office perks

What rewards really make software developers happy?

Dropbox has a jam room. Eventbrite encourages employees to bounce off trampolines rather than each other.

Over two hundred dogs accompany their software-developer owners to work at Zynga every day. And let’s not start on Apple’s and Facebook’s controversial offer to freeze eggs for female tech workers….

It’s fair to suggest that perks like these are at least as much about attention grabbing and brand building for the companies offering them as they are about attracting top tech talent. And we all know the average tech company doesn’t have the resources to even think about going there.

The good news is there are ways to keep tech workers happy and feeling valued that cost next to nothing and don’t involve the tired old annual free pizza and paintball party that no one really wants to go to.

Be flexible

So you can’t afford to offer on-site, free childcare or help with commuting costs. But your employees have busy home lives that could be made a little less stressful if you allow them to work flexible hours. Sure, there are roles where this isn’t possible. But where it is possible, you not only show valued employees that you trust them; you’ll enable their work-life balance, overall happiness and, in all likelihood, their productivity.

Home and away

Yahoo! famously called an end to it, but study after study shows that telecommuting is the jewel in the crown of workplace benefits. More than half of IT pros surveyed recently said they’d take a 10 per cent pay cut to be allowed to work from home. Studies show that teleworkers are generally happier, stay longer in their role and take less sick leave/unscheduled time off. It’s not all one-way traffic, however: recruiters not only find they’re able to attract “Generation Y” workers (for whom this is a major attraction) but you get to extend your reach for tech talent far beyond your local base. Again, it’s not possible for every role, but even allowing it a couple of days a week could make a huge difference.

Sing their praises

We all need acknowledgement. Sometimes a simple ‘Thank you’, ‘Nice work’ or public recognition of a job well done is all it takes to motivate someone and keep them happy. The same can be said for acknowledging progress. Call it out at the next meeting. Tell them you’re pleased with what they’re doing. You don’t have to do it all the time – but your failure to notice or acknowledge good work impacts on motivation and workplace happiness.

Time out

All work and no play makes for tired, uninspired workers. Instead of waiting for them to take paid sick leave, why not offer a couple of bonus days off at the end of a long or particularly demanding project? Your fresher, happier tech worker will reward you with their productivity, motivation and attitude.

A little something on the side

Google became famous for it, but the concept of allowing employees ’20 per cent time’ to work on a personal project goes back to 1948 at 3M. The ubiquitous ‘PostIt’ note is a product of this flexibility. Despite a company’s best efforts, work can become mundane – a little change of scenery in the form of a side project or training can work wonders on creativity and motivation. It doesn’t even have to be 20 per cent – even allowing employees to rotate roles once in a while can have a significant impact on morale and productivity.

There are ways to show employees you value them that extend far beyond salary and bonus payments. The secret to success with most of the above is how you manage it. If you’re afraid of people taking advantage, have clear guidelines around what’s acceptable before you start. You might find that the rewards far outweigh any risk – if you hired the right people in the first place, it’s a fairly safe bet they’ll respond to your trust in a very positive way.


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