The Work Perk Divide: The Difference Between Benefits and Baits

Gimmicky perks can be masqueraded as benefits but they're not what employees really want

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You're reading Entrepreneur Asia Pacific, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

When you’re job hunting, it’s easy to be seduced by companies offering free meals, free dry cleaning, or workspaces peppered with ping-pong tables or video games. These modern day perks are often touted as “benefits”, but not only are they not benefits, they’re actually golden handcuffs.

Some companies lure employees with these “perks” that the new hire soon realises are conveniences provided because the expectation is that foosball might help them accomplish what they no longer have time for when working ridiculous 12 plus hour a day, which is work-life balance and a little fun. 

While it’s true that 21st century employees value different benefits than our grandparents did, what workers want today are actually benefits that improve, not reduce, work-life balance and contribute to their overall wellbeing.

Wellness Works Wonders

With today’s complicated and costly healthcare market, health insurance is a top benefit. But today workers expect more than an HMO or PPO. They also want wellness benefits like reimbursement of gym memberships, and workplaces that boast onsite fitness facilities and ergonomically designed workspaces. 

Smart employers also realise that healthy employees are more productive employees. Small steps can yield big results. Research shows that something as simple as a standing desk can increase productivity by 23 per cent. 

Quality Time is Key

Besides physical wellbeing benefits, workers should covet benefits that improve mental and emotional health by improving their work/life balance. A recent study found that the most desirable benefits centered on flexibility and time off: paid family leave, flexible and remote work options, and sabbaticals were in the top five benefits employees most wanted.

Shifting Gears

So, how can a company ensure that the benefits they offer are ones which employees really want and reflect their unique corporate culture?

First, make sure benefits are genuine. Things like catered meals or free onsite childcare might not really be the best benefits because they are designed to encourage employees to be chained to work. Real benefits do what the word says: they benefit the employee, not the employer. 

A benefit package also needs to be customised and useful to your specific employees. For example, if you have a younger workforce parental leave, virtual work options and student loan assistance can be a good fit. Tailoring your offerings to your core, or offering a suite of benefits employees can individually pick from ensures that what you offer is actually useful to your workforce. Since benefit package can be a major factor for attracting new talent, it’s imperative that what your company offers can help land the best and brightest.

Benefits are also a great tool to reinforce culture. For example, if a family atmosphere is part of your culture, benefits that encourage structured socialisation among employees, as well as paid family leave and unlimited vacation time, are congruent with the culture. A company that values innovation and freedom could provide flexible and remote work options and professional development benefits.

The Takeaway

Smart companies recognise that offering a mix of traditional and modern benefits can help create a positive brand image in the marketplace, attract top talent and lead to healthy, happy employees who are excited about where they work, which ultimately leads to an increase in productivity, a decrease in sick days and a workplace with a positive culture.

Mike Whaley

Written By

Mike Whaley is VP of sales at Eureka Ergonomic. The company specialises in creating wellness workspaces designing and manufacturing the entire line in-house from the highest quality materials available.