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Sit up and take notice: Office perks!
Resmi Jaimon
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January 14, 2008

Workplace perks motivate employees to increase their productivity -- as long as the benefits work for them and their employers, who can complain?

The next time someone tells you that he/ she has is eyeballing a well-known company, don't let it surprise you -- besides the prestigious reputation and lucrative package, it's the bonus benefits he/ she is focusing on.

The top brass

The perks that top-level personnel in leading companies can avail of would catch anyone's attention. You may dismiss large pay packets as heard-enough stories, but how about the side benefits?

According to Kris Lakshmikanth, founder-CEO and managing director of The Headhunters India Pvt Ltd, almost all large Indian companies offer what could be classified as top perks. "The actual use of these perks, however, depends upon the owner or boss of the organisation, without whose written or verbal permission they are not permissible," he says.

Indian companies are at par with their foreign counterparts when it comes to generous benefits extended to CEOs, directors and other top brass holding similar positions. These privileges encourage those at an organisation's middle level to work harder and reach the top.

According to Kris Lakshmikanth, leading Indian companies offer the following benefits to higher-up personnel:

~ Use of the corporate jet with prior permission for personal use.

~ Company cars -- generally two. Most known companies' directors own a Mercedes or a BMW [Images]; the expenses of a chauffeur are also taken care of, besides the cost of running (petrol/ diesel), maintenance, repairs and insurance.

~ Housing facilities along with staff -- servants, cook and in some cases, even a gardener.  

~ Holidays overseas, with free air travel for spouses and children.

~ Scholarships for directors'children to study abroad in the best business schools.

~ Membership at sports clubs and hotels.

~ Unlimited healthcare coverage for themselves, immediate family and dependent parents.

Mid-level personnel

Designation and job experience apart, qualifications prove to be a major factor when it comes to company perks. For instance, youngsters from premium institutions like IIMs who work in top firms can avail of appreciable facilities. These perks are in addition to those that individuals at the lower level enjoy:

~ The company sponsors air tickets (usually business class) whenever they are travelling for work purposes.        

~ Mid-level executives are eligible for living expenses (a fixed amount per day), and both hotel accommodation and transport costs when on business trips. For instance, Prajod Rangras*, an ex-employee of Accenture Consulting says, "I was given accommodation at five star hotels and two free flight coupons every week -- I had the choice of visiting my family regularly, since my hometown was far from my office and client locations."

Several perks are common to personnel at the middle and junior levels. For instance, the limit on how much they can claim as medical expense may vary, but both are entitled to this basic facility.

Junior employees

Most entry and mid-level employees have a common voice. Gulnaz Ali*, working in Mumbai, agrees -- "We are barred from knowledge of perks at the senior level, all we know about is what we're being offered at the moment."

Junior and mid-level employees can expect the following perks:

~ Mediclaim -- The company helps cover your medical expenses. Of course, top executives may be covered upto as much as Rs 30 lakhs or more, while junior employees may be offered limited policies of Rs 1.5 to 2 lakhs each. Several organisations, however, offer even junior employees schemes that cover the immediate family, while others have tie-ups with select hospitals, where upon producing an identity card, they can avail of free treatment.

~ Large companies encourage junior employees to pursue higher studies alongside their jobs -- if an employee opts to enroll in an executive MBA course at an IIM or any other premium institute, the company may reimburse the candidate with half, or in some cases, the whole fee.

Abhilash Gupta*, in his mid-20's, chose to take up a job after graduation. He confesses, "I'm so glad my company allowed me to pursue a post-graduate course. I'm studying and earning a livelihood alongside -- moreover, I was reimbursed with a percentage of the fees I paid."

~ It's not uncommon for organisations to host celebrations for their middle and junior level employees -- birthdays, corporate events, anniversaries. You can probably expect an after-work party, gift coupons or a day off on such occasions. Some companies host monthly birthday parties for all employees celebrating birthdays in that month.

Marriage vouchers are another perk you can expect if you're getting hitched. 

~ An education loan for children is another benefit employees can avail of, while spouses working for the same organisation may also be at the receiving end of certain perks.

~ With the number of working mothers on the rise, many companies are beginning to offer facilities to take care of employees' tiny tots. While some tie up with cr�che facilities closeby, others have their very own onsite daycare centers.

For instance, Electronics City, an electronics industrial park in Bangalore, has a cr�che with an approximate 1:1 ratio of babies to caretakers. MindTree [Get Quote] Consulting Ltd has implemented 'Baby's Day Out', a concept where women employees can bring their child and a maid along with them to the office. A workstation is set up at the company creche for the mother, so she can attend to her job and her child at the same time.

Jyothi Radhakrishnan, software engineer and a working mother, took leave for a year after her daughter was born. She says, "This helped me bond with my daughter during her initial growing stages." This is another boon working moms have in certain companies -- permanent employees who have completed a certain tenure can take leave for as long as a year.

And it isn't just the perks the company offers that count. Reminisces Robert Menezes*, a software engineer, "The company I work for did not lay off a single employee when it crashed severely in 2001. Employee loyalty has increased considerably since then."

If you haven't spared a thought to the perks your company owes you, find out what you're entitled to and make the most of it. After all, not everyone can avail of great benefits courtesy their organisations.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

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