The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Workplace Benefits

There is a fine line to walk while balancing a company’s bottom line and attracting great talent. Because the employees who work for you are the most valuable asset that your company has at its disposal, making sure they are productive and healthy and happy both in and out of the office is a cause worth supporting and encouraging.

To begin an investigation into how to boost employee productivity a solid start is to take a look at the extra perks that are unique to your office. Some provide a great morale and productivity boost, despite costs to the company, while others look good on paper. However, you can drain your talent until they lose the spark that made you want to hire them in the first place.

Some companies have taken to making perks one of the main incentives to attract top talent but have not stopped to take a look at the effect they can have on their employees if not properly implemented. Some trendy perks in today’s business climate require careful thought to avoid employee burnout and morale issues include:

Free in-office meals

Whether this is catered lunches or taken to the Silicon Valley extreme where employees are never more than 100 feet away from food, free food never sounds like a bad thing to potential employees. The truth of the matter is that studies show productive employees need breaks throughout the day, and stepping out of the office, even for a 15 minute break can do a lot of good. Getting out of the office can help employees re-center themselves and come back recharged to take a new approach to a problem that may have had them stumped.

One way to encourage these breaks while still providing the same perk is to provide employees meal credits they can use to get food outside the office. Also, encouraging occasional working lunches can help bring employees together in a casual way while still breaking up the usual pace of a workday.

Unlimited vacation policies

Several companies have chosen to discard the system of accruing PTO and allow their employees to take time off whenever they need it. At face value, this system appears to make it simpler for HR and the general workforce by streamlining complicated questions of when an employee is allowed to take leave.

However, as with any system that relies on employees to manage themselves, this can lead to unfortunate side effects if left unchecked.

Fortunately, the solution is fairly simple. Set clear policies on how to take time off and track when employees take vacations. If someone is leaving too much of their workload to their coworkers, then the data will show that. On the other hand, if you have a workaholic who hasn’t taken time off in more than six months, then HR can begin to use predictive analytics to flag team managers and assist in preventing employee burnout. Encouraging employees to take a well-deserved vacation is not only a benefit for their well-being, but allows them to reboot and return as a rested and recharged member of the team.

Company cell phones AND data plans

It is almost impossible to imagine the time before we all had smartphones in our hands during every moment of the day. Given how much time we spend on our phones, it seems only natural for businesses to help alleviate some of the costs. It can be easy to let the phone take over when you are away from the office, even on vacation. In an age where we are constantly connected, everything can feel like an emergency.

This is another area where companies need to set clear guidelines. Prescribed boundaries surrounding working hours, and creating a clear definition of what is actually an emergency can go a long way. It is important for everyone’s sanity to make sure that these policies are clearly communicated during the employee onboarding process and help employees remember them as they integrate into the company culture. While there are many industries for which a hard stop at the end of the day may be impossible, encouraging some lines between work life and personal life can go a long way towards employee success.

On the other hand, there are a few perks that companies may feel a little wary about implementing, since they often require an investment from the company. However, they should not always be ignored, due to the great results that they can produce.

Employee training & development

Learning is a never ending process and the best employees are always looking for ways to improve and keep up with the latest developments in their field. Furthermore, studies show that an effective and relevant employee development program can help employees become more engaged in their work.

Article Continues Below

A robust training program does not always rely solely on ideas from within the company, but also references outside sources like Lynda.com or Everwise.com. They offer opportunities for employees to develop new skills within their daily work or connect to mentors in their field, which can help expose them to new ideas or new ways of solving some of the business’ challenges.

Social events

We spend most of our waking hours in the office, whether we like our coworkers or not. Developing a strong company culture and creating opportunities for employees to socialize beyond just their assigned action items, is an important part of keeping employees happy and engaged.

Companies can achieve this with after-work activities or off-site events, such as a hackathon that allows people to explore their passions and ideas for the business, or even volunteering together on behalf of the company. The keys to a successful social event are creating an environment where employees feel comfortable and have the opportunity to connect with others outside their usual work group. Employees will inevitably talk about work at some point during your event, and new social groups can lead to increased collaborative opportunities and a more diverse idea pool to select from down the road.

Health and wellness

Healthy, happy employees are more energetic and productive. It is not breaking news that exercise and a positive attitude are good for people, but it can be hard for even the most motivated employees to find the time to take care of themselves.

While it is not a universal expectation that companies make perks like gym memberships part of a full employee benefits package, an increasing number of companies are starting to adopt this in some form or fashion.

Finding opportunities to gamify wellness, such as a motivating step counting contest or other health-friendly competitions, can encourage employees to evaluate their own fitness levels and become more proactive. Your company can also partner with local gyms, health facilities, or hold mini-health fairs to provide education and insight into what is available for them in their communities. Even something as simple as encouraging “walk and talk” meetings can help employees get outside for a breath of fresh air, or even just keep moving while in the office.

Keeping your employees well and highly engaged in their work can be one of the most significant steps towards maintaining an innovative environment. While perks are certainly not the only way to attract and retain top talent, they can play a role towards recruiting and retaining the top talent that matters to your company.

Alexis Joseph is Head of Talent for Rocket Lawyer.  She works on everything people-related at Rocket Lawyer across its offices in San Francisco, United Kingdom, Mexico, France, and more as the company expands across Europe. She joined Rocket Lawyer from Uber where she was one of the first 15 recruiters (there are now more than 200) and partnered with people operations on job leveling, compensation, competency development and more. There she scaled with the company as it exploded from fewer than 500 employees to more than 7,500. She is passionate about excellence surrounding the candidate, employee and stakeholder experience.

Topics