Are these Australia’s best work perks?


These three companies offer next-level experiential perks to high performing team members.
Payal Pattanaik | Image source: Supplied
A berth on a famous yacht race: LawConnect

When app developer Payal Pattanaik got an email saying she had won a place on the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2022, she didn’t know what it involved. She had entered the companywide lottery without giving it much thought, figuring her chances of winning were slim.

“I came to Australia from India a year ago and I didn’t know where Hobart was – I thought it was just some kind of twilight sailing on Sydney Harbour,” she says. “When I searched on Google and realised how far away it was, I kind of freaked out.”

Each year, LawConnect awards three places on the 22-person crew aboard its SuperMaxi – one for each company the parent group comprises. Pattanaik won the place awarded to a member of software developer LEAP Dev. The skipper onboard will be LawConnect CEO Christian Beck.

Pattanaik completed 14 consecutive days of training for the race, which is described as the ‘Mount Everest of sailing’ because it is so challenging. She has overcome her fear of the ocean, but says she is still apprehensive about the possibility of a storm.

“I never did any adventurous thing in my life before this. I mean, I’m not a sailor – I’m an app developer. But I’m loving it.”

Her role will be to capture the footage for the livestreaming that LawConnect will provide this year to spectators and to provide sailing assistance.

This is far from the only perk offered by the company, although it may be the most unusual one. LawConnect regularly hosts yacht parties on the luxury vessels it owns. Staff can bring their partners and family to twilight sailing sessions every Wednesday over summer.

Staff also get a gym membership, access to a mental health and wellbeing program, along with free breakfast and lunches throughout the week, and frequent team dinners at Sydney restaurants.

“We also play beach cricket and soccer, or just chill at the beach – and it is always on company time,” says Pattanaik. “Our managers trust us to work hard when we are working. They believe in us a lot too, and I think that’s why they spoil us.”

Swimming with sharks: Bridgit

Like many young people, the CEO and co-founder of non-bank lender Bridgit, Aaron Bassin, prefers acquiring experiences over material things. When choosing perks to give his rapidly growing team at his new company, the 30-year-old thought back to the time he was in an underwater cage in South Africa, watching great white sharks swim around him.

“It was surreal,” he says. “They are magnificent and beautiful creatures – and of course, deadly too. I was out of my comfort zone, but in a way it also made me stronger. Experiences like that encourage new ways of thinking.”

The Bridgit team | Image source: Supplied

Bassin added shark diving to his ‘Spin the Wheel’ initiative, which rewards three staff every quarter who are most aligned with company values. Other prizes include V8 racing, helicopter rides, a luxury boat cruise for six people and a private picnic at Kirribilli. Colleagues vote for two winners, while Bassin votes for a third, the CEO’s Rising Star. Most recently, this was someone working extremely hard behind the scenes.

So far, the wheel has not landed on the shark dive. There is the option to spin again if the idea does not appeal.

Bridgit collected anonymous feedback as to whether the team preferred cash bonuses or prizes – and they voted for the latter. It also provides free gym memberships and weekly F45 sessions, along with generous leave policies and the ability to work two weeks of the year remotely from anywhere in the world.

Bassin has no doubt that he gets a good return on his investment on the generous perks.

“Our philosophy is that we work hard and play hard,” says Bassin. “We also want to reward people and recognise their contribution to the business. The business thrives with this type of culture, and it also creates a bit of healthy competition, because the prizes are awesome.”

The lottery system was Bassin’s idea.

“It’s so fun to watch people’s faces as the wheel is spinning and they are wondering what prize they are about to win,” he says.

A talent show: ARQ Group

During the depths of Covid-19 lockdowns last year, the CEO of digital consultancy firm ARQ Group, Tristan Sternson hit upon a novel way of keeping his remote and rapidly growing workforce engaged and connected. He announced the creation of an annual talent show.

It was also a way of encouraging his team to bring their full selves to work.

“We want to encourage people to not just turn up at work and to do their job, but also to feel comfortable showing off their talents so that their colleagues know them as the whole person they are.”

ARQ Group | Image source: Supplied

So far two talent shows have been held, and Sternson has ambitions of rolling it out across the even larger workforce of NCS (the technology services subsidiary of Singapore Telecommunication or SingTel) which recently acquired ARQ Group for $290 million.

“Some of the contestants were unbelievable,” says Sternson of a recent competition. “We had a group that had never met before and they all played an instrument remotely in different states. They were so good that it was like being at a concert.”

The format follows Australian Idol, with fairly outlandish judges in costume and a voting system to determine the state and national winners.

Sternson says that the talent show has brought about a broader change in ARQ’s work culture that he hadn’t anticipated.

“People play the guitar and drums at lunchtime, and we had a Bollywood dance performance at a recent event. I’ve been told there will be a Flashdance at the Christmas party. This is quite unusual for a tech company, and it never happened in pre-Covid times. I think the talent show has really brought people together as a group, which is very cool.”