Why Some Employee Benefits Are Not Becoming 'Disappearing Acts' During Economic Downturns

Perks can improve employee motivation & productivity

WILMINGTON, MA - Due to the faltering economy, company-sponsored benefits are now disappearing faster than stage props at a David Copperfield magic show. But as companies search for ways to shore up profits, cost-effective benefits that improve employee morale and productivity are continuing to remain clearly in sight during these challenging economic times.

Among the perks remaining intact today are casual Fridays, free coffee/tea, low cafeteria pricing, work uniforms, and employee discounts for such things as cell phones and restaurants.

These types of benefits seem to be sticking around because taking them away from employees almost always leads to "feelings of unfairness," says Sigal Barsade, a professor at the Wharton School of Business. In turn, the professor adds, those feelings can create anger, which causes employee motivation and productivity levels to decline.

Why is this so? Employees view such losses as a violation of a "psychological contract," says Adam Soreff of UniFirst, a company which provides work apparel to more than a million employees throughout North America. "That's why, for example, we're seeing many of the larger companies—those being forced by today's economy to cut nickels and dimes anywhere they can—asking their employees to share in the cost of uniform benefit programs. They want to maintain good employee morale, but to remain viable and keep jobs in place they're turning to compromises."

Even when employees are asked to contribute toward the cost of perks, they're still being viewed as great overall values. In the case of work apparel, Soreff says employees still realize a 30-50 percent savings over what it would cost them to purchase, clean, maintain and replace their own clothing. "So there is still considerable value in the cost shared benefit. And no one has to be a Houdini to know that's a good deal for everyone concerned."


About UniFirst

UniFirst (NYSE: UNF), a North American leader in the supply and servicing of uniforms, workwear, and protective clothing, outfits more than 1.5 million workers each business day. The company's most popular brands include UniWeave®, SofTwill®, UniWear®, and Armorex FR®. UniFirst also offers Facility Service Programs including floor mats, mops, and restroom products. For more information, contact UniFirst at 800-455-7654 or visit www.unifirst.com.

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