BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

Tell Us What You Want, What You Really Really Want

Posted by 365SoulNotes on January 28, 2010

During the seven years I served in the US Army, the things I considered “workplace perks” included sleeping in past 5 am and being in a unit that slept on cots when we went to the field (as opposed to our infantry friends that just curled up on the ground next to the nearest tree).

Apparently anything that got me better sleep constituted a perk!  But beyond that, I had no concept of what real workplace benefits looked like.

When I transitioned out of the military into the civilian world, this meant even the smallest of perks made me giddy beyond words.  I remember calling my mom and squealing with delight about the free coffee in my first office.

“You wouldn’t believe the beverage machine I get to use at my new job.  It makes coffee, tea, and chococinos!!  I don’t even know what a chococino is but I want one!”

Coming from the army, standard run-of-the mill perks that the rest of the work world had grown accustomed to were still big news to me (and truth be told…the chococinos do still make me giddy).

But as I’ve continued in my civilian career, I’ve learned not all those little extras are created equally.  I’ve discovered there’s more to employment than considering what kind of coffee machine is in the office.  Each new job I’ve held has introduced me to new perks, each time setting the bar higher for future employers.

The first boss that allowed me to work from home one day a week certainly changed the way I look at benefits.  On that one day, I found I was twice as productive in half the time (while also getting my laundry done).  With my weekend free of worrying about my lack of clean underwear, I also able to better enjoy my time off, leaving me fully recharged when I showed up to work on Monday.

Now, the ability to telecommute is on my must-have list when I consider a new job.  In addition, I’ve also come to love casual work environments (who’s not more productive in comfy clothes?!) & flexible schedules (because sometimes I do my best work at 2am).  I find the quality of my life is better, which makes me happy.  But the quality of my work is better too…which makes my employer happy! (Read: Workplace Flexibility = Return On Investment)

I stumbled into these benefits before I ever knew to ask for them but now can’t imagine living without them.  And I’m thankful there are employers out there who continue to push the limits of what is considered a “normal perk.”

This continued search for work-life balance may just be what helps cure the economy, diminishes crazy city traffic, and makes us all a bit more productive in the long run!

This week’s “Tell Us What You Want, What You Really Really Want Theme” is workplace perks. We want to hear from you, Gen Y:

  • What kind of perks would your dream job include?
  • How do those perks foster a good work-life balance?
  • What barriers are preventing you from getting those perks?

You can post your musings on Young Women Misbehavin’, Facebook, Twitter or email us at kbarrett@bpwfoundation.org.


6 Responses to “Tell Us What You Want, What You Really Really Want”

  1. Alissa said

    Hahah, great post!

    Perks for me:

    1. Is the ability to have a work-life balance. (I want to be able to do stuff during the day and not have to worry about making up time or how I’m going to fit it in.)

    2. The ability to work from home (which I’ve had at my last two jobs…it’s sooo great when you have a cold and feel bad enough to not go to work, but good enough you don’t want to waste PTO)

    3. An open IT computer policy that allows access to Facebook/Twitter (Hey, we don’t spend all of our time on Email or the Web, so why is FB or Twitter any worse)

    I don’t really have blocks…other than the older folks “this is the way it is and this is how it always was”.

  2. Alissa,

    Thanks for sharing! I think the things you’re looking for are not only reasonable…but are starting to happen in more & more workplaces! Just look at this post, for example. When I found out part of this job was not only writing for the blog but tweeting about it & sharing the links on facebook, I was thrilled! This goes way beyond work-life balance and starts getting to something I think is even better…work life INTEGRATION!

    When we start to find ways that work isn’t in its own seperate bucket but is something we actually enjoy and look forward to, I think THAT is when we are at our most productive!

    Thanks for the great comments! I’d be curious…how do you deal with the “this is the way it is and this is how it always was” comments? I know that’s a big issue for many people I know…strategies for dealing with that comment are always welcome!


  3. Akera Ray said

    The perks for me would be

    the ability to have a flexible schedule with the ability to work from home if I absolutely need to
    awesome commuter and health/beauty benefits. This would include a free or seriously discounted gym membership, discounts with certain retailers and FREE commuting and giving more leave ability for pregancies

    These perks foster a good work/life balance because it helps me to focus on my health and well-being

    Barriers that are preventing me are my low status in my department. I am low on the totem pole and I don’t think that my boss trusts me to work from hom or have a flex schedule. As far as the benefits are concerned, that yould be HR

  4. Akera,

    Thanks so much for your comments…all so true!! I couldn’t agree more…health & well being have become the primary focus of WHY these perks are so important to me! Gym membership would be a great perk in that area!

    As for barriers, feeling low on the totem pole can feel like a big one to overcome. And an untrusting boss is even tougher. When I first started negotiating for one day a week of telecomuting, I asked my boss what she would need to see during the day or by the end of the day to feel like I was being productive enough for her liking. We came up with an end-of-the-day report format she liked and tested it out the first few times.

    After about two months, we’d built up the trust and I was able to work from home two or three days per week instead of just one. It took some time…but starting with one day a week really helped us figure out what worked and what didn’t. Maybe your boss would be open to that?!


  5. Alissa said

    Dealing with the folks that don’t like change has always been a challenge…It’s hard to be young right now because a lot of folks don’t take us younger folks seriously. I think that stems from the whole Y generation being the “Generation Now”, wanting high-ranking and high-paying jobs fresh out of college. I think that leads to some older folks resenting us gen Y’ers. So, I think that we must tread lightly in change situations to avoid coming across as cocky. I usually try to find a compromise halfway point. My last job, I said I would work from home, but my boss chose to come in everyday with his 1 hour commute – even in the horrible snow storms. I said, that I would work from home, but I made myself very accessible. I sent him an email in the morning telling him what I planned to accomplish and sent him updates or gave him a phone call. I don’t want to sound like I’m patronizing him, but I just wanted him to believe that you can trust people to work from home.

    A few months later, I was in the hospital for a bad flu, and he happily allowed me to work from home following my recovery. I don’t think he would’ve allowed that before.

    So, I guess my solution is to earn trust by acting respectfully and making small changes.

  6. Alissa,

    You make some great points! Sounds very similar to my situation…working to build trust with my boss about what I was capable of doing when working from home. I like to think of it not as patronizing anyone, but as adapting my communication style to one that works for the person I’m communicating with.

    And in the end, your words about acting respectfully may be the key to not just this type of situation but ALL situations! The more you try to respect & understand other peoples’ opinions, the more they will hopefully do the same!

    Thanks for sharing your story & insight…definitely great additions to this topic!


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