Book: No Office » Part 1 - You are using your office wrong! » Chapter 14 - Be generous | perks.md

Chapter 14 - Be generous

Give people perks that promote good habits, a nice life outside of work and charitable causes.

Don’t make the office a place where people want to hang out

Especially in my industry, the IT and Internet startup world, it’s cool to show off your office. The attention to detail, the vending machines, the foosball table, the chill-out room, the fitness-space, the console-corner… you name it. All these things are supposed to make people feel better about being in an office.

An office is for work, not for hanging out.

I remember my first visit at the famous Googleplex, the office of Google in Mountain View, California. I was blown away by all the free stuff they’d get. Sport installations, restaurants, vending machines, massage armchairs, laundry services… everything that would make a Google employee NOT want to go home. Yet their office spaces were crammed and very often had an open office layout that promotes distraction.

I didn’t get why Google, the place where supposedly the smartest people in the world work, on one hand was so generously providing all of these lavish perks, but on the other hand, wasn’t investing in a proper, effective workplace.

Perks should focus on helping people work better

If you want to invest in your people and give them real perks, give them bigger desks, more space between each other or ideally private offices, comfortable armchairs, stand-up desks, two or three additional monitors, ergonomic keyboards, bigger whiteboards and acoustically-isolated conference rooms.

These things really make people work better.

Additional perks should focus on letting people have a life outside of work!

Instead of keeping people in the office, help them get out of it. Once they’re done with work, feel free to support their hobbies, their families, their vacation time.

I’ll be digging deeper into this in the second part of this book, but one of the problems I’m facing as a leader of an all-remote team is the fact that people work too much!

Yes, the biggest struggle for a person who works from home is the work-life balance. That’s why a true #NoOffice company is focused on supporting people’s life outside of work. Otherwise, they’ll burn out and you will have a completely new set of problems.

Don’t give stuff out entirely for free!

My experience has taught me that when people get stuff for free, they don’t appreciate it as much. That’s why we subsidize things. Depending on the situation, we usually cover around 50% of the net price and 100% of all the additional taxes and costs for most of the perks we offer. Here are some examples:

  • Want a new computer? Choose any computer you want: we pay half of it, you pay the other half.
  • Want a new desk? New armchair? Additional monitor? Find the one you want: we’ll cover one half and the taxes. We also offer financing, so you can pay your 50% in installments over a few months. Interest-free, of course.

Depending on the thing people buy, after two years, this computer, smartphone, office appliance becomes theirs. We take it off our company’s books and they can then keep it, sell it or give it away. Ask your tax advisor for details.

What we’ve found is that people prefer to own the equipment they work with, and if they can get it for half the price, they really appreciate it. Also, when people work on the equipment they own, they simply care about it much more than if it was given to them for free by the company.

With perks, you can encourage people to change their behavior and build good habits

We also support things like:

  • English classes – Most of our team members’ mother tongue is not English but Polish. However, our official team-wide language is indeed English, so we pay for English lessons up until a certain amount per month. The employee covers the rest if they go above it.
  • Gym memberships – We negotiate special gym rates, and thanks to that, we can get a gym membership at a better rate than an employee would ever get. We only ask the employee to pay for half of it. We also do this for races like runs, triathlons or other competitions. This way, we promote health and fitness within the team.
  • Conferences, online courses and books – These things are free for everyone up until a certain threshold, and later they’re subsidized by the company. In my team, we’re all learners and we are happy to spend money to learn something new.

There are more ideas and things we haven’t tried yet. Some companies offer a full month-long sabbatical every X years for a team member so that they can totally disconnect from work and recharge. Others offer a fully-paid or subsidized hobby stipend, which means that if someone wants to learn something that has nothing to do with their work, the company will support it and help them pay for it.

Let people share what they do outside of work

We also have a culture of sharing what we do on weekends or outside of work. We send pictures of our hobbies, accomplishments and other non-work related projects in our #random chat channel. When we meet in person at our bi-yearly reunions (more on that later in this book), we even prepare presentations showing off our hobbies. We want people to be more than just their job description.

Let people donate to charity from the company’s profits!

Every month, as we pay our income taxes at Nozbe, we put aside 3% of the profits for charity. We wire it to a special bank account, and every month, the charity fund grows.

This is no longer our money. This belongs to charity and is ready to be given away.

Twice a year, 500 EUR are given

Twice a year, we give everyone on the team 500 EUR from our charity fund to spend on any cause they want to support. They can give this money to someone they know who is in need, they can support a local non-profit, animal shelter, foundation – whatever they want. In many situations, 500 EUR (which is around $600 US dollars) goes a long way in helping someone or some cause. And sometimes one team member finds a very nice cause and others join in, so the impact is pretty big.

Our company matches private donations, too

Additionally, if someone supports a cause from their own pocket, we will match it up until 500 EUR from our charity fund. This allows us to contribute to a cause that one of our team members is truly passionate about and help in a meaningful way.

Whenever there is a cause, we can help!

Having a charity fund like this gives us this freedom of donating money whenever we feel there’s a worthy cause. And there are so many causes and so many people in need.

Because this money is being wired to our separate bank account, at the moment of paying taxes, emotionally we don’t feel it’s our company’s money anymore. We’ve said goodbye to it already and we can be generous, spend it on something good and give back to society.

The one thing: Choose perks that truly help people!

These perks shouldn’t be sneaky ways of having people work more. They already work too much, and if they don’t, you’ve got more serious problems in the team that these perks won’t solve. Perks and non-salary benefits should focus on helping people be better people. They should be encouraged to have a life outside of work. This ensures they’ll be truly motivated to give their best at work.

To learn more about this subject, I recommend a great book, Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn1.

Next: Chapter 15 - Design your workweek

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