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Live to Work, or work to Live?

pp_default1 Businesses are going to increasingly extraordinary lengths to hang on to their staff say FTdynamo, in the eighth of a series of columns written for HR Zone from the new management education portal.

Creating an attractive organisational culture is essential for today’s businesses. This is the message from the fourth annual survey by Fortune magazine of the 100 best companies to work for.

To win the battle for talent companies are rushing to provide some lavish and unusual benefits that are more likely to have an impact on your personal, rather than your working life.

Profit-share schemes, share options and health care all seem the norm alongside the range of perks available in some of the honoured companies. Of the 100 firms listed, 26 offer on-site day care, 20 offer concierge services, such as arranging to pick up your dry cleaning, 31 offer fully paid sabbaticals and 83 offer payment to employees who personally recommend new appointments. The survey evaluated the following areas: trust in management, pride in work and the company, and camaraderie.

To retain and keep employees happy, companies now recognise that they need to build places where you would positively want to work as well as live. Retailer of boxes and shelving company Container Store came first for the second year running, where 41% of employees have joined after recommendations from people who already work there. Companies such as Cisco Systems, American Skandia and Charles Schwab also feature.

Cisco created a $16 million centre for 432 children, and has installed web cameras to give parents the chance to observe their children while they’re still at work, while American Skandia has on-site facilities such as meals you can take home, a florist and a hair salon. Quarterly bonuses offered at Schwab add at least 10% to pay.

So are these company perks all being offered simply because of the war for talent? Companies such as Deloitte & Touche, which came 31st in the survey, certainly seem to think so. It says it needs as many skilled people as it can get, and offers perks such as a hiring bounty of dollars 15,000.

On the one hand, providing perks like dry cleaning pick-up sounds like every employee’s dream – these are often the mundane tasks that we find little time to devote to in our working lives. But the downside of such perks is that employees could be finding they spend more and more time at work, simply because there is no need to leave the office to perform routine tasks.

Cynics might believe that an insidious attempt is being made to keep people at work for longer. This is what Arlie Hochschild, the distinguished American social scientist, has called “the absorptive company” – you just can’t get away.

What the survey does seem to confirm is that the idea of living to work, and not working to live, is now an unspoken goal for many companies.

FTdynamo features writing and research from leading business schools and management consultancies with expert insight and analysis from FTdynamo. A free trial of its services is available at

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