Reno, Nev. Workers Choose Lunch Over $3,000 Bonus

According to research, workers stay longer in jobs where they feel recognized.

Facebook/ShortStack
Would you rather receive a $3,000 bonus or a free lunch every week with your coworkers? You might assume most workers would choose the money, especially because such a bounty is the rough equivalent of a $60 meal per week, before taxes. But as Fast Company recently reported, the 10-person local team of the Reno, Nevada company, pictured right, unanimously opted for the free weekly lunch over the bank account boost.

For starters, why was such a choice even given to the workers at ShortStack, a tech startup that designs custom Facebook pages? Simple: the free Friday lunches -- a tradition since it was founded in 2011 -- got expensive as the company's staff grew. So CEO and founder Jim Belosic says his accountant suggested that it might just make more sense to dispense with the free lunch and simply give workers a bonus check instead.

When Belosic asked his staffers whether they'd prefer the money over the group meal, the answer was unanimous: 10-0 in favor of lunch. "It shocked our CPA that everyone is happy and choosing camaraderie," he told the business publication.

Shortstack public relations manager Sara Piccola, for her part, explained to AOL Jobs why it was easy to turn down the money. "We're already paid really well," she said. "I would rather go out to lunch with my workers, who are really my friends, then receiving a one-time payment."

In prioritizing camaraderie over the check, the ShortStack workers are not alone. Much research shows that "engagement" and recognition makes for happy and productive workers. Last year's widely cited Towers-Watson global workforce study of 32,000 global workers, for instance, found that just one in five workers with the highest scores on the survey's "sustainable engagement" scale were likely to leave their job over the next two years. The number jumped to two in five for workers with lower scores. ("Sustainable engagement" was defined by the study as having a work environment that promotes workers' physical, emotional and social well-being.)

And it appears the importance of working in a collegial environment has other benefits, too. According to the Harvard Business Review, workers who feel they have a boss who unfairly criticizes them or doesn't listen to their concerns have a 30 percent higher chance of coronary disease than workers who say they have managers who treat them with respect.

In fact, for Belosic, the mission to create an environment where his workers feel like they are actual human beings engaged with their colleagues is paramount. And so during the weekly team lunches, work-related discussion is forbidden.

What makes you happy in a job? Is it money -- or something else?

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