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People Don't Need Fancy Job Perks to Be Happy at Work, New Survey Says

By Maggie Seaver

workplace perks
Companies are investing more than they ever have in wellness programs and in-office perks and facilities—they now know how highly their employees and prospective talent value a comfortable, balanced, and customized environment. They also know that happy, healthy employees are the most productive, and that a happy, healthy professional atmosphere attracts and keeps top talent.

According to a workplace wellness study by Future Workplace and View, which polled 1,601 professionals working in corporate offices, "more than two-thirds of employees said that a workplace that supported and enhanced their health and well-being would encourage them to accept a job offer (67 percent) or to stay at their current job (69 percent)."

What exactly does supporting and enhancing their health and well-being mean? This survey proves it's not free kale salad stations, in-office yoga studios, and bean bag chairs employees want but rather, quite literally, the basics for a healthy and comfortable work environment.

When asked which workplace environmental factors most affect their productivity, mood, and well-being, the top-rated answer overall was air quality, followed closely by good lighting, water quality, and comfortable temperatures.

The least valued perks seem to be those we might consider the coolest or flashiest—the new-age corporate amenities that sound amazing, but ultimately don't add that much to improve performance or professional well-being. The three factors at the bottom of employees' lists include access to healthy food choices, fitness facilities, and technology-based health tools.

"The research shows that employer health and wellness efforts fall short despite company investments in on-site gyms, ergonomics, and healthy food choices," says Jeanne Meister, a founding partner of Future Workplace. "It's the invisible factors such as air quality and access to natural light that are often overlooked, yet provide the greatest influence on workplace wellness, employee productivity, and the overall quality of the employee experience."

Survey participants were also asked for the top five areas in which they think companies should improve. These include adequate temperature control (45 percent); good quality/allergen-free air (45 percent); paid time off (43 percent); options to adjust or customize workplace conditions (42 percent); more outdoor views, natural light, and/or some other connection to nature. Professionals said they'd prefer to see an improvement in these top-five environmental aspects than for perks like a pet-friendly office or unlimited PTO.

Per the study: "Employees expect their workplace environment and experience to be as good as their consumer experience. From thermostats controlled by apps to integrated home entertainment controls to virtual assistants like Alexa and Google, people experience an increasing level of technology and personalization in their home every day."

So that begs the question: Are customizable workplace setups next? Imagine being able to adjust the temperature, light, or acoustics—yes, acoustics—around your desk/cubicle/office (every office has those loud phone-talkers). Forty-eight percent of employees said they'd love to be able to customize the temps in their workspace with an app, 33 percent would take the same for the overhead, desk, and natural light, and 33 percent desire the option to control masking noise and soundscaping in order to focus in a noisy office.

While these environmental extras and improvements may not be available to you now, there are still ways to work with what you've got. Maximize your productivity at the office with the help of small, self-made perks, like a clean, organized desk, regular, healthy lunch breaks, and keeping a firm handle on stress—you might even try meditating at work for 10 minutes a day to maintain a level mood and ordered mind.


September 2019


The opinions and views expressed in this publication are for general information only and are not necessarily those of Mutual of America Life Insurance Company.

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