It started in April with a daily cash prize of $10,000 awarded randomly to an employee every workday. But that’s not all. Three employees and a guest for each will board a private plane headed to Barbados for an all-expenses-paid vacation. And a grand-prize winner will get to drive to work in a new Tesla.
This is how
a provider of real-estate data, is trying to lure its employees back to the office. Anyone who is vaccinated and in the workspace is eligible for the daily prize.
As more companies prepare for a return to the office, they are meeting resistance from some employees who prefer to work remotely for health or other reasons. Many top executives say collaboration is easier and productivity is often higher when workers are in the same setting.
While not many companies are apparently comfortable ordering employees back, a number of them are taking modest steps to ease the return to work. Examples include small tokens such as office slippers or gift cards for stores including Target. Others are plying their office staff with free food and drink.
Few, if any, are going quite as far as CoStar. The Washington, D.C.-based firm said any of its roughly 4,000 U.S. employees at its more than 50 U.S. offices are eligible to win the randomly drawn prizes. All an employee has to do is work at the office and have proof of vaccination.
In the weeks ahead, any CoStar office worker could conceivably be off for a week of golf and swimming in the Caribbean at Barbados’s Sandy Lane resort. Or charging up a shiny new electric Tesla Model S, which starts at about $80,000.
One CoStar employee at the office outside Nashville, Tenn., said that since the rewards program launched two weeks ago, the floors in his building feel less empty and the parking lots look more full.
This incentive plan doesn’t come cheap for CoStar. The company could end up spending several hundred thousand dollars on the big prizes and the daily raffle, which could continue well into summer, said Chief Executive
“Yes, this is a lot of money, but in the context of a multibillion-dollar company with thousands of staff and hundreds of offices, it’s a drop in the bucket,” he said in an interview. “So you can have some fun, you can incentivize people to do the right thing.”
Mr. Florance said getting employees vaccinated and back to the office boosts productivity. As the head of a real-estate-data company, he wants to help revive office districts and the property markets that depend on them. “You would be talking about economic Armageddon if all of a sudden we abandoned our cities,” he said.
Last month CoStar began providing vaccines to employees, clients and their friends and families at the company’s offices. While many took the firm up on its offer, Mr. Florance said some were hesitant to be vaccinated and return to work. “We thought, OK, we’re making it easy, how can we create a little bit of fun and excitement about it,” he said.
Every morning, Mr. Florance sends an email to all of the company’s U.S. staff announcing the winner of the daily cash prize, sprinkling in a few kind words about the employee.
At other companies, returning workers have boasted on social media about receiving office slippers, coffee mugs and whiskey. Just outside St. Louis, the construction-services firm Arco Business Services recently gave employees returning to its office individually wrapped cookies decorated as people wearing company face masks, a spokesman said. Employees also received a stress ball shaped like a construction hat.
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Other companies have bypassed office swag in favor of goodies that reinforce safety protocols. When staffers at the Richmond, Va., law firm Geoff McDonald & Associates PC returned in recent months, they received white bags lined with tissue paper. Inside were “wonderful Covid things” such as disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer and a bottle of lotion to help moisturize after frequent hand washing, said Chief Operating Officer
CoStar is sticking with cold cash and gifts that celebrate the high life. Mr. Florance said office occupancy across the firm stood at about 4% of capacity before the vaccines. It has popped to 20% since the awards program started, though occupancy is higher in some offices than others. He plans to keep announcing daily winners, hoping the incentives will lure even more workers back.
“We are going to do interesting and creative things until the workplace is settled down and until we’ve adjusted to our new reality,” he said. “And I think that will be months and months and months.”
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