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Workplace amenities are not entitlements

Feb 25, 2021, 12:42pm EST

Let’s play a word-association game.

What word comes to mind when you think about an office full of top-notch amenities? I’m talking about sit-stand desks, cutting-edge technology, and designer kitchens with Starbucks coffee and ultra-healthy, Top-Chef-quality food. Fitness centers, hotel-like lobbies and concierge services. Ping-pong tables, shuffleboard, retreat rooms, walking trails. Plush collaborative spaces, soothing water features, and maybe even an on-site restaurant or bar. For some in my generation, these amenities are a tough pill to swallow. Most of us spent many years working for employers that expected us to show up, put our head down and work. So when we see these lifestyle-centric amenities, the word that sometimes comes to mind is “entitlement.” As someone who spent more than two decades putting his head down and working, let me tell you something that the recent movement toward dynamic office space has taught me: amenities are not entitlements. Employers aren’t investing in them just to be nice to their employees. They’re investing in them because they generate profits.

To get to the bottom of how this is possible, ask yourself this question: are conveniences entitlements? Of course not. Conveniences are conveniences. They make your life easier, free up your time and energy and allow you to focus on your priorities. Amenities, themselves conveniences, generate those same three factors for employees. This in turn benefits the employer in three ways: 1) amenities help recruit and retain top talent, 2) they foster higher levels of productivity, and 3) they attract new customers or clients.

Recruitment and retention

You might be familiar with the recruiting or retention advantages at play already. I have covered that topic myself. The word is out to the point where whole cities are turning to this strategy to attract and keep top talent. The question is, why? For recruiting, if the choice comes down to an employer who can offer a suite of amenities and services that make your work and personal life easier and more convenient versus an employer who offers only a desk, a computer, and a salary, you’re going to choose the employer with the amenities every time.

On the retention front, a broad array of amenities can enhance employee loyalty — loyalty that only builds over time, even in a market where job-hopping is happening at unprecedented rates. You might start your time at the company appreciating the iPhone and fitness center. Eventually, the easy-access daycare and flexible schedule will prove invaluable. Someday, the healthcare and 401(k) matching will be top of mind. And no matter where you are in life, you are certainly going to appreciate the gourmet coffee, complimentary snacks, and concierge service. When you have your needs met, you are more content, and when you are more content, you are more likely to remain in your job.

Productivity

Healthier environments lead to better, smarter, more innovative work. This is in part because happy people work harder and in part because people value employers who put them into a great space. Exercise increases energy and focus, but people also tend to work better when they are comfortable and stimulated by their environments. If you feel the same comfort and variability at work as you do at home, you will be more productive. Better, healthier, and free food in the office reduces the need to drive offsite for lunch, which cuts down on time spent away. If there is a fitness and daycare center at/near the office, people will feel less compelled to leave early for the gym or to pick up their kids from daycare. Then there are the cultural benefits. That ping-pong table might seem like a distraction, but it provides opportunities for people to bond over shared experience and a sense of belonging to their employer. People who like each other work more efficiently together. Better friendships lead to higher morale, more cohesive culture, and heightened productivity across the board.

The bottom line

Clients, customers, and prospects value amenities every bit as much as employees. A stale, outdated office space with zero amenities leaves one impression, while a dynamic environment full of amenities and happy, healthy, dedicated people leaves another impression entirely. Imagine the sales effect of an office that compels people to say “wow” the moment they walk through the door. Imagine the branding effect of a space that projects luxury and class to everyone who visits. Imagine the home court advantage you gain when your office is so inviting and engaging that everyone you do business with would prefer to travel to you instead of the other way around. Amenities are not entitlements. They are an incredible advantage in the talent war, a high-powered motivator of productivity, and an exciting new means to drive profit.