Fancy the idea of knocking off whenever you please? While an increasing number of companies worldwide are successfully moving towards an environment that aims to give employees a greater sense of freedom and control, some attempts at creating a more fluid work situation may do more harm than good. As the old adage advises: be careful what you wish for. Here are five examples of professional perks that may not always work out in your favour.
Most people would take on any job with this clause in the contract. Imagine, endless holidays whenever you please! Even the opportunity to skip outrageously-priced school holiday periods is enough temptation to adopt this policy. This perk is particularly popular among the tech world – Netflix, Prezi and Evernote employees all enjoy unlimited holidays (at the discretion of their managers). Interestingly though, crowdfunding company Kickstarter binned this policy late last year due to a general confusion among employees about how much time is actually fair. Management found that in fact, employees ended up taking less, rather than more leave, as they were unsure of what was reasonable and felt guilty about taking too much. The company scrapped the policy in favour of a 25-day scheme in order to ensure employees had a guideline of how much was appropriate.
“It’s always been important to us to ensure that our team is able to enjoy a quality work/life balance,” a Kickstarter spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “What we found was that by setting specific parameters around the number of days, there was no question about how much time was appropriate to take from work to engage in personal, creative and family activities.”
Knowing your co-workers’ salaries
Salary transparency certainly sounds admirable in theory, and some companies believe it’s an important part of a conversation that assists employees to successfully negotiate pay, especially for women and minority groups to avoid discrimination. However, it can makes things more than a little awkward. SumAll chief executive and co-founder Dane Atkinson is an advocate of the program but does admit that in some cases where employees are aware of their colleagues’ pay packets, there’s been pressure on managers to reduce someone’s salary based on poor performance as judged by fellow employees. Considering a colleague isn’t always the best judge of whether you’re producing good work, the potential for the creation of a competitive, uncomfortably monitored workplace isn’t always worth the awkward discovery of what your desk buddy is earning.
While most employees are farewelled by their office and colleagues, it’s generally following their resignation. Yet some companies, like education app company HopeLab, have decided to celebrate firing staff in exactly the same way.
“I think layoffs are a fascinating opportunity to think about how to enliven people,” HopeLab’s CEO Chris Murchison says of the company’s creative approach to firing people. At HopeLab, they celebrate it. Sometimes elaborately. One employee was given a Thriller-themed flash mob to honour their Michael Jackson obsession. Another was thrown a party with balloons, beach balls and tacos. It’s all part of their aim to put the “good in goodbye”.
While the concept is good-hearted, there are some that would consider a large, communal opportunity to dwell on somebody’s joblessness shines more of a spotlight on an uncomfortable situation than may be welcome. Watching colleagues who still have a job celebrate your dismissal can be a little much in the wake of such a major life disruption, and should be treated delicately.
Having biz side projects
You might not be ready to take the leap to business owner, so you settle on having your idea realised on a smaller scale while you keep your current job. While this may seem as though you’ve got the best of both worlds, it’s a lot more complicated. Serial entrepreneur David Hauser argues that having a side project is not only detrimental to your productivity at your current job, it’s probably symptomatic of a larger problem with commitment: namely, you’re unwilling to believe in the real capacity of your side project enough to make it into a fully-formed business. “Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by stringing your employer along and delaying the leap to becoming a full-time entrepreneur,” he says.
According to Thom Ruhe, former vice president of entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation: “Unless there are real consequences for failure,until you’ve personally guaranteed a line of credit and tried to sell your product to an actual human being, you won’t have the motivation needed to build a business that matters.” In short, it’s great to get things going but the ‘side’ aspect of the project should really be temporary.
No strict office hours
While many studies suggest that a more relaxed approach to office hours positively impacts upon productivity, having the option to choose your own hours also comes with potential negatives. The main shift in eliminating traditional office hours is the switch from time-based work to task-based work, and this is exactly where the grey area can appear. With increasing ease, we can stay connected outside the office – we hear the ding of a new email on the train home, while we’re having a meal with our spouse, while we read a story to our children. Now that we’re dictating our own hours and trying to get tasks done, where is the line drawn for your ‘finishing time’? Additionally, studies show that employees who prefer later start and finish times are less favourably considered than their early bird colleagues and fall victim to what’s referred to as ‘morning bias’. In fact, research reveals workers who decide to keep the same, yet later hours are at a noticeable disadvantage when it comes to their manager’s perception of their conscientiousness and performance, even if they are producing work to a similar standard of their fellow employees.