This article from Thursday’s Wall Street Journal asks the question, What Makes a Company a Great Place to Work Today?

Among their answers:

  1. Wide-open flexibility—being able to work when you want, from where you want.
  2. Broader programs—for example, paid paternity leave for men.
  3. Vacation time—being able to buy more vacation time through payroll deduction.

My answers five years ago would’ve looked like this:

  1. A paycheck.
  2. Holiday, vacation and sick time.
  3. Health benefits.

Today I’m a lot pickier, probably because I’ve been at the same job now for over 4 years and my basic security and survival needs are being met. I’m at a point now where I want to feel like I’m valued as a human being and not just an output machine. I think that’s what this article is getting at: giving people the opportunity to work the way they work best, whether that’s in part-time shifts, late at night, from a home office, etc. A great employer is one who gives you the freedom to do your job in the way that works best for you, instead of trying to squeeze you into a one-size-fits-all mold.

A great employer also recognizes that we’re human. We need to take care of ourselves so we can be happy and productive employees. Health benefits definitely apply here, but so does vacation time and other perks, like subsidizing gym dues or giving paid time off to do volunteer work.

But what about the extras we always hear about? As the article points out, workplace lists are showing up everywhere. In Seattle, NW Jobs is currently running their poll for the 2007 People’s Picks and some of the categories include “best office party”, “most pet-friendly” and “coolest office space”. Do these things make a difference to you? Isn’t a job still a job, no matter how many free lunches you get?

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be able to bring a dog to work. But what about people who are allergic or are genuinely afraid? I’ll be honest: I would not be cool with co-workers bringing their babies into their cubes every day. I know babies and pets are two completely different things, but I think you catch my drift. In the end, a job is a job. It’s not going to fulfill all your needs, no matter what kind of perks it offers. It’s up to the individual to make the most of it.

What do you think makes a company a great place to work? What perks or benefits would make you a happier and more productive employee?


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3 Responses

  1. Elaine says:

    There are a lot of people for whom your 5-years-ago list is still the most important things!

    As for moving beyond that (ala Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need) my top 3:

    1) being close to where I live. 2) working someplace where I feel I’m doing something good for society. 3) having some degree of flexibility, whether that’s in hours, vacation, location, whatever. Like you said, being treated like a human instead of a machine.

    Pets and babies are definitely an…edge case. I can see in a very small organization it would be easier to make that work. The larger the organization, the more there is to consider. I would love to work with my cat around, but I don’t think the office is the right place for that. 🙂

  2. Ron Shevlin says:

    The WSJ’s answers don’t resonate with me at all.

    My answer: Respect. To get the respect for who you are and the accomplishments and contributions you make.

  3. Stella says:

    Whenever I hear “pet friendly”, it reminds me of my sister who is seriously allergic to dogs. She had a job she loved and they got on the bring-your-dog-to-work band wagon. She eventually had to quit because it was making her so miserable.

    Terrell, I’ve always said the number one reason we work is for the paycheck. I can’t believe how many people argue with that.

    Yesterday I was seriously mad with my job and was talking to a friend about moving to a new company and she said – it’s the same wherever you go. No matter how cool the new place sounds, you still have the same politics, the same pettiness.

    That made me sad.

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