There are plenty of examples online and in the news concerning the best work perks to offer for a happy, well-adjusted workforce. However, certain perks that were once popular have wilted, and can drag the productivity of your company. Here are five work perks that sounded good on paper, but in practice, are an albatross around your employees’ necks.
There’s much to find online about the benefits of an open office space, and while many of the ideas are sustainable and good for business, a totally open office is not quite the success-building perk it was once considered to be. While it appeals to the millennial generation who don’t want to be hemmed in by cubicles, it also can contribute to a chaotic work environment that’s not always the most productive. Consider private spaces for face-to-face interactions, client phone calls or consultations, and the occasional place for the more introverted on your staff to hole up and get some work done.
This sounds good, in theory. It saves commute time, which is a big bonus, and allows them to work in the comfort of their home. Unfortunately, it can also lead to employees feeling “on call” even in their off-hours or while on vacation, which results in more hours worked and less work/life balance, an increasingly important aspect for today’s workforce. It also comes with the unwanted expectation that employees working from home must prove they’ve “earned” the privilege, saddling your people with a heavier burden than if they were to join the rest of the team at the office and leave at 5 every day.
Low-quality Free Food
In our last blog post, we extolled the virtues of offering free food as a perk, but there’s a definite downside if this perk is not done right. Not every company can afford to provide high-quality, free food prepared by on-site chefs, so they try to offer the next best thing—pre-packaged snacks and other vending machine type options. These alternatives can cause far-reaching problems. Employees opting for the quick snacks don’t always leave for lunch, which fosters a feeling of being chained to their desks. The food isn’t healthy, which leads to weight gain and other health issues, increasing absenteeism for medical reasons. Studies have shown people are more productive when they are given the opportunity for a break. Consider a service like Fruit My Cube, which delivers locally obtained fruit to offices in the greater St. Louis area, as an inexpensive alternative to on-site food service. At least an apple or grapes doesn’t have the same effect on the waistline.
Mandatory Team Building/Socializing
While consistent breaks from work are nice, the team building exercises where attendance is required have got to go. Having the company culture forced on them can make employees (especially those less social) miserable to the point where they resent having to fake enjoyment for someone else’s sake.
Unlimited Vacation Days
This perk sounds incredible… on paper. In reality, it can lead to employees being unclear on the balance between vacation days and absenteeism. If your company’s work calendar is never slow, employees will actually take less vacation time because it’s never a good time to take off. This increases the feeling of being overworked over time. By providing a clear boundary, you’re showing employees you expect them to take time for themselves. If you truly want to reward them, increase the rate at which they can earn their PTO or start them out with a greater number of days. Consider making sick leave separate from vacation days so employees with chronic conditions requiring medical attention aren’t forced to take all their vacation time for doctor visits or unwell days.
Attention to these details can increase your employees’ productivity and contribute to the overall happiness of those in your workforce, which makes for a more competitive company. Employees who know they’re valued in the right ways will look forward to coming to work and will do more for company culture and morale than any trust exercise or pre-packaged junky snack food.