Wednesday, 26 April 2006

Pay for your own work environment and equipment

While surfing the net I found this post on the Don Marti blog about his stand that employees should buy their own laptop and bring it to work. The employer should pay the employee enough so that he or she can buy their own hardware. The company should even give some money for some mayor troubleshooting sessions. Although I see some major drawbacks to this particular idea (different hardware for instance leads to problems for the IT staff), it did get me thinking.

Giving employees a choice to create their own environment could be a great employee benefit. At my job there's a colleague who brings his own fountain pen, because he doesn't like the way our pens (your regular Bic pen) write. One of our engineers wanted to pay himself for some extra features on the laptop we provided him. So with that and our own "cafetaria"-system we have here in the Netherlands in mind (
where an employee decides what he wants to do with the total amount of his salary package. Small or bigger pension plan, company car, "spaarloon", you can go many different ways), I thought about this:

A week before your new employee starts you ask them to come in to talk about their working environment. In that meeting you tell him or her that they can chose between a standard work environment which he or she needs (for instance a desk, chair, PC, stationary etc, etc.) or something more to suit their personal preferences. You tell them there's a budget for it and they can either pick that budget to be paid in their salary or they can use it to upgrade their work environment. Better chair, nicer monitor, fountain pen, different desk, some paintings on the wall. It can be numerous things. You can tell them there's a little benefit to it. They can still get their workspace personalized with money they are getting anyway, but with the benefit of not having to pay taxes on the extra salary. If they want (and this only works if they have to stick with the environment at least a year) they can upgrade their workspace and make it more to their personal taste and it will be ready to go when they start the next week. Or they can just go for the standard setup and take the money.

Besides the fact that you give your employee the feeling that as a company you're willing to invest into their well being, you can also get some personal info about the person. Interviews can give you a clue about someone, but when it comes to personal choices for work you can get a real glimpse of the character, although of course it's not exact science. First of all you will know if they are decision makers. If they can't decide if they want a nicer desk, they might have some trouble deciding on business issues. Secondly, If they go for the money, you'll know that when it comes to reviewing that employees performance and the reward you'll give him or her, it will probably have to be a pay raise. And those are also the people most likely to leave when they can get a few extra bucks somewhere else. But when they'll go for personalizing their space you'll know that they want to make their work space their own. They want to invest into making it fun to work there and are willing to invest in it. Then when it comes to rewards you can offer numerous things, but most importantly: those are most likely the people who are going to work for your company the longest.

1 comment:

Thérèse said...

What an interesting and original idea.