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Why You Should Encourage Your Employees to Travel

There is no better feeling than setting that “Out of Office” automatic email response and saying one last “Hasta la vista” to your coworkers before you take off for a fun vacation. For most people, travel creates a sense of excitement and anticipation that’s hard to find anywhere else. But traveling does more than just drum up excitement. It can actually improve your health and wellbeing, according to a recent Forbes article. Plus, for employers, there are even more added benefits on the line. Check out why we think it’s imperative that a company encourages its employees to travel – and how to do it!

employee travel

Decreases Burnout and Stress

According to a recent Gallup study, over two-thirds of employees asked said they felt burnt out at work either very often or sometimes. While employee burnout obviously affects the employee the most, it can also severely hurt the employer. A burnt out employee underperforms, struggles to focus on his or her work, and feels tired all the time. They might even be one of the one million employees calling in sick to work because of stress. One answer to this concerning problem is travel, which can actually alleviate stress. While travel can’t completely heal employee burn out, there is no doubt it can offer temporary aid. Whether your employee prefers a relaxing vacation on the beach, a trip full of sightseeing and museums, or a little bit of both, they’ll experience increased productivity and decreased stress as a result of their time out of the office!

Increases Employee Loyalty

These days, employee retention is a top concern of most HR professionals. As employers seek out strategies that can help them both attract new talent and retain their current, high-performing employees, travel benefits have become a popular choice for many companies. A company that offers a benefit related to travel, like great discounts, a more flexible PTO, or travel incentives, can set them apart from the competition. Plus, it encourages current employees to feel more comfortable actually taking their vacation days and guarantees they’ll come back relaxed and ready to work with a renewed loyalty to the company that just helped them take a great trip.

Improves Professional Skills

Not all travel is created equal. However, no matter where your employees choose to get away to, there’s a good chance that they’ll get something out of it that can translate to important professional skills in the office. For example, experiencing a new culture can expand perspective and help them see their old surroundings with new eyes. Traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language helps you develop crucial communication skills that an employee can demonstrate to his or her team or manager. Dealing with stressful transportation, whether it’s a missed flight connection, a flat tire, or a lost bag, forces a traveler to strengthen their flexibility in a tough situation. Skills acquired during travel are ones that can easily be used in the professional setting.

It’s one thing to simply encourage your employees to travel. It’s another thing to actually offer ways to make travel more accessible to your employees. Here at PerkSpot, we love using our Travel Discount Center to find the best deals on travel! Employees have been able to travel far and wide and save money while doing so. Click here to learn more about our Travel Discount Center and how a perks and discounts program can benefit your employees! What methods do you use to encourage your employees to travel?

What New Moms Want HR Professionals to Know About Returning After Maternity Leave

Here at PerkSpot, we were so excited to welcome back our Director of Marketing, Whitney Sattel, who recently returned to work after her maternity leave. Her return encouraged us to dive deeper into what it takes to create a successful transition back into the workplace, ensuring that women who want to stay are supported in doing so. It often goes unrealized, but a good plan that helps working moms return to work is absolutely crucial. When a plan like that is lacking, the results can be devastating to a company. In fact, a study by the Maven Clinic says 75% of new moms are excited to return to work after their maternity leave – yet 43% of them report that they ended up leaving that job in the end.

working moms

It was important to all of us PerkSpotters, but especially our HR team, to assist Whitney in transitioning back as smoothly as possible. Here are 4 things we learned about how HR managers, and all coworkers, can help new moms who are returning to work.

1. Communicate Effectively

Make things easier by creating a timeline and sharing it with your returning employee and her team well in advance. Make sure that you collaborate with the expecting mom to create this as well, so you can take her preferences into account. Some will want and even look forward to monthly check-ins with the team or their manager while on maternity leave. Others will prefer time to themselves to recuperate and spend time adjusting to motherhood. Use this timeline to explain expectations for the returning mother as well. This transparency will be helpful for them as they plan their return.

2. Re-board

Do you remember how it felt to be a new employee at your company? A returning mom can tend to feel the same way, so re-boarding them is an important step. Whether your teammate was gone for 6 weeks or 6 months, remember that they aren’t up to date on everything that happened during their absence. Take the extra time to stop and explain what they missed. “Yes, they will quickly get up to speed,” confirmed Whitney. “But allotting time to help them do so will make the transition smoother on both ends.”

