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The benefit of benefits

One of the fundamental reasons those in pursuit of permanent employment stay permanent and don’t engage in the interim world is the company benefits package they get to enjoy as an FTE.

As the final negotiation stages of closing down that dream package are reached and a solid base salary has been achieved, interest then turns to benefits, which let’s face it, normally consist of healthcare, some form of bonus, childcare vouchers, a season ticket loan, some paid holiday and perhaps a pension contribution. But how much of these do we actually need or even want anymore? Is it merely a comfort of knowing that they exist, irrespective of how they actually benefit us? 

Consider this for a second… London property prices are sky-high. To get on to the ladder, one needs to scrape together every bit of cash for a deposit. In London - and I don’t just mean inner-city London either - a two-bedroom terraced house in a nice suburb won’t deliver much change from £500,000. How many 20-35 year olds have enough spare money to contribute to a pension? Not many, so what is an employee-matched pension contribution worth when your employer matches the 0% you’re putting in? 

This, of course, raises the bigger topic of Generation X being eclipsed by Generation Y (also known as the Millennials - consisting roughly of those born post early 1980s). The Millennial workforce is now the largest workforce demographic in the UK and the appetite seems to have shifted to the promotion of a work/life integration, rather than a ‘work/life balance’.

Healthcare benefit has remained somewhat weatherproof, and I expect it will be for some time. I am a Millennial (well, just), and having previously broken my hand I enjoyed elevated and exclusive levels of care, not to mention a subsequently speedy convalescence. I found private healthcare to be invaluable. It made my life easier and my Millennial brothers and sisters tend to agree. Perhaps that comes as no surprise, given the widespread impatience to have everything ‘right now’. Who has the time for NHS waitlists when private healthcare offers the speedy ‘Amazon Prime’ alternative? 

So what perks do we want? We established the appetite for work and home life to be more integrated, reducing any time-wasting (i.e., commuting). Time is very precious for the ambitious and career-minded Millennials. They/we are certainly far from being ‘work-shy’, so the desire for tailored benefits can only serve to maximise efficiency and allow us to work harder, work smarter, work remotely… while being able to spend more time with family.

Millennials have an array of commitments: children, pets, personal engagements and sometimes long commutes to the office. The resulting inability to attend to important things at home is what really sticks in my throat since we have all the technology for working remotely.

So, again… what do we want? Many surveys have been undertaken to answer just that, and it seems that working remotely sits right up there. Working from home was always something that sounded nice in the nineties, however is now quickly becoming an expectation. 

As well as remote working, preferences are gravitating towards taking a step further and abandoning fixed hours entirely. As workers opt for greater control of their day-to-day tasks, the wider consensus is that as long as the job gets done, does it matter when (or where) it happens? It gives people the freedom to plan their days around some of the other important commitments, which by virtue further integrates their working life into their personal life.

Another concept linked to flexible working is the  unlimited paid holiday. Controversial? Perhaps, but it is just another way of granting employees  control over their time management focussing instead on delivering the objectives for which they’re paid. Many people work on holiday nowadays - yet another controversial work/life merger, but if we took more holidays, does it matter? Research also shows that for companies that do provide unlimited vacation time the millennials aren’t abusing the system, instead becoming even more aware of the time spent away from the workplace.

This does of course raise the question of whether work/life integration slowly erodes work/life balance. Some might say yes, but millennials are highly career focussed. So much so that professional development (i.e., paid studies, MBAs and language courses) is another sought after benefit that would make us better at our jobs and deliver more for our employers. A pragmatic balance can be struck that would allow us more freedom and flexibility, less time wasting, resulting in increased productivity and overall satisfaction levels amongst employees. 

We don’t necessarily want to be getting a season ticket loan to drag ourselves, perhaps unnecessarily, into the office when we could be working from home, surrounded by our loved ones. We might not want childcare vouchers or to be shackled to our desks from nine to five. What we want is a buffet of options and the ability to choose. 

Anyhow, I’ve got to dash, I have my brother visiting from the Midlands this afternoon, so will be working remotely for the rest of the day. You can reach me on email, iPad, iPhone… Enjoy the rest of the day, wherever you are.

Richard Lindsay is the Principal for TMT at Interim Partners. 

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