Listen To The Story


Bill Radke: One of the ways companies are trying to save money these days is by cutting back on employee perks. Sounds reasonable, but as Alex Cohen of member station KPCC reports, some perks are not as expendable as they look.

Alex Cohen: Genex is a digital marketing company in Southern California. It's home to about 150 employees. Many take advantage of a perk that allows them to bring their dogs to work.

Luke, a black lab mix, is here with employee Bob Thorp:

Bob Thorp: He loves going up front to the reception desk and greeting people.

Genex also has a kitchen stocked with complimentary Cup Noodles, a cereal bar and an espresso machine so employees can save both money and time.

But lately, says company founder Walter Schild, business has slowed at Genex.

Walter Schild: We've definitely had clients delay projects or reduce budgets. We've even had a few projects canceled.

And so Schild has made some changes. Gone are perks like company cruises and he's switched the cereal to a generic brand.

Lately, plenty of business owners have been cutting perks getting rid of everything from free soft drinks to the company cleaning service. The Canadian beer company Molson recently adjusted its free beer benefit.

Nancy Rothbard: They reduced the number from 72 dozen beers per years to 52 dozen, and people were quite upset about this.

Wharton professor Nancy Rothbard says perks can foster a sense of loyalty to a company and they can increase worker productivity.

Rothbard: Free gourmet meals sounds very luxurious, but if you want to keep your employees close to the offices, then keeping them present is really going to potentially enhance their productivity by increasing the time that they can spend on their work.

Rothbard says if companies must cut back, she recommends adding other benefits that are free or lower in cost.

Back at Genex, company founder Walter Schild couldn't agree more:

Schild: I have found the incentives that are monetary are not as important for many people as the soft benefits that a company can offer.

After all, in Southern California, bringing the dog to work can mean opting out of doggie daycare -- and that can save an employee about $700 a month per pooch.

In Los Angeles, I'm Alex Cohen for Marketplace.

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.