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Are Your Office Perks Hurting Productivity?

Business News Daily Editor
Business News Daily Editor

Here's how to find a balance between work and play while still offering exciting incentives.

  • Company perks should not hinder productivity.
  • If productivity drops, then perks should be reevaluated,
  • Commonly abused perks include flexible work times and recreation areas.

Company perks are a major part of what attracts workers to your brand. It's important that you offer benefits that establish a healthy work-life balance, from free snacks to a break room with video games and books. But too many perks can negatively affect employee performance.

"Perks are a wonderful benefit to support employee well-being and company culture," said Marielle Smith, vice president of people at GoodHire. "Employees need to do their part in appreciating rather than abusing these benefits. If perks are distracting employees from delivering on their commitments, then the perks situation needs to be reassessed."

Ways employees abuse office perks

Knowing the common ways perks are abused can help you prevent it. The most common ways office perks are abused are:

  • Inappropriate computer use
  • Claiming personal expenses as business expenses
  • Flexible work hours or vacation time
  • Too much recreation time

Inappropriate computer use

When an employee is meant to be working and they are using the computer or internet for personal reasons, they are cyberloafing. Cyberloafing hurts productivity. A University of Texas at San Antonio study found that 14% of the average office workday is spent cyberloafing. It also takes an employee 23 minutes to get back on track afterward.

Frivolous or personal business expenses

This method of abusing perks is fairly common. A few examples are:

  • An employee taking a client out to dinner on the company tab. They order the most expensive wine and food on the menu.
  • They consistently use additional hotel services on a business trip.
  • They bring their family with them and purchase their rooms and meals with the company credit card.

Flexible work hours or vacation time

Many companies are allowing employees to set their own hours and offering plenty of vacation time. These can be great perks when used correctly, however, they can easily be abused. At Netflix's California headquarters, there isn't a set schedule. Work time is determined by how much employees accomplish.

Setting productivity requirements instead of hourly ones makes it less likely to be abused. However, if you have an employee that doesn't meet productivity, they may be abusing their flexible schedule. Some employees may put in a lot of hours and work more slowly to get paid for overtime if they are paid hourly.

Using gyms or recreation rooms instead of working

Companies are beginning to learn the value of having ways for employees to relax and destress on site. This can include a gym, game tables, basketball courts, pools, and massage therapists. In moderation, taking time out to relax can make employees more productive. Patagonia encourages employees to surf daily.

However, it becomes a problem when employees spend much of the time that they should be working to relax or play instead, particularly when they are on the clock.

How to prevent perk abuse

Your incentives should motivate your workers while allowing them to de-stress, but they shouldn't hinder productivity. Here's how to make sure they aren't abused.

Set KPIs

According to Smith, managers will know if perks are too distracting if employees aren't reaching their goals and key performance indicators (KPIs).

"Like other policy approaches, such as flextime or [the] use of mobile phones, it's best to give employees specific goals and KPIs that they need to achieve and be less concerned about how they accomplish their work," said Smith. "If employees are underperforming, their manager should address the issue as soon as possible and develop a plan with the employee about how they can achieve their goals – and perhaps that includes spending less time enjoying the office perks."

Perks are available as a reward for hard work and to improve company culture, not for laziness and to promote interruptions. If employees are getting their work done and staying focused throughout the day, then they earned the time to enjoy these incentives.

"Putting an emphasis on tracking KPIs puts the focus on deliverables, so employees know where they stand and can make wise decisions about enjoying perks without feeling any pressure or scrutiny from their managers," said Smith.

Promote balance

Incentives should exist in moderation – not as a priority. If your workers want to enjoy the benefits you provide them, then they need to prove that they can handle a balance between the work and play.

"Achieving a healthy balance of perks and work requires strong levels of communication between the employer and employee," said Steve Wang, executive at Mock Interview. "It's important to get across what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. A lot of this boils down to the relationship management has with their employees as well as the infrastructure in place to help measure employee results and communicate with them."

Lead by example and make sure employees know what is expected of them. Balance can be attained by communicating with workers each day, reminding them of assignments and checking in on any issues.

"Taking the quantitative approach, you should compare your employees' levels of productivity before and after office perks are given to them," Wang said. "If you see an alarming decline in results after giving out these perks, then, obviously, there's a good chance that the perks are negatively impacting employees' productivity levels."

Build trust

Your employees should feel they can trust you, so if any issues arise that make them feel more prone to distraction, they can come to you and fix the problem.

According to Piyush Patel, author of Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work, building trust starts with fostering an environment that encourages open communication, including uncomfortable conversations.

"A big part of that means an honest willingness to hear the truth – no matter what it is," he said. "When you see potential issues … sit down to have a conversation with them about why that is."

As a leader, you need to support your employees by clearing roadblocks, providing the tools needed to get work done and acting rather than talking, Patel added.

"Building trust isn't something that'll happen overnight," he said. "It starts small."

Business News Daily Editor
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