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Happy Hour at Work?

June 4, 2012
By Denis Storey
Source: benefitspro.com

The headline that jumped off my iPad this morning was all I needed to see: “Is beer in the workplace an employee benefit?”

I jumped to my feet with my hands in the air like I was back in church.

Then I slumped back down. In this compliance-heavy era, where lawsuits are more common than doctors’ notes, how was this even possible?

But the blogger – Carol Harnett over at Human Resource Executive – went on to elaborate this stemmed from a panel discussion she’d hosted on wellness with Mark Torres, senior vice president of people and culture at The Rubicon Project. Shortly after joining the company, he polled his work force about their benefits, “which resulted in a strong staff request to retain the 24/7 beer refrigerator on the premises under the category of ‘the one thing we shouldn’t change.’”

Harnett touches on some other companies whose wellness programs venture into the progressive, to say the least.

(I’m kinda partial to Hulu’s, where their wellness plan amounts to an annual $700 check for each employee to spend any way they like to improve their own performance. But then I end up right back at the beer.)

My wife just got a new job. They apparently have these “Wellness Rooms,” where employees can go take a nap – presumably alone. Oh, and they have a “snow fairy,” an anonymous Samaritan who makes sure all the cars are cleared at the end of any our snowy Colorado workdays. And keep in mind: this isn’t some tech startup. She works for an 80-plus-year-old trade association.

My first thought – after asking about job openings – was how do you tell the difference between a perk and a benefit these days? Or is there one anymore? And where do wellness programs fit in to all of this?

Then it occurred to me we’re watching the slow, sometimes clumsy evolution of employee wellness. Many companies are getting it: that it goes far beyond gyms or smoking cessation programs. It’s about more than reducing claims or cutting costs. Simply put, it’s about getting (and keeping) happy, healthy employees. So how do you get there – booze, dark rooms or by just cutting a check?

And I think that the employers who take more of a holistic – if sometimes out-of-the-box – approach to wellness (and benefits in general) are the ones who are not only going to hang on to the best talent as we fight out way out of this economic malaise, but they’ll be far better positioned to attract the next generation of employees who live their entire lives out of the box.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m sleepy and I need a drink.