Top 5 Pros and Cons of Trendy Employee Perks

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Trendy Employee Perks

Perks and employee benefits are often as much of a factor in whether someone takes a job as salary or commute time. Perks such as fresh-caught ceviche is a little out of your range. As is the onsite daycare, the in-house golf pro, and the daily hot yoga class. There are some cool perks that big tech companies offer, but many of them are things that are well out of your reach. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still offer your workers some cool extras for being part of your team. Here’s a look at five popular company perks, and the pros and cons of offering them to your employees.

Unlimited Vacation

Pros

Based on the same philosophy as parents who don’t give their kids curfews, this new “too good to be true” employee perk has been most notable implemented by heavyweights like Netflix and Evernote. Among the many perks of unlimited vacation are employees who recharged more often, and are more motivated to work. Providing unlimited vacation means employees are giving their best at work, and people have more to look towards.

It’s also an amazingly effective recruiting tool for a small business against larger companies who can pay more. An unusual perk like this will give your company a big edge with top talent, one you probably couldn’t pay for.

Cons

You’re a small business, which means that you can’t afford to have too many people out at once. And there will be more times when you need everyone around. So while the concept of unlimited vacation might be something you can offer, you may end up limiting it more than employees thought.

While the potential for abuse is there, according to Alison Griswold at Business Insider, the larger problem is employees not taking enough time off. Apparently, employees become overwhelmed with options and don’t want to give the perception of abuse; some burn out more. Also, your business may not be able to offer a policy like this. Restaurants, auto mechanics, landscapers and other appointment-based businesses can’t afford to have their top people out for extended periods of time.

Company Phones

Pros

If you haven’t noticed, drones of people on city streets are glued to their phone screens; phones offer constant connectivity. Providing a company phone as one of your employee perks means you have access to your employees when you need them. Or, if you’re trying to give some semblance of work-life balance, it also allows them to set a clear division between work and personal communication.

It allows employees more flexibility when and where they work. So if emails can be sent on the train ride to work or research completed while waiting in an airport, employees won’t need to spend as much time “at” work and will be more productive. You can also get considerable discounts with small business plans from wireless carriers that will save your company money ahead of having several designated land lines in your office.

Cons

Even if you tell them to put the phone down, some overachieving employees will never let it go. And they may expect your gift of a company phone to be a gift of 24-hour accessibility to you. Unless you enjoy answering employee questions at 2 in the morning, you may need to make these boundaries very clear.

Those same employees may burn out if they feel like the work phones is a leash to the office. And that burnout is not worth the ability to reach them at all hours. Also, hourly employees are entitled to time and a half for all time they spend on work past 40 hours, which includes phone calls and emails sent from a company phone. So it may cost more than you’d anticipated.

Company Cars

Pros

It’s almost a status symbol in America to say you have a “company car.” Even if that car is a basic sedan, many times with jobs like sales or maintenance using a designated company vehicle gives a more professional look to your company, and your clients will take you more seriously.

Company cars can be cheaper, ultimately, than reimbursing your employees for using their cars. Especially for ones who cover large territories, mileage rates can add up fast, and the simple gas and maintenance on a cheaper car will save you money.

Insurance-wise, you can also save with business insurance, instead of having to rely on your employees to carry it.

Further, employees who have company cars will have more options when it comes to transportation. So if his or her family needs the second vehicle, it can save your business time since nobody will have to rush home to pick up a child, or leave early so their spouse can use the car for something else.

Cons

First, even if you maintain your company cars well, they’ll eventually need to be replaced. So what you thought of as a one-time, $17,995 investment now becomes a once-every-six-years $17,995 investment. Or probably more.

There are of course the obvious costs of maintenance, repairs, and insurance when choosing whether the car is a better option for you than employee reimbursement.

And finally, insurance can get very complicated. You may have a staff of great drivers, but one who is nearly uninsurable. And many insurers will reject your entire company based on one person. And you are even liable for what your employee does with that car on his or her own time. So a Saturday night accident means your rates go up, even though you had nothing to do with it.

Office Snacks

Pros

A 2011 study from Staples.com showed that 57% of workers had to leave the office to buy their food, and an additional 50% left for coffee. An average of 2.4 billion productivity hours are lost due to employees leaving for food. The loss of productivity is reason enough to keep some food in the office.

In addition to keeping employees in the office, having snacks will also get them talking to each other over a nice tray of bagels or some fresh fruit. Providing food to your employees encourages collaboration and fosters team-building.

Further, if you bring in your food from local vendors and small businesses – like fruit markets, bakeries and delis – you’ll get to know other small businesses that can help you down the road. Think of it as networking with your stomach.

Cons

The rush of downing five handfuls of M&Ms runs out pretty quickly. The afternoon sugar crash can kill productivity, and even if it doesn’t the added calories can make your employees overweight, more lethargic, unhealthier and ultimately less productive. Providing food can be offset, however, by making sure the snacks you provide are at least a little bit healthy. Nobody’s going to be running to the break room for brussel sprouts, but you can at least have some nuts or a fruit tray. Just be cognizant of employee allergies and dietary restrictions.

The cost can also add up fast. If you see your snack budget becoming a larger and larger part of your bottom line, limit it to once or twice a week. You’ll still have that sense of community and collaboration, and you’ll save work time on the days you do have food in-house.

Wellness Programs

Pros

Healthy employees are never a bad thing. And when your rate of obese employees goes down, so does your health insurance premium for those employees. But even beyond saving money on health insurance, a wellness program can lead to higher morale among employees. As they participate in weight loss competitions, corporate runs, and other active events, their attitudes will get better, and productivity will improve.

Cons

Gym memberships cost money. But you don’t need to buy them necessarily for your employees, many gyms have corporate rates or will work with you to get a discount for everyone at your company. Some employees may also feel embarrassed if asked to join a weight loss program, so make sure everything you propose is companywide, even if you’ve got competitive triathletes on staff.

The other potential pitfall is non-enrollment. You might spend significant resources on a wellness program only to have employees shrug it off. Gauge potential interest before investing any money, to make sure everyone is onboard.

Perks and employee benefits are often as much of a factor in whether someone takes a job as salary or commute time. And they are something people weight when debating whether to take another job. So the better perks you offer, the better talent you’ll retain. And the cooler you’ll look in the eyes of our employees.


Matt Meltzer

Matt Meltzer is a professor of business communication at the University of Miami. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and holds a bachelors degree in business administration from UM, as well as a Masters of Mass Communication from the University of Florida.