What's 20 percent worth to you?
It's more than cool. It's brilliant. Why? Three reasons:
1) They are going to do it anyway. No one truly does everything they dream of doing in their "real job" - which is expected. So how about allowing them to recharge their batteries by dialing into their passions, while at work?
2) Allowing people to pursue their interests only makes them smarter, thus more valuable employees and in turn, more important additions to the company.
3) All employees' eyes/heads wander. Why not capture their daydreams and provide the resources to make those dreams reality? Who knows, that 20 percent of time devoted to dreaming up the next software program or innovative service could be a company's next goldmine. And when the opportunity arises to launch the next big product, that employee surely will pay credit to the company that provided the resources and support.
Here's a video - very cool - of Google's lifestyle. Sure it's on the far end of the spectrum of what most companies can provide their employees, but when people are your biggest investment/asset, why not splurge. From the simplest things - one hour a day to dream big without someone looking over your shoulder/organic lunches/on-site daycare/beer!, whatever your budget allows. The gesture of support reaps boundless benefits. Providing above-and-beyond opportunity for employees creates loyalty, good health (physical and mental) and an arena for dreams and ideas to flourish.
It's an investment in your people, with a return for your company.