In the company-culture wars, it seems like everyone's trying to outperk each other. Now every company interested in wooing whip-smart Millennials lists the same brag-worthy benefits in their job description. 401(k) matching? Wonderful. Gym reimbursement? Fantastic. Dog co-workers? Hmm ...
Employers call these perks, but not everyone does. Though they all sound good on paper, be conscious of what you're really communicating to employees when you decide to offer the following perks.
1. Beer flowing like water from our in-office kegerator
What you think it says: We're a work hard, play hard culture! Providing booze at the office makes us edgy.
What it really says: We don't expect employees to have a life outside of work. We'd really prefer if they stuck around the office, got drunk together, and gossiped about those who went home after work.
If you aim to lure your employees into hanging out and drinking at the office at all hours, you're not respecting the need for work-life balance. What ever happened to hobbies, family, and intellectual stimulation? Pursuing the things you love outside of work makes you more content at work.
If employees want to head out after work and grab happy-hour drinks, they're welcome to. But don't make it seem like it's the norm or expected that all employees join in on a post-work, in-office beer. They might not want to. Or they simply may have other things to do. That doesn't mean they hate their co-workers or jobs.
Bottom line: Encourage your employees to leave work at work. Because well-rounded individuals make for well-rounded employees who are pleasant to be around and productive.
2. Dogs running amok around the office
What you think it says: We're not the stuffy, buttoned-up type. You won't believe how laid back and fun we are here. DAWGS!
What it really says: We don't care if you're allergic. We don't care if someone's dog is poorly behaved. We don't care if some dogs don't play well with others or don't play well with humans. What do we care about? How fun our office looks on our Instagram, so bring all yer dogs!
Don't get me wrong. I love dogs. I have my own dog whom I whisper sweet somethings to many times a day. But I don't bring her to work. Because one time I did. And she got so riled up with excitement, she knocked one of my co-workers over. That is why I never brought my dog back. I also spent the whole day concerned she was bugging people, so I didn't get much work done.
While some dog owners are thoughtful and considerate, many are not and expect their colleagues to keep an eye on their pets. In that case, it's nearly impossible to allow some people to bring their dogs and deny other people the privilege.
Bottom line: Many dogs are just not suited for office environments. Consider this before turning your office into a doggy daycare. Also, stop calling your dogs co-workers. They aren't.
3. Cupboards full o' snacks
What you think it says: Snacking people are happy people. Free chips? OMG, sign me up!
What it really says: Trying to eat healthfully? Good luck! We might have some sad, wilted apples, but you can expect to spend your entire day resisting sugary, salty, terrible-for-you (and terrible for your productivity) treats.
It may be hard to believe, but not everyone at your office enjoys being stuffed full of chocolate bars like Augustus Gloop. And even if they do, the scene ain't pretty.
I've seen the following happen at the many offices I've worked in where free snacks are provided: With easy access to junk food, even those with the healthiest of intentions dig in. The good-for-you stuff hardly gets touched. By the time only the browning bananas and old, watery yogurts remain, a new batch of snacks has arrived and everyone descends on the junk.
With snacks in easy reach, it's also far too easy to skip lunch. I've watched many of my colleagues live for weeks on only snacks for sustenance, never once eating a real meal of food.
Bottom line: Most snacks prevent people from eating well, thereby hindering their productivity, not helping it. When everyone's walking around like zombies crashing from the snack-induced sugar high, you can't expect anyone to be on their A-game.
4. Wide-open floor plan
What you think it says: We're modern! We're chic! We're design forward! Minimalism is so in right now!
What it really says: This job requires all employees to invest one week of their salary on purchasing noise-canceling headphones.
Some people are introverts. Some people are extroverts. A bunch of people fall somewhere in between. Some people have jobs--accounting and HR for example--in which their phone calls need not be shared with the entire office. Other people have jobs that at times require deep, undistracted thinking. Simply put, open floor plans don't suit all these people.
While the popularity of open floor plans is sweeping the nation, take a step back to consider how people in your organization actually get work done. You might even (gasp) ask your employees what sort of environment they need to best do their jobs.
A modified version of an open floor plan could work very well, as long as you have rooms for taking personal phone calls, space to work solo, designated quiet areas, and privacy for new mothers. Just think this through before knocking down all the walls.
Bottom line: Try to design an environment best suited for the needs of everyone in your organization. Open offices are trendy, but is what you're envisioning conducive to the work your employees do?