How Friendly Can You Make Your Workplace?

Small business owners are open to making simple, inexpensive or no-cost changes to their workplace as a way to keep employees happy on the job. The Wall Street Journal ran an article on this very topic suggesting that little perks can mean a lot to your staff.

I agree that many little perks work well in a small business environment and are things that large firms often can’t offer or accommodate. However, as the adage goes, “look before you leap.” Here are some of their suggestions …with the caveats the article failed to mention.

Free beer Fridays. Footing the bill for adult beverages to reward staff at the end of the week may seem like a good idea. Caveats:

  • Some employees may have alcohol abuse problems that you don’t want to awaken with workplace temptation.
  • If an employee overdoes the drinking at the office and gets into a car accident after leaving the workplace, are you liable?

Telecommuting. Allowing employees to choose to work from home or anywhere else is certainly possible for many types of businesses; many employees value this option. Caveats:

  • Will your company’s business suffer? Many have found telecommuting boosts productivity. Still, earlier this year Yahoo! ended its telecommuting program in order to foster collaboration. The success of a telecommuting program for your business may depend on the employees’ capabilities as well as your controls for the program.
  • What costs do you face? Who is paying for Internet service? Laptops?
  • What liabilities to do you have? Does your workers compensation cover accidents within the employee’s home during business hours?

Bringing pets to work. A number of companies now permit employees to bring their dogs or other pets to work.  Caveats:

  • Are any employees allergic to certain animals?
  • Are any employees afraid of certain animals?

Creative perks can be a way for small businesses to provide rewards, incentives, and recognition, especially when they can’t afford bonus checks or other financial compensation. However, before you leap in, be sure to consider all of the ramifications of a particular reward. This reflection may save you from pushback from some employees as well as unexpected financial exposure.


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