4 in 10 UK employees say one-off perks do not improve long-term happiness

employee perks

Employers are using quick-fix perks in an attempt to boost employee morale as a result of political and economic uncertainty, a new study reveals today.

The study shows that more one-off benefits—such as early finishes, company drinks or team lunches—have been offered by employers in the past year. Yet for 43 per cent of those surveyed that had received these perks they are not having a sustained impact on their happiness, prompting a call for employers to consider longer-term solutions.

The study of 1,000 UK employees found that employee happiness among respondents is fragile in the current turbulent climate. Only a quarter of employees surveyed said they feel generally optimistic about the future, with 58 per cent saying economic and political uncertainty has made them feel anxious at work due to fears of redundancy, higher workloads and negative atmospheres in the workplace.

These concerns are having a detrimental impact on staff morale on a daily basis. Over a fifth of employees surveyed said the triggering of Article 50 has decreased their general morale at work—with this being more common amongst SMEs.

Over half of employees surveyed said that hearing about current affairs has had a negative impact on their work over the past year. Again, these challenges were particularly acute amongst SMEs, where only 20 per cent surveyed reported having enough time to concentrate on their tasks without being distracted by negative news stories.

In line with these findings, keeping staff motivated is one of the most common concerns for HR managers this year, according to separate research commissioned earlier this year. Yet, the study suggests that companies would benefit more from investing in longer-term perks for employees that are specifically targeted at improving their long-term happiness. Respondents that receive these one-off initiatives clearly feel that they are used to appease staff against unhealthy working cultures, with 47 per cent saying they believed that their employer uses one-off perks to compensate for long working hours.

Adrian Warren, director at Cyclescheme, said: “It’s clear that not enough employers are helping employees get the right benefits that make a genuine impact on their health and happiness. In an uncertain economic climate, companies must do more to listen to what employees want and give them initiatives that will have a lasting impact on their well-being.”

Respondents receiving one off perks showed a strong demand for employee benefits that were focused on helping them become happier over the long term, rather than one-off perks. Only 15 per cent of employees surveyed said more quick-fix benefits would improve their happiness at work. Instead, respondents suggested they’d respond to more chances to exercise, more time to switch off mentally or opportunities for a greater work-life balance.

One simple solution suggested by the research is for employers to encourage more of their workers to commute actively, with this being proven to positively impact happiness, resilience and productivity, particularly following Article 50. For example:

Half of cycle commuters surveyed felt they had enough mental and physical energy to get them through each day feeling happy and productive, higher than those that took the train, bus or that drove to work.

Furthermore, over two thirds of cyclists surveyed also said they had good, positive interactions with colleagues throughout the day, more than those that took the train, bus or that drove to work.

Additionally, half of cyclists surveyed felt they had enough time away from digital distractions, significantly higher than those that took the train or bus. Supporting this, 20 per cent of people find it easier to cope with everyday challenges on days that they cycled or walked to work.

Adrian Warren continued: “Helping employees to be happier more often and for a longer period of time is one the most powerful ways a business can improve morale and productivity. Often leaders think that giving staff ‘popular’ perks like team drinks or a company lunch are what employees want most, but it’s having initiatives that will help them adopt healthier behaviours over the long term that are of the greatest value. With a new government, we’d like to see better efforts to promote sustainable modes of transport to work, which we know provide huge benefits not only for the environment, but for our health, too.”