Recession Schmecession: Three Reasons Why Perks Can Lessen the Blow in a Downturn

City skyline

Good news! The US economy is strong with all-time highs in urban employment. Which means higher wages and better perks. But what’s a guy or gal to do when trying to recruit and retain in a recession? Unfortunately even today you’d be hard pressed to purchase a sandwich these days without a side of ‘pending recession’ to complete the meal. Forbes recently reported that the consensus among major news outlets is the recession will hit us next year in 2020, following the longest economic expansion in U.S. history. When the jobs dry up, can and should employers retain perks or cut them to appear pragmatic in the face of economic downturn?

Logically, companies struggling with payroll in a downturn should not be offering non-essential services at the risk of financial peril. But here’s three reasons why we think that even keeping services and perks while times are tough may help lessen the blow:

    1. Most perks have high-visibility and are easily noticed when removed or reduced. Nothing says ‘we’re struggling’ and ‘times are tough’ when the fruit bowls in the kitchen start disappearing and the emails about new programs dry up. One could reasonably argue that this is why employers should think long and hard before eliminating beloved employee perks.
    2. Most perks are much less expensive than salary hikes, bonuses and spiffs. Yet, they carry a large amount of weight in employee perception.  In 2017, Willis Towers Watson reported that 78% of workers would likely remain with their employer because of the benefits it offers, up from 72% in 2016. Some studies have even reported that employees are willing to give up salary bumps for more convenient basic daily services and healthier options because money doesn’t always make up for time and availability.
    3. Access sometimes doesn’t require any budget. When times are tough and budgets are tight, many perks are available as an employer subsidized or unsubsidized benefit. Perks like Zippity, Virtudent and OnSight Vision are all available at no cost to the employer since they’re paid for by the employee (or their insurance products). These are services where access alone is a positive signal from an employer.


Truth be told,  some services can be hard to measure, and no service is utilized by 100% of an employee population, but the employee experience is as vital in tough times as it is in good times in supporting company culture and satisfaction. While you may forced to let workers go during a recession, you may also have a tough time keeping your best people if you send the message that you’re only good to your team when times are exceptionally good. Instead, embrace your perks during all times, good or bad. Your employees and your business will be better for it.

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