Earlier this year, Google employees were sent a memo informing them that some of their more lavish perks were being cut. Endless snacks, bottomless fizzy drinks and free massages all got the chop in the company’s scramble to cut costs.
Other employers followed suit. The phenomenon even got its own buzzword – and the ‘perkcession’ was born.
I wasn’t in the Google office the day that memo dropped, so I can’t tell you for sure whether tears were shed over the death of the snack bars. But my suspicion is that any grief would have been short lived.
When I speak to HR leaders about what they’re doing to improve the lives of their teams, the focus has changed. Goodies are out, solutions that tackle the problems that really matter to people are in.
This is welcome news. Companies are cottoning on to the fact that what their employees want is help with things that keep them up at night. As rising prices put huge pressure on business budgets, leaders also want to be sure they’re spending their money wisely.
With the cost of living crisis continuing to bite, attention is rightly turning to financial wellbeing. Rising prices remain the number one source of concern for UK employees. And according to a research by the CIPD, 65% of employees said it was important to them that their future employer has a financial wellbeing policy.
Yet – so many of the benefits and schemes on offer don’t actually make most employees better off.
First up there are the ‘treats’. While these (let’s not delude ourselves) are rather nice to have, they’re short lived and shallow. No amount of vanilla chocolate chip is going to ease the burden of mounting bills.
Then there are the perks, such as discounts and vouchers, aimed at helping people reduce their spending. These are well-intentioned, and might be genuinely useful to an employee planning to make a purchase anyway.
But not everyone goes to the cinema once a week, and very few of us are really in the market for a new iPad. Quite simply, most people don’t actually use them.
Let’s not forget the mental gymnastics required to actually access these things. There’s a platform you have to log into (with another password to remember), usually followed by a voucher to download or print. And how many times have we all bought a product, only to recall ten seconds too late that we could have used a discount code?
Another problem is that employees have to part with their cash to see the benefit of these schemes.
As my favourite geography teacher at school used to tell the class: “It's only a deal if you were going to buy it anyway.”
Solving these problems has remained front of mind as we’ve built Nous for Business.
When you’re a Nous member, we do all the work to find you genuine savings, typically worth hundreds of pounds a year. It works for every household – after all, we’ve all got bills to pay.
As one of our members Fran Maspero, whose company Spoke offered her a free Nous subscription put it: “Often a perk you get through work actually still costs you money. For me I think the most compelling thing is that Nous doesn't cost me anything.”
Plus we save our members hours of time by tracking contracts including energy, broadband and mobile in one place, finding fair deals and handling the hassle of changing providers.
When a typical Brit spends 13 days a year tackling their ‘life admin’ – much of which is done while at work – taking this responsibility off people's plate can have a major impact.
With little sign of the pressures on household budgets easing, employers are rightly looking to make a real difference for teams who are struggling.
And by doing it right, it’s possible for companies to deliver their teams more money for the good things in life – and more time to actually enjoy them.
Or Liza, who put the £605 she saved with Nous into the savings pot to buy a new house.
No-one should be dealing with the cost-of-living crisis all alone. We’re building a new service to liberate households from drudgery and make people’s lives simpler and fairer.