A games room, a company gym and an office dog to cuddle between meetings might sound like great job perks, but experts say that even the coolest of benefits don’t necessarily result in a happy work life. It’s not all doom and gloom though, here are five job perks that need to go, and what they can be swapped for instead.
The games room
Taking their cue from companies like Google, plenty of businesses have been inspired to add an element of cool to the workplace by introducing games rooms and ping pong tables. While the idea of office table tennis tournaments might seem like a bit of harmless fun, it can alienate employees who don’t get into the spirit of the sport and even give rise to a workplace boy’s club, with the ping pong table becoming the new golf course.
“When ‘business activities’ involve the strip club, golf course or hunting ranches … discrimination is often perpetuated as those in power support and advance those with like minds and tastes,” Hydie Sumner told USA Today after winning a $2 million gender discrimination case against her employer.
Trade your 15 minutes of playtime with a short snooze instead. A recent NASA study found that napping on the job can increase worker’s productivity, increase alertness and improve memory. So, ditch the ping pong and start working on a snooze room.
The company gym
Who doesn’t like sweating it out at the gym at the end of a long day at the office? The endorphins kick in and it’s great for keeping healthy.
But research scientist Gerald Ledford from University of Southern California’s School of Business says companies create work perks like these so employees feel like work is part of their personal life and spend more time at the office as a result.
“[Often it] isn’t because the companies are being generous,” Ledford told the BBC. “The purpose of most of these perks is to make it unnecessary for people to ever leave,” he said.
Ditch the company gym and create a work sports team or exercise group instead. That way you still get your heart racing, but you get to leave the building to do it.
It’s difficult to see the downside of free food but Lotte Bailyn from MIT’s Sloan School of Management says using food as an incentive for employees to stay at work can decrease productivity and quality of work.
“[These] perks keep people at the workplace whether they’re being productive or not,” Bailyn said.
Notorious perk provider Twitter offers three catered meals per day to its employees, but being tempted to stick around the office because a chef-prepared meal for dinner is waiting for you could mean people stay at work longer and work tired, when they’re much more likely to make mistakes.
Trade the meals in for regular team building exercises. If you love your food then it could be a cooking class or a celebratory dinner.
The idea of leaving little Fido at home while you’re at the office all day might make you feel a tad guilty, and business have cottoned on to this leading to an increase in pet-friendly offices. The problem with this, though, is it can lead to employees spending more time at the office and less time socialising, which can have a negative impact on office culture.
“With less experience of the outside world [employees] won’t be getting many bright ideas that could help their companies succeed in real-world environments,” Tom Foremski from Silicon Valley Watcher said. “And they won’t be evangelising their company’s […] services either.”
Leave the dog at home and negotiate for some flexible work hours instead so you can spend time with the dog on your own time.
Unlimited annual leave sounds like a gift from the workplace gods, but when faced with the opportunity to take unlimited holidays it’s been found that employees will actually take less time off rather than more out of fear of looking like they’re taking advantage of the system.
“In general, people need guidance, and I think it’s actually better to tell people, ‘This is the expectation,’” senior vice president of the Families and Work Institute Anne Weisberg told CNBC. “If people have to create their own expectation, they will default often to what’s the safest choice.”
Swap the unlimited vacation time for something more concrete, so everyone is on the same page and obligations can be met.
What office perks have you wanted to swap? Let us know in the comments section.