Uncategorized | October 26, 2016

Some Workplace Perks Can Be Tricks, Not Treats

Halloween is upon us, and I’ve got something that will scare you even more than David S. Pumpkins. What if I told you that some workplace perks were TRICKS instead of TREATS? Please try to remain calm, and I’ll explain.

We did a webinar recently on employee happiness that showed how not everything that makes your employees happy will necessarily make them productive. While it’s true the happiness of your employees should be top priority, not all perks are created equal – in fact some can have a downright spooky effect! Let’s take a look at some of them:


Some companies offer beer onsite, some have taps ready to go for the last few hours on Fridays or another designated time, and some even brew their own beer.

  • WHY IT’S A TRICK: Alcohol consumption at work, even during downtime, sends mixed messages and has detrimental effects on productivity, especially in high-pressure workplaces. A study from the British Medical Journal showed that working 48+ hours a week led to more “risky” alcohol use, and when you normalize it in the workplace you also risk alienating your non-drinking cohort.
  • MAKE IT A TREAT BY taking those hours you were going to drink on Friday afternoon and giving them back to employees. Let them clock out early and you can invite them to a happy hour where it was meant to happen, in a bar.


Since the creator of the cubicle dubbed them “monolithic insanity,” some offices have been moving toward seating plans and office designs that eschews cubicle walls for a more open and interactive workplace.

  • WHY IT’S A TRICK: Data shows that people overwhelmingly prefer to work alone with few distractions to reach maximum productivity. In a recent Harris Interactive poll on workplace productivity, 86 percent of employees said they prefer to work alone, and almost half (46 percent) said they could do without idle chatter and impromptu meetings. Only 27 percent thought they’d be more productive in an open office setting.
  • MAKE IT A TREAT BY conducting your own survey to find out what office environment your employees would prefer, and then adapting your office plan based on what they truly feel will make them productive, not just for the sake of keeping up with the Googles.


Wellness is top-of-mind for employers today, and some even go so far as to build on-site fitness centers, rock-climbing walls, and gyms to give employees the option of working out before, during, or after the workday.

  • WHY IT’S A TRICK: It insidiously saps more personal time from employees. Lotte Bailyn, a professor emeritus at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, warned in a New York Times interview to “differentiate between those policies that give people more control over what they do and those that allow people to work longer and longer on site,” arguing that the latter can end up sowing more disengagement.
  • MAKE IT A TREAT BY creating more space between work and personal life for employees, not blending them closer together. If wellness is your focus, maybe offer gym membership reimbursement or HSAs. Offer things like remote positions and flexible hours. Offer perks that give them more control of their lives, and encourage them to get away from the office and take the time to recharge.


These are just a few examples; I didn’t want to terrify you too much. If you want to learn more on the subject of productive happiness, feel free to check out a recording of our employee happiness webinar. Until next time, have a Happy Halloween!

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