3. Offer Flexibility

Many new moms find it extremely difficult to jump right back into their old work routines, and it’s important for HR to acknowledge that difficulty. Offer the chance to design a schedule different from the one they used to have. “I’ve recently begun working from home one day a week,” said Whitney, “and I really like the flexibility that creates for me. Not only do I get more time with my baby by getting rid of my commute, but I actually find that it tends to be my most productive day of the week!”

4. Ask Questions

It’s not easy for a new mom to return to work, especially in the beginning, and it’s even more difficult when they feel like they can’t share their exciting developments! Whitney said, “When I returned to PerkSpot, I was so happy to be greeted with hugs and questions all about the newest addition to our family.” By encouraging your coworker to share stories and fun pictures, they feel more comfortable about stepping back into their role as an employee while still keeping their new role as a mother.

It’s important to take a hard look at the plans you have in place for each expecting employee. By developing a maternity leave program that creates a smooth transition back to work, you can retain your new mom’s talents while still making her feel comfortable and welcomed.

The Secret To-Do List Hack To Send Your Productivity Soaring

If your office is anything like ours, then your January is off to a strong start, as well as a busy one! The first month of the year can be a strenuous one for any HR professional – your to-do list is filling faster than you can cross things off. So here are our secrets to productivity you need to adopt if you want to make your January the most productive month yet!

secrets to productivity

The key to your productivity is saying NO.

It might sound strange, but saying no will actually boost your productivity levels, especially when you need it most.

Why you need to say no

It’s natural to say yes to things. You want to be a committed employee with a reputation for helping out fellow colleagues when they’re feeling swamped, or when they want your expert input. But all those yeses will start to add up and put so much pressure on yourself and your list of to do’s that you find yourself unable to accomplish the important things. Instead, focus on time management and prioritization.

How to start saying no

The people pleaser in you is probably feeling a little stressed just thinking about it. But we’re not telling you to exclusively say no, or to do so in a rude or offensive manner. We’re simply reminding you that your time and energy are precious resources, and you should use them wisely. Ask yourself these two questions next time someone asks you to do something for them.

1. Do I have the time?

Is your schedule full of meetings? Planner full of to-dos? Keep in mind, there are only so many hours in a day, and so many days in a week. Filling each and every one of them is neither healthy nor conducive to your productivity. Take a step back and decide whether you have the time for this task.

2. Is it a priority?

Prioritization is one of the most important things to remember when you’re trying to be your most productive. It’s natural to put an easy task on your to-do list, especially since you get the satisfaction of quickly crossing it off – we’re talking simple things like making an appointment or sending an email. But in reality, those small tasks steal away your focus from the larger tasks at hand, and you end up losing time and effort in completing them. Set aside a specific time of day to handle them instead of letting them draw focus and attention from more important tasks.

Saying no to a fellow coworker is hard, and it might not feel natural or comfortable, especially in the beginning. But your time and energy are just as important as those who are asking for your help. Trust us – your productivity will thank you!

Hygge at the Office

If you’re into wellness you may have heard about a new trend called Hygge. According to the Oxford Dictionaries, Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)”. What is a seemingly simple word has become a lifestyle for many as they seek to incorporate this sense of balance in their everyday life.

As we start 2018, it’s fitting to start off on a note of positivity and balance. What better way to do that than by adding Hygge into our mantra for the new year.
Here are a few ways we’re cultivating Hygge at work:
Make your space your own.
Whether you’re always on the go or sit stationary in a cubicle, make your workspace your own by adding pictures of loved ones to your dashboard or adding plants to your desk. PerkSpotter Frank added a cactus to his desk, which is proven to reduce stress, increase productivity, improve air quality and more.

hygge at the office perkspot

Make your lunch break count.

It can be easy to get caught up in your endless list of to-dos, but don’t forget that moments of space and rest can provide meaningful restoration for what’s ahead. Take time to break. Savor your food and enjoy the moments of stillness. Our fellow PerkSpotter, Karla (@eatingwithkarly) takes pride in every meal she creates and even posts her food prep on instagram to share. We love seeing the detail she takes in making her lunch every day. Just one of many ways Karla inspires us here at PerkSpot.

A post shared by Karly (@eatingwithkarly) on

Make meditation part of your day.

You’ve heard it before and we’ll say it again: practice mindfulness. Take two minutes to stop and breathe. Maybe you start a routine every hour on the hour. Maybe it’s just once in the morning and once in the afternoon. But by taking time to stop and clear your head, you’re on your way to a more positive frame of mind. Nick and Dan, pictured below, are taking time this morning to stop and breathe. They said they already felt more Zen.
hygge at the office perkspot

Make moves.

