Drunken karaoke and other office-party fun certainly has its place. While these sorts of shenanigans may have been the gold standard for work satisfaction and connection among employees in the past, an appetite for workplace wellness has become the new norm. The most attractive perks that keep employees happy include professional development and investment in their wellness.


The shift in what makes people feel satisfied in the workplace makes a lot of sense sociologically. As technology has advanced, and social constructs have shifted, the ways in which people connect and find value in social events has also shifted. Sure, people may enjoy having an adult beverage and loosening up with their co-workers , but this is no longer the mainstay of the average adult’s social circle, as it may have been prior to the social media and tech advances of recent decades. Work and social life are no longer as intrinsically connected.

What employees really want

A 2018 OfficeLuv survey of 95 office managers across the U.S. indicated that the most desired perk for employees was the option to work at home (53 out of 78). The second most satisfying work incentive was the option for professional development and learning opportunities (24). Alcohol and after hours gatherings did make the list, coming in fourth place (3), after healthy snacks and beverages (9).


Millennials are the game changers for this shift in priorities. According to a Gallup poll on the subject, 87% of millennials surveyed felt as if professional development was important in a job; 55% shared that the opportunity to learn and grow was a major factor when applying for work. This is a significant increase over previous generations for which professional development was not as much of a priority. Professional development opportunities are a significant factor in retention rates.

What employees really want


As one would expect, there is no cookie-cutter solution for employee satisfaction. Some employees may find a lot of value in a party atmosphere behind the scenes, while other workers may feel as if healthy foods, beverages and the ability to work at home are more akin to their particular work values. In a survey of 1,000 workers in the UK, over half (54%) reported dreading holiday work parties. So, some people truly enjoy the opportunity to party with co-workers, and some avoid going if at all possible.


Employee morale is an important factor for satisfaction and retention. Here are some ideas that may help boost morale without alcohol:

  1. What employees really wantCreate your own office survey: Set up an anonymous online survey for people to share what types of personal or professional development opportunities they would enjoy. Also ask for specific ways to boost morale and what would help them feel appreciated.
  2. Host a self-care afternoon: Establish one afternoon per month for employees to participate in a self care activity of their choosing, on the clock. Brainstorm ideas for self care in a staff meeting. Consider hiring a massage therapist one afternoon per month for shoulder and neck massage to encourage mental relaxation. Invite Yoga, mediation and nutrition instructors to help provide wellness tips and advice in at the office. Developing a self care routine will help employees feel valued and recognize the need for taking care of physical and mental health.
  3. Offer lunch and learn sessions: What are your employees good at? Do they possess skills (related to work, or not) that others would like to learn? Establishing learning sessions that are taught by co-workers is an excellent way to build relationships and encourage people to share their knowledge in a fun setting.

People are more likely to stay where they feel valued. Investing in education and training for workers and offering non-party perks is a good place to start.