Make Your Employees as Happy as Google Does

5 November 2015
Need a culture change in your workplace to boost morale and productivity? Try our suggestions for how to implement these 5 methods Google uses to make their employees happy.

In August, Google announced a major change to their company structure – splitting up every part of the business into its own company under a new parent, Alphabet. But after the big announcement – which in any other company would have caused confused milling about and perhaps a shock to morale – Google employees happily got back to work.

Why? Google already keeps its employees happy, so they’re not worried about how the change could affect them.

Now, obviously we don’t have the budget to have a catered buffet breakfast waiting for our employees every morning. But there are some small things we can do to regularly fit these employee perks into our budget and our work calendar. (In fact, CANSTAR is already doing a lot of them – which is why all of us are so happy to work here!)

1. Endless free food

And just to clarify, endless gourmet free food. One Googler said they love the food perk because “it saves me time and money, and helps me build relationships with my colleagues”.

Various studies have proven that providing employees with even a small amount of free food and drinks can drastically improve their satisfaction with their job, and their productivity levels. For example, a survey by grocery-delivery service Peapod found that 56% of full-time employees were “extremely” or “very” happy with their current job – but add free food to the equation, and that jumped to 67%.

Peapod’s vice president of regional marketing Peg Merzbacher says that the “sweet spot” of companies most likely to feed their employees is companies with 10 to 100 employees. (So there’s no excuse for small- to medium-sized companies.) Peapod’s history shows that people are eating healthier than ever at work, having traded in bulk orders of soft drink for organic fruit.

Here at CANSTAR, we get provided with free fruit several days a week. I personally love a banana at 2pm, when the blood sugar drops post-lunch and I still need to be able to string a coherent sentence together. We also have stacks of cheap but healthy food supplies in the kitchen, so if you forget your lunch, you can buy it for less than $3.

2. Free massages for a job well done

At Google, employees can award each other “massage credits” for doing a good job. These massage credits then translate into a free 1-hour massage from a trained masseuse.

As the Better Health Channel Victoria points out, studies show that massage gives many physical benefits – all of which can help an employee to work more effectively and efficiently:

  • Releases “calming” chemicals (endorphins), so your work doesn’t stress you out. This reduces anxiety and depression.
  • Reduces stress hormones (adrenalin, cortisol, and norepinephrine), so your immune system can stay strong and prevent extra sick days.
  • Stimulates the lymphatic system to help the body fight off harmful bacteria.
  • Reduces muscle tension – your neck and shoulders will thank you after a day hunched over the computer.
  • Increases joint flexibility and mobility. It’s great to get your joints moving again after 8 hours of hard work, whether you were stationed at a desk in an office or at a jackhammer on a construction site.
  • Improved circulation, so your brain gets more blood and oxygen to help you think better and faster! This causes heightened mental alertness.
  • Speedier healing of any injuries.

And the Cancer Council even tells us that massage can improve physical and mental/emotional symptoms for an employee who is currently undergoing cancer treatment or is in remission.

Not every company can afford to pay for free massages for its employees. But many could afford to partially subsidise massages at bulk rates. And some companies have found that even just making the service available on-site will make employees happier, even if they have to pay the full price for the massage.

Here at CANSTAR, we are able to book in once a month (at a very reasonable price) for a 15-minute or 30-minute massage. Getting a massage at work gives you more time after work to spend with your loved ones, and you also don’t have the hassle of looking for a masseuse in your area.

3. Lifelong learning

Google is known for providing its employees with a valuable and accessible tool for lifelong learning – tech talks. These are presentations and lectures on various topics of interest to the multitude of professionals who work at Google, which can be accessed on the job or from home.

One Googler said, “There were things I never even knew were possible that I heard for the first time through tech talks or watching archived presentations. You have some of the leading experts in their fields who are either your co-workers and happy to talk to you, or outside researchers/political top-brass/celebrities/etc. invited to give talks at Google.”

Google also boasts a stack of libraries, with books about technology, statistics, engineering, maths, and much more, that Googlers can borrow for their own learning at home. Googlers at the Zurich campus are invited to select three books as a gift when they join the company.

The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) in the UK says that lifelong learning may be able to reduce poverty levels for individuals and entire generations. They mentioned mature students in higher education (HE), work-based learning courses, employer-provided on-the-job training, and employer-provided off-the-job training. When employees get the chance to increase their skills, they stand a much better chance of finding a new job to support their family if they have to be retrenched from their current role.

You might not be able to afford to hire speakers to visit your employees, but you can certainly make time in their work day – as my boss does – for them to read up on the latest news from the industry. Or, as CANSTAR does, you can allow a flexible working schedule so that your employees can study part-time at university while still working full-time.

On a broader scale, these days there are so many free ways to educate yourself online, from Webinars to taped lectures to podcasts to blogs. I particularly love watching TED talks because they are usually relatively short, the topics are amazingly diverse, and I always learn new things and find ideas I can take away and use.

4. Time off to change the world

Google gives its employees generous paid vacations, but it also gives its workers extra unpaid opportunities to do the things that really matter to them. Googlers can use up to 3 months of unpaid leave for working with non-profit organisations, political campaigns, and community-oriented projects.

3 months is a seriously long time for your employee to not be at their desk, but instead, you could do what many banks and power companies in Australia are now doing, and offer one or two days a year of paid Community Service Leave.

5. Time off to change one life

Thankfully in Australia, we already get up to 18 weeks of paid parental leave, unlike Americans who can only expect to receive 6 weeks. So we don’t need to be Google just for our employees to enjoy time off with their new baby. But what we can learn from Google is that paid parental leave is not the be all and end all for sleep-deprived parents.

Google is winning the hearts of parents world-wide by providing flexibility in working hours, free on-site childcare, and a “baby bonding bucks” bonus to help with the expenses of diapers and formula. Australian employers could win the hearts of many young parents with a similar one-off bonus and flexible start- and finish- times for their working day.

What about you?

We’ve been talking about how you can make your employees happy, but what about you, the employer? The superhero who is running a small-to medium-sized business and employing all of these people?

Well, that might be a topic for another day – but one way to take a load off your plate is to make sure that your business banking products are working as hard as you are. Whether you’re looking for a transaction account with lower fees or one that makes payroll transfers easier, you should compare what’s out there using our website.

Image source: iStock | Nancy Nehring
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