It used to be that Christmas marked the time when employees might look to their boss for a bonus, but a growing labour shortage in Western Canada has prompted some businesses to offer extra goodies no matter the season.

Workers are being wooed with everything from pet insurance to PlayStations to yoga.

Twice a week, office staff at Scott Plastics Ltd. in Sidney, B.C., can slip away from the tensions of the day-to-day workplace and into a yoga class. It’s an idea the company launched about a year ago to help keep workers happy.

“We started doing it just for a small group of office staff, really for a bit of break,” said Robin Richardson, Scott’s vice-president of operations. “Whilst they go out and have walks at their break time, I felt that some additional relaxation … was a good idea.

“They seem to really enjoy it and the net result of it was after a while a number of the male office staff asked if they could join as well.”

It might seem like an odd incentive for a company that manufactures the Scotty range of sport fishing, marine, outdoor and firefighting equipment and makes custom injection moulding.

But Richardson said it’s been good for employees — and for business.

“We were basically looking for something that was going to be beneficial to them and at the same time basically probably improve the work performance. I think they’d all say that it does both,” he said.

It’s just one example of what a company is doing to help keep staff in a tight labour market.

The shortage of staff is “hitting hard right across the West,” said Laura Jones, vice-president for Western Canada for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

The group recently asked small business owners in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia if they’ve done anything different to retain or attract employees over the past three years as a result of labour shortages.

More than 50 per cent said they had.

“I was floored, frankly, by how many people said yes,” Jones said from her Vancouver office. “It’s pretty neat some of the things they’ve tried.

“Many are going beyond the obvious and doing things like signing bonuses or adding perks like golf trips, family days, dinners out.”

Jones said employees aren’t just looking for more money — they want things that enhance their quality of life.

“They are looking for things like ‘Can I bring my dog to work?’ and in some cases in a small business that’s possible.”

Other companies, like Regina-based NorthPoint Energy Solutions Inc., have stepped up with something more tangible. The subsidiary of SaskPower offered all 35 employees the choice of a PlayStation 3, a television or a GPS unit at the end of last year.

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