Beyond Pizza & Beer: How UK Start Ups are Hacking Staff Perks

Sam Gilbert By Sam Gilbert

Pinterest has its Zen Meditation Room, Slack has its company socks - but what perks are UK Start Ups offering to attract the most talented employees? We reviewed 500 Start Up job ads to find out.

Minimum Viable Perks

There was a time when "Unlimited Coffee & Snacks", "a new Macbook", and "Friday Beers" were points of differentiation for start up employers. But now they are a basic expectation of start up working life - Minimum Viable Perks, if you will.

This leaves start up founders & CEOs in a tricky position. How do you attract top talent and make your staff feel awesome without increasing your burn rate?

The answer is "Perk Hacks" - staff benefits where the value perceived by the employee is disproportionately high compared to the cost of provision. Here are the 8 of the very best.

The 8 Best Start Up Perk Hacks

  1. Join the Cycle to Work Scheme and enable your employees to buy a new bike at half-price. As the scheme is funded by a tax break, there is no cost to start ups - just a bit of form-filling and payroll admin to do. Social listening start up Brandwatch and custom marshmallow trailblazers Boomf are both taking full advantage.
  2. Spin the Office. Facilities laid on by the building startups are based in can be creatively positioned as perks. Pool, foosball, and ping pong tables are all common examples. But startups based in Bermondsey's Biscuit Factory get extra kudos by using the on-site Climbing Wall for this purpose.

    Arch Climbing Wall @ The Biscuit Factory

  3. Instigate Work from Home Wednesdays. Founder of footwear brand mahabis, Ankur Shah, is a long-time advocate of this perk hack: "I've been using a 4 day work week/work from home day at most of my startups. It sets the right balance between life and work, and emphasises productivity over simply spending time in the office. A perk with both substance and style".
  4. Get an Office Dog. Scientifically proven to boost morale and reduce stress, this is a no-brainer if someone on your staff is already a dog-owner. Edinburgh-based start up Intelligent Point of Sale love it so much they have not one, but two office dogs. You could even follow GoSquared's lead and get a cost-saving by appointing the dog as Chief Happiness Officer.

    Alfie & Milo, Office Lhasa Apsos @ Intelligent Point of Sale

  5. Offer staff a Birthday Day Off. Apps for Good is one of a handful of start ups offering this simple but brilliant perk. Cash-conscious CEOs might consider quietly reducing the annual leave allowance by 1 day to offset the adverse productivity impact...
  6. Establish a Team Bucket List as a fun alternative to after work drinks. Global App Testing crowdsources the list from its staff, and sponsors the activity for everyone once a month. Skiing lessons, kart racing, and a trip to Shakespeare's Globe have all ensued.
  7. Leverage Collective Buying Power to get discounts for your staff. A UK start up themselves, Huddlebuy have negotiated a range of deals on everything from anti virus software to massages, which start ups can make available to employees. Meanwhile, Bought By Many enables start up co-workers to get discounted health insurance at zero cost to the start up.
  8. Surprise & Delight. Left-field ideas can be an excellent way of standing out. Lovecrafts employees regularly collaborate on a giant jigsaw. But we particularly like Hertfordshire-based Hallway Studios' promise of "Your own bonsai tree (real or origami)", which has much greater class and longevity than (say) Silcion Valley's famed Free Helicopter Ride at a fraction of the cost.

    Bonsai Tree @ Hallway Studios

    Giant Jigsaw @ LoveCrafts

Scraping the Perks Barrel

These were some of the more tenuous perks we came across. (Start up names have been removed to protect the innocent):

  • "Only 18 mins on the train from Central London". An admittedly original way to spin being located in Croydon or Ilford, but we're not buying it.
  • "View of Old Street Roundabout". Surely no one who has actually been to Shoreditch could be convinced by this?
  • "Expenses Paid". A particularly baffling one. Does this start up take nothing for granted? Do they also woo candidates with the promise of "Functional Payroll System" and "Free Running Water"?

What are the best Perk Hacks you've seen?

Tweet us and let us know!

Sources: Workinstartups.com, Unicornhunt.io, Bought By Many research

Want to offer Discounted Health Insurance as a Perk Hack for your staff?

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