The holidays are officially over, and it's back to work. This week marks a perfect clean-slate opportunity to make a few changes around the office for a better work year ahead. That might mean introducing new policies around the office. It could also mean rolling back existing policies that don't produce the intended results.
Not all policies and perks are created equal. Some are genuinely loved by your employees, leading to a happier workplace environment. Others, not so much. Even though the following office perks are meant to boost productivity and morale, they often do the opposite. Consider the negative side effects of what seem to be prime office perks.
1. The uber-distracting open-office design
The trend toward minimalistic open spaces has led to a surge in stripped-down workspaces. The fewer walls and sleek design of your office certainly look great in photos, but they're not great for the people who need to work there. Open offices are rife with noise and distraction, preventing your employees from getting work done.
That doesn't mean you have to go back to cubicles and individual offices for all. Many companies are looking for opportunities to privatize certain areas of their offices with soundproof rooms, quiet areas, and other varieties of space that foster fewer distractions.
2. The caveats that come with working remotely
Remote work was the "it" perk of 2016. The option to work from home or even just one day a week makes your company seem like the good guy. With the massive adoption of chat platforms like Slack, it's now easier than ever for employees to be connected 24/7. And that's a serious problem.
For many companies, working remotely really means being on-call anywhere, anytime -- even after hours or when employees are on vacation. If you've been so kind as to grant work-from-home privileges, there's often an expectation that your employees must prove they really deserve it. They end up worker harder and working longer than those in the office.
I'm not bashing a remote working policy. I think the issue is with how employers approach these policies. They seem to demand that employees overcompensate to prove that they're "really working." My argument is this: If you don't trust your workers to get work done at home, maybe you shouldn't hire them in the first place.
3. The overflowing snack drawer of junk food
Food takes the cake in top employee perks. It's a huge recruiting tool, too. Everyone loves food.
Since all companies can't follow Google's lead with on-site chefs that prepare meals for their whole staff, many companies do what they see as the next best thing: stock their kitchens with snacks for people to munch on throughout the day.
The unintended side effects are many. Prepackaged snacks are rarely healthy. You're feeding your employees crinkly bags of "food" that's not only bad for their bodies, but also bad for their brains. Snacks also serve the purpose of keeping your employees glued to their desks. They have no reason to go grab lunch or take a break with snacks always at their disposal. People are more productive when they take breaks from their work. Snacking sneakily prevents this from happening.
What I'd like to see is for companies to put those snack funds into something that promotes healthful living, such as gym memberships or wellness activities.
4. The mandatory participation in forced fun
Everyone seems like they're having a blast at the mandatory social outing or team building activity. This is how culture is created! Wrong. The fun everyone seems to be having is likely fake. Especially when it requires them to step away from an urgent deadline or work project. Others aren't thrilled that things they don't want to do are eating into their personal time. And no matter how many company surveys you send out, you'll never find a single activity that everyone will love.
"Getting together socially doesn't solve for how you get at the root cause of the culture issues," Marc Kaplan, a principal at Deloitte Consulting, told BBC. He recommends making events non-mandatory. And if people don't show, learn from their non-participation. Maybe the activity or timing of the event can tell you something.
5. The unlimited vacation days
Companies like LinkedIn and Netflix give employees as many PTO days as they want. In a blog post announcing the change, LinkedIn's Pat Wadors said the move was to "give our employees more flexibility and a sense of empowerment."
Other companies have followed suit. And not always successfully. Americans don't use all their vacation days as it is. An open-ended policy often leads them to take even less. It's difficult to know how much vacation is really "allowed" when you don't have a set number of days. And if you work for a company that rarely experiences slow periods, it never seem like a good time to leave your colleagues in a lurch and go on vacation.
Some companies are returning to a set number of vacation days. Kickstarter, for example, rescinded its unlimited vacation policy when it realized employees were taking fewer days off than before. Employees now get 25 days a year.
All these policies and perks aren't inherently bad. Their intention is to improve collaboration between employees and make the work environment a better and happier place for all. But like many things, what looks good on paper doesn't always translate to reality. Before implementing something new, do your research about the pros and cons. You might discover the true benefits to be lacking.