Untracked Hours And Discount Travel: The Best Work Perks In Australia

Pet insurance, huge discounts on flights and monthly massages — these are just some of the perks offered by Australian companies such as Qantas, Deloitte and Smartgroup. While these seem like fun extras to enjoy on top of decent salaries, recent studies have shown that employees are actually increasingly valuing non-monetary compensation over pay rises and huge salaries. In fact, a study done by Glassdoor in 2015 found that four in five employees surveyed would prefer more or added benefits to a pay increase, including flexible schedules (ie, working from home), extra time off, and office perks such as casual dress codes.

“Most research shows that benefits are popular with employees, and that most decent employers want to underpin their employment experience with more than just money,” says Richard Stewart, co-founder of employee benefits provider Untangl. “Money alone is consistently shown to be a poor long-term motivator.”

The results were strongest with young employees, with 89% of 18- to 34-year-old respondents confirming a desire for added work perks.

It makes sense. After all, we spend the majority of our lives at work – and benefits, rather than ever-larger amounts of money, can make us feel more valued, kind of like receiving a homemade present over a gift voucher.

“Money alone is consistently shown to be a poor long-term motivator.”

The perks we hear about most often are those offered at tech companies in the US like Airbnb and Google. At Airbnb, staff are given US$2000 a year to spend on personal travel (staying in the Airbnb listing of their choosing), while if your partner or spouse works at Google and passes away, you’ll receive 50% of their salary for the next 10 years. More novel perks include Twitter’s quirky offering of improv classes (alongside three catered meals every day) and at Buzzfeed UK, some of Britain’s best musos perform weekly.

While the most popular benefits in Australia may not be so creative as those abroad, they still offer something extra to entice employees to work hard, as well as bring future employees into the company.

Why and how are these benefits offered?

“At a basic level, employers are usually trying to provide support (health and wellbeing), provide access to tax incentivised schemes (such as salary sacrificing) and meet their statutory obligations (offering superannuation),” says Stewart. “These are hygiene-type benefits that probably don’t add much to employee motivation and retention but are low cost and easy to implement.

“Employers are also getting better at understanding the value of intrinsic rewards – psychological rewards that employees get from doing meaningful work and performing it well – and providing benefits that support this,” he says. “Social benefits and flexible working are becoming increasingly important.”

Stewart also cites benefits aimed at performance and motivation as increasing priorities. These include share options, incentive plans and bonus schemes.

While many smaller companies might not have the resources or the scale for added benefits to catch on, many bigger businesses within Australia are prioritising non-monetary perks.

The companies that are nailing it

In March 2018 LinkedIn ranked the top 25 most popular companies to work for in Australia, finding that PwC Australia landed at number one, with work perks among the conditions that employees value. PwC no longer tracks employees’ hours (as long as they get their work done), offers free onsite barista-made coffee, meditation rooms and days off on birthdays. Qantas and Virgin Australia both make the list (numbers 14 and 20 respectively) their discount flights and travel benefits for employees. KPMG, which placed fourth, encourages employees to consider flexible arrangements, such as working from home or job sharing.

Meanwhile, Westpac’s Sydney office (the bank placed fifth in the survey) offers flexible working spaces, a wellness centre, BBQ area and outdoor terrace. Employee health and wellbeing seems to be a priority for many companies. Deloitte runs Tai Chi Tuesdays, other companies offer group exercise sessions or skin cancer checks and Westpac has bike storage and shower facilities for employees who want to cycle to work.

What do employees actually want?

While table-tennis tables and beanbags have become common currency in many companies looking to appeal to their millennial employees, job satisfaction has been more closely linked to less obvious — but probably more important — perks.

“In our research, the highest-ranked benefits in the eyes of employees were pensions, private healthcare and wellbeing,” says Stewart. “Career development and flexible working also are consistently cited as being important.”

Looking ahead

Widespread employee benefits are relatively new – but this hasn’t stopped them from growing at a fast pace. To keep employees happy a few short years ago, companies would throw money at their salaries, and leave it at that. More tangible benefits aim to reflect a company that cares about workplace culture and their employees. As job satisfaction starts to equal or outweigh monetary concerns, it seems this is a trend that will only continue.

In a study by Deloitte, millennials overwhelmingly want their employers to empower them to help out good causes, and that flexibility will be key in encouraging them to remain in their jobs. Similarly, UK job site CV Library places flexibility up there with seasonal bonuses, extra holidays, free fitness classes and snacks in terms of what millennial employees value now, and will continue to value into the future.

It’s certain, though, that salary packages are going to look much different to what they did and do for previous generations.

Che-Marie is a London-based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Australian Gourmet Traveller, Collective Hub and Virgin Australia Voyeur among others. Follow her travels on Instagram @chemariet.

(Main image: HBO/Girls)