Staff are expecting more from their employers, and companies Northland and nationwide are rising to the challenge. A quick search on Trade Me or Seek shows employers offering extra annual leave, a day off on birthdays, wellness leave, flexibility with working from home, and four-day weeks.
When new Whangārei resident Kerry Williams-Hislop had to decide between three jobs earlier this year, he took the one offering shorter hours, flexible work options, and medical and life insurance.
The 52-year-old former Aucklander, who relocated with his partner in June, couldn’t be happier in his new role as a systems analyst in Whangārei District Council’s ICT department.
Apart from working in the council’s new $59 million civic centre building, he can opt into medical and life insurance, work 7.5 hours a day for a 37.5-hour week, and can work from home whenever he wants.
This flexibility allows him for a better work-life balance, he said.
“I can come to the office on the days I choose to.
“They encourage us to work three days in the office but …. I do more than three because I enjoy being in the office.”
Williams-Hislop is also enjoying the council’s “smart casual” dress code, after being in a corporate job for two decades in Auckland where employees were expected to dress up.
Staff can access an employee assistance programme to enhance their wellbeing and performance, and the council also embraces diversity, he said.
There is even a proper coffee machine where he can get a decent cappuccino.
Williams-Hislop isn’t the only employee enjoying better work perks these days.
Paula Kalkhoven, director of Direction Recruitment in Whangārei, said many companies were now offering benefits like hybrid working environments for their staff.
She has also come across companies that subsidise health and life insurance, and offer “wellness days” which people could take from their sick days if they weren’t actually sick but just needed a day off.
Companies were offering these benefits “to be competitive”, she said.
“They need to get the best person for the job, so they have to negotiate.
“People are expecting more, with working from home and having that flexibility, they’re wanting to have that.
“If they can work from home a couple of days a week, a trusted employee can get a lot more done. But they might still have to go into the office to build that relationship.”
With New Zealand employees already entitled to four weeks annual leave and 12 public holidays, we were doing “pretty good” compared to the United States who only have two weeks annual leave, Kalkhoven said.
She said the increase in staff benefits could also be a generational difference, with “younger people expecting a lot more than the older type of work ethic”.
“People are not doing those 60-hour weeks anymore, they’re focusing on their wellness and mental health.”
Trade Me jobs sales director Matt Tolich said many New Zealanders had embraced the flexibility of working from home in a post-pandemic era.
“It’s no wonder employers are stepping up their game to introduce innovative perks, aiming to both attract and retain top-notch talent.”
Earlier this year, Trade Me looked into the motivations of over 2300 job seekers to gain insights into what drives their search for a new role.
Pay was the top consideration for Kiwis seeking a new role, closely followed by work-life balance.
“This marks a change from what we saw last year, when work-life balance was the number one priority,” Tolich said.
However, he said workplaces looking to stand out might consider going beyond cash incentives.
“Offering extra perks such as additional leave, free food and flexible hours could be the extra push needed to sway potential candidates, ultimately making the hiring process more successful in a competitive market.”
Dunedin-based business Hobby Lords has taken staff benefits to the extreme, offering staff unlimited holidays and sick leave to make sure staff are happy.
Earlier this year Auckland-based software company Actionstep announced they would continue to un-cap staff’s leave for good, following a successful year-long trial.
Companies such as Leighton Electrical and Smart CCTV in Kerikeri, and R&S Auto Services in Haruru have embraced the move.
The business owners couldn’t speak highly enough about the benefits of staff working fewer days on the same or similar pay, which include more productivity, reduced sickness, and improvements to mental health.
Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Darryn Fisher said offering a four-day working week was “a good strategy” especially when it could be difficult to get skilled staff to relocate to Northland.
A four-day week would definitely work in the trades, Fisher said, including builders, plumbers and electricians, and it would also work for professional services like lawyers and accountants.
It could also work in hospitality and retail, for instance, “having two people do the same job on a four-day week, and splitting shifts”.
“You just have to offset your staff, and stagger your team to make it work.”
Fisher advised anyone wanting to approach their employer about working a four-day week to have an honest chat about it.
“Open communication with your employer is paramount.
“This day and age, it’s a far more receptive conversation than it would have been in the 80s. People should feel relatively confident and have those conversations.”
Fisher, a former construction company boss, said he never had any concerns about employees’ hours as long as they got the job done.
“If the culture you want to breed as an employer is about empowering your staff to be accountable and self-responsible ... if they do that in 30 hours but you pay them for 40 then good on them.”
Jenny Ling is a news reporter and features writer for the Northern Advocate. She has a special interest in covering health, food, lifestyle, business and animal welfare issues.