Try sitting in different areas of your office or walking around the neighborhood. Moving around, especially in the colder months, is vital to keeping your blood flowing and your mind working. Take a moment to try out different spaces whenever you can. PerkSpotter Zach B. loves stealing time in the lounge to focus on the latest tech project up his sleeve.

hygge at the office perkspot

These are a few simple ways we’re incorporating Hygge at PerkSpot. How will you find balance in 2018?

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National Work and Family Month

In 2003, Congress declared October National Work and Family Month. According to Former President Barack Obama’s official White House statement in 2010, “National Work and Family Month serves as a reminder to all of us, especially working caregivers, their families, and their employers, that while we have made great strides as a nation to adopt more flexible policies in the workplace, there’s more we can do.”

national work and family month

Great Strides

Yes, as a nation, we’ve come a long way and that’s worth celebrating. Less than 100 years ago, during World War II, women began to flood into the workforce, increasing from 27 percent of the working population to 37 percent in just five years, meaning one in four women were working outside the home for the first time. Today, 54 percent of the U.S. workforce are women, showing the great strides we’ve made in a relatively short amount of time.

There’s More We Can Do

But, October is off to a rough start. From natural disasters in Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico, to the mass shootings in Las Vegas, now more than ever is the time for employers to remember the humanity their companies were built to serve. This means providing a flexible work environment that understands the needs of parents and their growing families.

1. Provide Better Policies

This is the bare minimum of what companies can do to provide a flexible work environment for employees. While the Family and Medical Leave Act was implemented in 1993, the U.S. still falls way behind when it comes to providing mandatory paternity leave. The first thing an employer should do is provide policies that protect their employees against discrimination and encourage them to take necessary time away when starting their families.

2. Walk the Talk

Plenty of companies boast of their workplace flexibility, but few are actually practicing what they preach. We hear of countless employers providing “unlimited paid time-off” but the reality is without clear expectations or good management, employees are left with guilt and misunderstanding, and often take less days off than before. When thinking about expectations, this seems to incite negative connotations for many of us. But expectations can also mean encouraging an employee to stay home when they’re not feeling well or take a few days off when a big project wraps up. At PerkSpot, we are lucky to have implemented this policy with great success, but not without constant work and re-evaluation. It works because the managers provide clear expectations of when to take time off and when we should be in the office. Plus, they model the benefits by taking off for week-long family vacations or much-needed downtime.

3. Lead by Example

This brings us to our next point. No company policy in and of itself is going to solve problems. That’s where it’s important to hire and train effective managers who not only implement policies, but who can model this behavior to their team. No one feels safe to take time off when the boss is sneezing all day long in their office. Managers, take care of yourselves and take care of your team.

4. Bend the Rules

Even your most flexible policies might stand in the way, so don’t be afraid to bend a little. We’re all human and we all face circumstances out of our control. Think outside the HR box and get creative. There’s a time and a place for every rule so make sure you discuss when a situation might arise that requires a reassessment of company policies. Being flexible means being flexible… even when it comes to your policies.

What are some ways you’re celebrating National Work and Family Month? How has your company made strides to protect families inside the workplace?

Conquer the Sunday Night Blues

sunday night blues

An awesome article in Fistful of Talent recently discussed the “Sunday Night Blues”. Well-written and well-researched, the author describes the misery many people experience before returning to work on Monday morning. He dives into why this might be true of the 76% of Americans who say their Sunday Night Blues are so bad they want to look for a new job.

While you can read the article for a more in-depth view of the “Sunday Night Blues” and their sweep across America, let’s discuss a few ways we can conquer the blues by providing employees with a better place to work in the first place.

Give Them Something to Look Forward To

Think about your team and the weekly activity they enjoy doing the most. Maybe it’s a meal you share together or a fun team building activity. Whatever it is, try moving it to Monday to engage your staff right from the get-go. Start incorporating a daily stand-up as part of your Monday routine to encourage your team by celebrating wins and highlighting star performers. Just make sure to save any constructive criticism for later in the week when morale is higher.

Take Advantage of Fridays

When the end of the week rolls around most of us check out for the weekend. But often that can make Monday even more painful. Ending your Fridays well and setting you and your team up for success is essential for a productive and pleasant start to your week. The Muse provides a helpful worksheet for ending your week by celebrating accomplishments and assigning tasks for the week ahead. Using this sheet can help you feel more successful and less overwhelmed on Monday morning.

