workplace perks

by Stephanie Zillman28 Sep 2012

HR is under constant pressure to ‘liven up the workplace’, and come up with innovative ideas to engage employees and bolster productivity.

It’s a ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ style problem, and the smaller players without the budget power of Google or Microsoft can come off positively old hat to their employees, when perks like sleep pods and concierge services are in the headlines.

To add insult to injury, HC offers the most outlandish company perks a few lucky HR teams have on offer to their employees:

1. MetroNap EnergyPod – Price: $12,985

Popularised by Google, this space-age looking chair allows employees to take a quick nap on the clock. After being lulled to sleep by “soothing sounds”, the user is tilted into a perfect position for a nap, and according to the manufacturer using the chair takes “pressure off of the cardiac system”.

2. The Treadmill Desk (TrekDesk)– Price: $479 (includes desk apparatus only, not treadmill)

Losing up to 25 kilograms a year would be easy if only you could walk during the usual eight hours of desk time, according to Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, creator of the Treadmill Desk.

According to Dr. Levine, by replacing eight hours a day sitting at a normal desk with work at a Treadmill Desk, there is a dramatic decrease in health and weight problems.

3. Home cleaning service

Some companies, including IT recruitment firm Akraya, believe the domestic stress of cleaning may be a distraction for employees. The solution? Simply dispatch professional cleaners to all employees’ homes twice a month.

Just when you thought you couldn’t possibly compete, the experts aren’t convinced that all these bizarre and lavish perks actually improve workflow and productivity.

Stanford University Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, an expert in workplace management, said added benefits are only useful when combined with a positive workplace culture that values employees and rewards their work beyond just attractive perks.

“What matters is whether companies let employees make decisions, offer them reasonable job security, and treat them with respect. Not whether or not they give them free food,” he said. “Those are nice things, and they may represent the corporate attitude, but if that’s all you do, they’re worthless.”

However, there is little doubt that perks help employee performance to some degree. “Many perks have two functions: removing unnecessary distractions; and keeping people at work,” he said.

If your team is looking to start an incentives program, keep in mind that the most valuable workplace luxuries are the time-saving incentives.

“Today, time is more valuable than money, so although a financial bonus is great, perks that save people time, like shuttle services, daycare and on-site dry cleaning, are actually worth more in terms of quality of life,” Pfeffer said.