Are company perks going too far?

Before we entered into the third millennium, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were lucky if your job offered a sturdy salary and an attractive pension package.  But oh, how times have changed!  A recent trend has seen large companies push the boat out even further with regard to corporate perks.  From pampering to poodles (read on!), and even naptime, businesses are taking ever greater measures to attract the best candidates.  Yet is the talent deficit really so great that companies need to offer such extreme incentives?

The technology giants have long been ahead of the curve with their fancy employee packages.  Employees at Google travel to and from work on company buses, receive subsidized massages, nap when the stress gets too much and even bring their dogs to work (poodles explained!).  In a similar fashion, Apple recently installed a high-tech wellness centre at its HQ in California where the wait time for appointments is reportedly only five minutes and consultancy rooms boast iPads and Macs in the place of standard paperwork.  Such perks evidently place employee wellbeing at the forefront of the business while also fostering a creative environment, arguably necessary to attract the imaginative calibre of candidates needed within technology.

However, recently this trend has started spreading beyond Silicon Valley to other sectors too: SC Johnson, a family-owned household brands company, offers a personal concierge service to all employees and Richard Branson caused a stir when he announced that all Virgin employees would receive unlimited holiday.  Yet are these the benefits that employees really want?

Interestingly, Mindflash has revealed a large discrepancy between what employees say they want and what their employers think they want.  Employees rated “full appreciation for work done” as their most important concern, whereas employers prioritised “good wages”.  It just shows then, that emotional support is still valued over practical incentives, since “feeling ‘in’ on things” and “sympathetic help on personal problems” came a close second and third on employees’ lists.  Take a look at the full infographic here.

What’s more, there’s a strong case for arguing that these new incentives excessively merge the personal and professional spheres.  Providing a ping pong table at work might foster camaraderie among employees but it can’t replace a social life outside of the office.  Does the creation of such an environment suggest that life starts and ends at work?  Facebook and Apple’s offer to freeze female employees’ eggs takes a literal approach to this.  While it gives women more flexibility regarding when they choose to start a family, buying an employee’s fertility could give off the unnerving message that her career should always come first.  Should your company’s principles override your own?

The question to pose, then, is to what extent should a company be responsible for employee wellbeing?  Does this trend towards a provide-all package foster a more loyal and committed relationship between the company and the employee or could these latest incentives alternatively be interpreted as invasive?  Just some food for thought…

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