Let Them Flex Their Schedule

One of the greatest benefits at PerkSpot is the ability to flex our schedules. This could mean working from home when it’s storming out or working later hours to catch up on some Zzzzs. Providing flexible schedule opportunities for employees can help improve productivity and has even made a difference in closing the gender pay gap. Telecommuting is becoming all the more popular, so it will not only satisfy your current employees but also help you stay competitive when recruiting new hires.

Lead by Example

Nothing is worse than walking into the office on Monday morning to hear your supervisor or coworker moan and complain. On the other hand, Gallup reports that “Positive leaders deliberately increase the flow of positive emotions within their organization,” and can lead to greater engagement and improved performance. If the leadership is not staying positive, it’s highly unlikely their employees will maintain a positive attitude.

Combat the “Sunday Night Blues” by providing a better workplace for our employees, starting with our own attitudes.

Why We Decided to Offer Sabbaticals This Year

While we operate like a start-up, we actually celebrated TEN years at PerkSpot last year. With this longevity came a need to reward and challenge our employees who have been around for the long haul. That’s why this year PerkSpot decided to offer sabbaticals to our more tenured employees.
sabbaticals

What is a Sabbatical?

Sabbatical comes from the word “sabbath”, which means “rest”. A sabbatical is a paid leave granted to an employee after they have fulfilled a set number of years in service at their company. In our case, this begins with a two week paid leave after an employee has been with PerkSpot for three years and is increased to three weeks after five years.

 

What is the Purpose of a Sabbatical?

There are many reasons behind taking a sabbatical. In addition to giving employees some much needed time off, a sabbatical should also be focused on personal and professional development. Each employee is encouraged to spend the time away pursuing their “hopes and dreams”. Oftentimes we find ourselves so caught up in the daily grind, we forget about those bigger goals and aspirations we want to accomplish. This could mean perfecting your Spanish with lessons in Cuba or discovering artifacts on an archeological dig (yes, these are real PerkSpot sabbatical plans). While these experiences may not directly relate to our jobs, they can enrich our lives and in turn make us better individuals and employees.

 

Making the Most of a Sabbatical

If you’re considering taking a sabbatical or offering this option to your employees, here are a few things to consider:

1. Make It Challenging: A sabbatical can be relaxing, but it should also stretch you. It provides the perfect opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and discover something new. These are the moments where we truly grow. If you’ve never been outside the country, consider traveling for your break. Or if you’re a travel nut, maybe you decide to stay local and spend the time reflecting. Whatever you decide, just make sure it’s pushing you to greater heights.

2. Make It Relevant: While we’ve already said that a sabbatical doesn’t have to directly apply to your career, it should help you master new skills, improve upon existing ones, or provide an opportunity to improve relationships with clients, employers, or colleagues. Use this time to generate experiences that will help you in the future.

3. Make It Last: The experience shouldn’t stop when you get back to the office. Bring along a journal to document what you’re learning. You’ll be more likely to retain the information and have something to reference when looking back on your time spent away. If you’re not a writer, maybe document your experiences through photos. Your Instagram account will thank you.

 

We love to hear about our employees’ sabbatical plans. If you took a three week sabbatical, how would you use your time away?

Embracing Seasonal Office Changes

One thing we love about Chicago is that the city really comes alive in the summer. Patios open up and flood with people, baseball season is in full swing, and weekend trips to the beach are an absolute necessity. But with warmer weather and longer days, it can be hard to stay motivated behind the four walls of your office.

perkspot seasonal office changes

That’s why many companies are offering perks that change with the seasons. From cutting down your hours to taking a day off to volunteer, here are a few of our favorite ways office leaders can help employees stayed engaged and productive, while still finding time to enjoy the sunshine.

Flexible Hours

While this is not the newest trend out there, summer fridays are still amazing for boosting office morale. Chances are your employees are daydreaming out the window around 3pm on Friday afternoon anyway, so why not reward them for hitting their sales goals or nailing that project by allowing them to head out early. Plus, there are tons of reasons why flexible hours are great for company morale and ROI.

Seasonal Events

Summer is a great time to enjoy the great outdoors. Whether it’s a beach day or heading out for a baseball game, grab your employees and head outside for some seasonal fun. Last year at PerkSpot, a few of us participated in a 5k together. It really brought the team together for a great cause and motivated us to stay in shape!

perkspot 5k seasonal office changes

Spice Up Your Recognition

Looking for a new way to recognize and reward employees? Summer can be the perfect time to pre-purchase tickets to concerts or sporting events to give to your company’s overachievers. Not sure what to offer? Take a survey to see what events your employees are planning on attending this summer to make sure your prize offerings are relevant and truly incentivizing.

