Redesigning our benefits
A lot of companies like to talk about what a great place to work they are. At Friday we like to demonstrate it. When it came to overhauling our benefits package, we started by asking the people who work here what benefits they would choose.
This isn’t so surprising, it’s how we’d approach a client project: start with discovery, in this case market and user research; then draw up a list of recommendations; pilot the most promising; gather feedback and decide what to scale.
So we started with an all-staff survey of suggestions for new benefits or improvements to current ones.
More than moolah
Like every agency, we’re in stiff competition for talent. When it comes to choosing an employer, people naturally look first to answer the two big questions: how much will I be paid and what work will I be doing? But research shows that firms which compete on salary alone don’t always attract the best talent.
We know that people want to work where they feel personally valued, not just priced as resources. We have a lofty aim to make Friday the best job you’ve ever had in the best place you’ve ever worked.
For a lot of people, time is their most valuable commodity. Yet often they don’t even take their annual holiday allowance, carrying days over year after year.
Consequently, one of the ideas we surveyed was reduced summer working hours in place of a limited holiday carry-over entitlement. This enabled permanent staff to finish work at 2pm on Fridays through June, July and August, the equivalent of 3½ days a year extra paid holiday. Obviously, clients were not billed for the time.
This proved to be the most popular idea we floated, so we put it to the test. People used the extra time for various purposes: taking part in social, cultural and sporting activities, increasing family time, clearing housework in preparation for a weekend away, or just extending weekend down-time.
I wanted to learn to use my camera properly, so I went on a photo-safari to the South Bank. On another afternoon, I went to the Royal Academy summer show. Both of these are things it’s unlikely I would have got around to doing at the weekend.
Nick, Technical Director at Friday and a new father, used summer hours for a balance of extra family time and just to get out on his bicycle.
“In June I went off and did a bloody good bike ride in the Chilterns,” he says. “Whistling through the country hedgerows, sun shining, knowing everyone else is cooped up in an office. That felt good, and I felt genuinely thankful for the perk.”
It would be unfair to say that everyone has been 100% happy all the time. Some mentioned extra stress managing teams and clients, and a few people said they felt under pressure to manage their time much more carefully to fit in a 2pm exit on Fridays. Mind you, a few also said they felt it made them more time conscious and productive! It’s all a work in progress, and we’ve learned a lot from our experiences so far.
As part of the benefits overhaul, Friday also increased the employee pension contribution, organised weekly massages and introduced a shopping and entertainment voucher discount scheme, in addition to the existing perks.
Massage has been popular with some, and after an initial burst of enthusiasm, the voucher scheme could probably do with some internal re-promotion. But, not only did reduced summer working hours score best in the survey, it has also proved to be scheme which most people have used and reported real benefit from (so far). We expected people to manage the expectations of clients and stakeholders in the projects they’re in, and be flexible if needed. And it looks like the pros have outweighed the cons.
We’re always keen to learn what makes people happy at work. Chances are, reduced summer hours will become a regular feature at Friday, but we’ll be capturing more staff feedback as the year goes on.