If your workplace has an Xbox in the lounge but there’s never anybody playing with it, be very, very wary—or at least prepared to work very, very hard. Even the stingiest employer has to give employees some benefits such as paid medical leave and paid vacations. Other employers throw in perks like free gym memberships, swimming pool use or a clothing allowance.
The next thing you know, companies will be doling out free pole dancing classes or matchmaking services to their employees. Well, guess what, Singaporeans actually have fairly straightforward needs when it comes to the employee benefits that really matter to them. Too bad not many companies are willing to consider the following.
Flexi hours / work-from-home
Forget the fancy employee lounges and over-the-top employee bonding events. What many Singaporean employees really want is the opportunity to work flexible hours or, better yet, work from home. The rigidity of having to follow strict office hours can be very inconvenient, for instance for those who need to rush to a dental appointment because the clinic closes at 6pm, pick their kids up from childcare at 5pm or visit a bank that just happens to have the exact same office hours as their own.
In addition, there are those nights you just sleep a bit too late to be able to get up for work without agony, and being able to start an hour or two later can be the difference between a productive day and a migraine-plagued one. Yet many Singapore employers are at the moment are still reluctant to cede control to their employees by allowing them to work from home or stagger their hours for fear that they’ll run wild.
Meal and transport allowance
Your take-home pay is actually lower than you think when you factor in all the money you have to spend just to haul yourself to work on time and keep yourself from starving to death on the job. If you live a horrendous 25 MRT stops from your workplace or the only food court within 300 metres of your office charges $8 for economy rice, then you’re pretty much doomed to spend a chunk of your salary on your job, which kind of defeats the purpose of working to earn money. The worst is when you have to work late and end up having to spend even more money eating or taking a taxi home because you’re just too tired to deal with the MRT.
Hence, it comes as no surprise that meal and transport allowance is high on the list of most coveted employee benefits. This helps employees to defray the costs of trying to do their job, and allows them the luxury of occasionally taking taxis and picking more nutritious food rather than always having to resort to the cheapest available option.
One of my previous employers used to organise an annual Christmas party with a Secret Santa component. It wasn’t exactly the most romantic of arrangements, as people usually just ended asking their recipients what they wanted. And surprise surprise, most of the secretaries declared that they wanted NTUC vouchers.
Some companies dole out gifts to their employees like iPads and Mont Blanc pens when they’re doing well or reach a milestone. But what employees really, really want is cold, hard cash, failing which vouchers would do just as well.
The fact is, no matter how fancily a company packages its corporate gifts, employees are still more eager to receive the money that was spent on that gift rather than the item itself. And no matter how meaningful you might think that gold plaque bearing your company’s name is, bear in mind that to many employees a company is merely a cash cow, and the more cash, the better, even if it has to come disguised as a voucher.
What employee benefits would you like to have? Tell us in the comments!
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