Do Good

There are so many volunteer opportunities available in the summer. From building a house with Habitat for Humanity to serving at your local food pantry, explore options to give back with your office while the weather is warm and your employees are itching to get outside. According to a survey of corporations that encourage employee volunteering, employees who volunteer are 60% more likely to feel loyal to their company than those who do not.

Sun’s out, fun’s out. How is your office incorporating the summer season into your corporate perks?

Exploring the Five Hour Work Day

In a previous post, we explored the notion of the Four Day Work Week. But recently, we’ve been reading up on a similar phenomenon known as the Five Hour Work Day.

It all started with this Fast Company article about Stephan Aarstol, CEO of Tower, a beach lifestyle company. Aarstol made a shift not only in the amount of hours employees worked per day, but also in how they were compensated. The results? Over 40% higher revenue annually.

So how did he do it? And is this something every company can implement effectively?

five hour work day

Execute carefully

Aarstol knew that this shift wasn’t something he could enforce overnight. He started by introducing the idea of “summer hours”. By making the change temporary, he put himself in the position to be able to switch things back around if the hours didn’t work out or hurt productivity. Lucky for him (and his employees), productivity soared and the 8-1 work day is now permanent.

Explain the whys

For Aarstol, the key to the success of the Five Hour Work Day was having a clear mission behind the change. He not only switched the hours, but also the compensation structure by offering employees a 5% profit share. By doing so, he enforced the importance of productivity, not just presence. He asked more of his employees in a shorter amount of time knowing that the rewards would be greater. He also knew this lifestyle might not serve everyone, and was therefore prepared to lose employees that might not fit into this new way of work. By keeping his mission at the forefront of the change, he was able to not only increase profits, but also increase compensation for his employees. Talk about a win-win.

Explore the change

While you may not work for a beach lifestyle brand, the Five Hour Work Day doesn’t have to be a far-off reality for all of us.

But how can we make the switch?

  • Start at the top: Most managers think that employees who show the most “face-time” are also the most dependable. Make sure your management is rewarding and recognizing employees based on their output, not their time-clock.
  • Provide concrete goals: Again, make it very clear why you’re making the switch and how you’re measuring productivity. Put measurable goals in place so employees know exactly what’s expected of them.
  • Be flexible: Aarstol knew that this change would be difficult during certain busy seasons. He gave employees the freedom to leave after 1pm, understanding that special projects may require more time and attention. However, making this adjustment meant that 12 hour days became the exception, not the norm.

Could the Five Hour Work Day work for you? What hesitations would you have for implementing this change?

March Madness Doesn’t Have to Kill Productivity

The madness is starting. Today marks the official beginning of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and according to global outplacement firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, this year could cost employers over $2.1 billion in productivity. They also estimated that approximately 23.7 million workers are filling out brackets… most likely on company time.

So does the old saying hold true, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”? Or should we put a stop to the madness?

march madness doesn't have to kill productivity

A survey by Office Team reported that 57% of managers feel that while they don’t encourage watching games or participating in office pools, they are ok with these activities in moderation. 32% said they should not be allowed at work and a mere 11% actually encourage this behavior.

Let’s be honest, though. Would you rather work with these 11% of employers who embrace the insanity of March or with the 32% that shun this type of behavior? Odds are you’re in favor of the former.

But, March Madness doesn’t have to kill productivity. Here are a few ways to have your cake and eat it, too:

Embrace the Competition

A great way to celebrate March Madness at work is to embrace the competition. This can be awesome for team bonding and office morale. Keep pool minimums low or consider offering a “free pool” option where you give away company swag or other small prizes to the winner.

Keep it Playful (and Respectful)

While some friendly competition can be great for office morale, it can also get into slippery territory when office fanatics find themselves facing a losing streak. Make sure to manage expectations around the office and keep conversations light-hearted. Smack talk is fun but can turn into bullying quickly. Steer clear of anything that could be offensive or disrespectful.

Manage Expectations

While streaming the games during lunch may be totally acceptable, there still needs to be an expectation of office performance during these crazy few weeks. Make sure expectations are clearly communicated during this time. Consider offering extra incentives for high-performers by letting them leave early to catch a game or providing some team gear. By celebrating wins both on and off the court, you can enjoy the season while still reinforcing productivity standards.

You can make the most of the Big Dance while still staying productive by preparing strategically and being transparent about the impacts of the tournament. Celebrating and staying productive is easy… picking your winning bracket is not.