Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.
For some workers, planning the modern lunch break is tough. Do you go for a free gourmet meal in the office cafeteria or take your complimentary once-a-week massage? Visit the in-the-office life coach, or drop your car off for an on-site oil change? It's not like you have anything else to do – the free concierge service is already taking care of your grocery list, dry cleaning and picking out flowers for your partner.
No, these work perks aren't all just for executives at high-tech firms – though Google's famous "campus" headquarters in California was described by The Internship star Owen Wilson as more "like a resort" than a workplace. It seems other employers are leaping on board the inventive benefits bandwagon, leaving the conventional health and dental plan looking positively paltry in comparison.
Still, how do you design a package of perks that optimizes morale and productivity, but isn't open to abuse? When Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson recently announced that all company employees will be given unlimited vacation – emulating a similar policy at Netflix – he wisely added the caveat that it must not impede their work.
Some might argue that all the add-ons in the world aren't as good as a simple pay raise. But workplace expert Bruce Shutan says "carefully crafted benefits" – the so-called "hidden paycheque" – can be worth 10 times the equivalent in cash. Then again, business psychologist Larina Kase told Enterpreneur.com that neither raises nor fancy perks are necessary, but rather "in a tight economy, what motivates employees are free things, such as being praised and receiving compassion."
We've often thought that opportunities to give back – company-wide fundraisers, paid days off to volunteer or grants to employee-nominated causes – are great ways to boost workers' pride in their workplace.
But maybe we Canadians don't need much cheering – almost two-thirds of us love or like our jobs a lot, according to a survey for jobs site Monster.ca. Just don't touch our vacation, because recruitment firm Hays found that three-quarters would refuse any new job offer with less holiday time than our current gig.
So should Canadian employers bring in the free vending machines and hire an in-house yoga instructor, or focus more on flexible work hours and paying for professional development courses? And is morale boosted more by a team bungee-jumping outing, an all-staff volunteer day or a wine bar next to the copy room?
This week's question: If you owned a business, what kind of perks would you offer employees to improve morale and productivity?
Alan Saks, professor of human resources management at the University of Toronto
"Universal perks will be welcomed by some but not all employees. If you want to improve job performance, design a recognition and reward system that links rewards to desired behaviours and performance outcomes."
Dean Sockett, director of human resources at Keg Restaurants Ltd.
"Hire people with similar values as your company, then provide opportunities for them to show those values. When the work is done, show them a good time through special events to demonstrate your appreciation."
Thomas O'Neill, director of the individual and team performance lab at the University of Calgary
"Allow employees the flexibility to work when and where they are most productive, which may not fit into the common 9 to 5 grind."
Have your say in the comments section.