Procurement · 18 October 2017

Hangover days and festivals: The unusual workplace perks proving a hit with staff

The "bucking bronco" contest in full swing at Roctostock 2017
The “bucking bronco” contest in full swing at Roctostock 2017
Would you allow your employees a day off for a hangover? You might see an unexpected benefit. From booze to bands, Business Advice finds out the unusual workplace perks on offer at three small UK companies that have proved a success among staff.

Employee retention and better productivity are often touted as the key benefits of inclusive workplace perks, which could also help drive a successful recruitment strategy. However, research has suggested most micro business owners don’t actively promote any additional benefits to staff, mainly due to time and budget restrictions.

So, what are employees looking for? According to CV-Library, the most typically desired benefits are flexible working and seasonal bonuses, while most workers are open to greater provision of exercise through subsidised gym memberships.

On the other hand, you could do things a bit differently and reap the benefits of an active and challenged workforce. Business Advice looked at the unusual workplace perks on offer at three UK companies, speaking to those behind the ideas.

Summer festival

For the last eight years, staff at PR and marketing agency Octopus Group have been treated to the annual Roctostock? festival. The company’s 65 employees are taken out of the city to a countryside field for a weekend of team-building activities, live music and downtime. We asked CEO Jon Lonsdale what inspired the tradition.

wed reached the point with 30 or so employees that staying overnight in hotels was becoming a challenge to arrange, and for a small business was also quite costly but we loved getting away from the stresses and strains of the office for 24 hours.

The Octopus Group team
The Octopus Group team enjoying another Roctostock
Lonsdale explained that it was important to take the team out of its comfort zone, and with no natural campers, a festival seemed the logical choice. Initially, the idea of pitching up tents in a field didnt draw much enthusiasm from the team.

then came the live music idea, he added. Everyone was nervous at first, but we had the best time, and the rest is history. It will always be in our calendar from now on.

According the Jodie Blair, the HR assistant turned festival organiser, ensuring the event stays fresh and different each year is the biggest challenge. The reactions of her colleagues, however, make the effort worthwhile.

it’s a great way to enhance our value of making Octopus Group a home away from home. We pride ourselves in making sure we all know each other on a personal level, and having two days away together out of the office really helps, she explained.

it’s become the most anticipated event in the company calendar, and Blair noted the buzz? around the office in the lead up to and following the festival.

it brings people together. There is always a story to tell afterwards.

boozed or burnt? days

Statistically, one in five of your employees feigned illness to get out of work in the last year, rising to two-thirds if office gossip is to believed. But what if pulling a sickie was part of your benefits package??

At media company The Specialist Works, employees can take two BOB? (boozed or burnt) days out of each year’s holiday entitlement, dependent on deadlines and how much their absence will impact the team. No questions asked, according to CEO Martin Woolley.

Allowing leave at short-notice could bring down overall absences within a business
these two days can be used for anything, Woolley explained. If you just can’t get out of bed on Monday, or the sun’s out and you want to spend a day with the kids, or you’ve spent the last couple of days pulling together a pitch and need a rest, or those drinks on a Thursday night went a bit late and the thought of work on Friday is worse than the hangover these are all legitimate reasons for staff to use BOB days.

An existing sense of shared responsibility has enabled the ambitious idea to work practically, and Woolley noted that the strong team ethic has prevented individuals leaving colleagues stranded.

Read more: Five free perks for small teams that will engage millennial employees

everyone knows what it feels like that dread of going into work when you just can’t face it, he added. It means you can be sympathetic and cover your mate for the day, knowing they will do the same for you when you need it.

In fact, placing greater trust in staff has brought the overall number of absences down at the company. Acknowledging the positive impact of the scheme, Woolley said it contributed to an honest relationship? between staff and managers.


 
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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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