Like chocolate and kitten pictures, at first glance perks seem like the kind of thing where more is pretty much always better. Who wouldn't want free food, company ski trips, nifty facilities, or on-site nap pods, right? Which is just the sort of logic that's led many startups to pile on a huge list of benefits.

But not everyone is buying the 'more perks is always better' dogma.

Management coaches and VC's have questioned the idea that any old benefit will help motivate your team, pointing out that if you randomly throw perks at them without understanding what they really need to do their best work, you're unlikely to see a bump in morale or productivity for all your effort (and money).

Some founders have even gone a step further, arguing that poorly considered perks can actually harm your team. Unlimited vacation and dog-friendly offices, for instance, have been called out as likely to have unintended consequences. And in a new post on Medium, Even.com people chief Vincent Lofranco has added a whole bunch more benefits to the list of perks that are highly likely to backfire.

While Lofranco stresses that every company must make its own decisions about perks based on its particular culture and specific needs, Lofranco stresses that careful consideration at Even led management to conclude that the "anti-perks" below do more harm than good:

  • Catered lunches. Do you really want your people to have one more excuse to sit on their butts all day? Isn't getting up periodically essential for both physical and mental wellness? Plus, as others have also noted, unhealthy office snacks that cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar aren't going to help your people do their best work.
  • TV or entertainment rooms. Ditto for more screentime for your people -- is that really what a bunch of perpetually plugged in knowledge workers needs?
  • "Mandatory fun." Fun is great, mandatory fun can be soul-crushing. "Hanging out with a few coworkers or the entire team is super important, but whether we're celebrating or bonding, we try not to force it (especially when it's outside of regular working hours)," writes Lofranco.
  • Booze. This one will really depend on your culture, but Lofranco points out a big downside of office happy hours and similar events that all companies should consider. "The constant presence of alcohol places a huge burden on colleagues who may be struggling with addiction or merely choosing to abstain," he notes.
  • Pet-friendly offices. Like the founders I mentioned above, Lofranco loves animals but believes that they can end up being a distraction at work (though science isn't entirely on his side here). Instead of allowing furry friends in the office, Even has decided to "compensate our employees for a dog-sitter (via a flexible health and wellness stipend), rather than run the risk of distracting the team with an adorable canine."

Are there any other office perks that really aren't that you'd add to this list?

Published on: Oct 18, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.