Anti-perks: The Surprising Downsides of Workplace Benefits

The Surprising Downsides of Workplace Benefits

Not every employee benefit is actually useful—here are the top five most common “perks” that employees hate!

Whenever you apply to work somewhere new, what sells you on the switch is probably not just the salary hike but also the perks they offer. These perks can be small things like a paid gym membership to paid parental leave and mental health support. But not all perks are equally good. Welcome to the not-so-wonderful world of anti-perks—benefits that sound great on paper but are actually never useful to employees. 

Knowing what these anti-perks are can help you avoid falling for them the next time you interact with a recruiter. With that in mind, here is a look at some of the top anti-perks out there and why you should think twice before accepting them. 

Unlimited vacation time

In a Twitter thread discussing anti-perks, unlimited paid time off (PTO) was one of the most commonly criticized. While it sounds like a dream come true, in reality, it’s a nightmare for employees. The biggest problem with this perk is the lack of clarity it brings. This often leads to frustrations for both managers and employees who have to constantly navigate which leave request to approve.

For new hires who have been roped in with the promise of unlimited PTO, they would typically be too nervous to actually take a lot of leaves, fearing that it will reflect poorly on them. Hence, they would probably just follow what other employees are doing, leaving the policy largely unused. 

Besides, the lack of clarity on how much PTO an employee has can become an issue when exiting the company. The “unlimited” nature of these leaves also means that they cannot be cashed out, making them an unattractive perk all around. Normally, employees can either get paid out for unused vacation days or carry them over to the next year. However, without a specific number of days off, there is no way to decide how many days they should be paid out for if the employee leaves the company.

Free food

Offering free food to employees has become a popular perk in the tech industry, but it turns out that it might not be as beneficial as it seems. Having food readily available is likely a trap to keep you in the office for longer periods of time, as per the Twitter thread on anti-perks. Some argue that while a free lunch is okay, having dinner available at the office sets an expectation that you are supposed to stay at the office long enough to actually have dinner there. 

Moreover, for some people, having food readily available might give way to mindless snacking, which could lead to health problems, especially if the food available isn’t healthy. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, office food adds 1,300 calories to a person’s diet each week. This is a significant amount of calories that can contribute to weight gain and other health problems.

Free booze

Just like free food, employees also don’t want free booze, as it can actually be a recipe for disaster. Alcoholism is a serious condition, and around 107 million people across the world are estimated to have an alcohol use disorder. Suffice it to say, having alcohol readily available at the workplace can be a trigger for some people. 

Besides, a heavy drinking culture at the office can make non-drinkers feel excluded and can also have debilitating effects on workplace productivity. In essence, it is a lose-lose situation for everyone involved. 

Employer-sponsored coaching

In the quest to offer better perks to employees, companies are turning to employer-sponsored coaching. Although coaching can help employees with their work-related issues, some are hesitant to accept the coaching offered by their employers. 

The reason is pretty obvious—if the company is paying for the coaching, the coach will report back to the company on all the issues the employee discussed with them, even things that the employee wouldn’t ideally want their company to know. This can lead to a breach of privacy and a lack of trust. Some employees even interpret getting paid coaching as a sign that they’re not good enough and thus are resistant to accepting this as a perk. 

Open office plans 

Open offices were supposed to be the future of work, and companies typically sell the idea of an open office saying that it will encourage more interaction between employees. However, it does anything but that. 

According to a study by Harvard Business Review, face-to-face interactions dropped by 70% in companies that transitioned from traditional office structures to open office plans. This is because any conversation in an office can very quickly devolve into a large-scale discussion, which can be distracting to employees and bring down productivity. It’s no surprise that employees are unhappy with the constant distractions and lack of privacy.

Employers, take heed: your employees are not interested in elaborate perks. They just want to work, go home and have clear work-life boundaries. If any of the benefits keep them in the office for longer than necessary, they will not appreciate it. Instead, they will view it as a red flag. Research suggests that some of the benefits employees are actually seeking are—location-agnostic pay (equal pay for all doing the same job irrespective of where they are working) and a generous leave policy. If an employer wants to go beyond these, it might be a good idea to actually discuss benefit options with their employees instead of unilaterally deciding what they need. 

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Header image courtesy of Envato


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