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We to know there is no free lunch. Yet the idea that many corporate perks aren’t always a perk has recently struck a chord on Twitter.

“I’ve been thinking about anti-perks in tech jobs. Which perks *sound* good but are a hard no from you?”

The tweet came from Jessica Rose, a developer relations advocate, founder of a meetup series for programmers and aspiring programmers, and co-founder of Trans*Code, a hacker organization dedicated to bringing attention to transgender issues and opportunities.

Rose’s “hard no” was to these so-called perks that have been around since time immemorial (or at least since the dot-com era). “Don’t give me food or hammocks or video games, just let me work remotely or get home on time,” Rose said.

‘Do not touch me’

The tweet thread was full of varied responses, but the unlimited vacation paradox was the clear favorite. “Wow, people are so suspicious of unlimited paid time off,” Rose told Protocol when we caught up with her to ask about the tweet.

Other workers were reluctant to receive massages in the office (“do not touch me“), free booze, open plan offices (has anyone in the history of the world ever called that a perk?), fitness rooms, nap rooms, ‘escape (really any room) and something called “irreproachable retrospectives”. Uh, what?

If employees are going to be wary of the perks you offer, why offer perks?

“So I’m aware of how wonderfully spoiled it is to complain about the perks offered in certain types of tech workplaces,” Rose said. “I’m least impressed with ‘benefits’ that directly undermine employment rights (like unlimited paid time off can do in some areas) or that aim to skew the work/life balance in favor of the location. of work.”

Unlimited or flexible vacations can work, but it helps when the culture is one where people are encouraged to take time off and experts agree that mandatory minimums go a long way to creating that kind of culture.

Your best interest or mine? Why can’t it be both? ¯_(ツ)_/¯

An engineering director at Google who previously worked at Microsoft and Zillow called employer-sponsored coaching an anti-benefit. “I will choose a coach who looks out for me, not the company, thank you” she said, adding, “I know I’m lucky to be offered this, but it still feels like a trap.”

There are good reasons to be at least a little wary of these programs. Last year, Protocol reported that when tech companies work with coaching programs like BetterUp and Bravely, the conversations themselves are confidential, but the company often receives aggregate reports about issues that workers generally express. , the topics they discuss, what is going well for them. at work, and what is not.

When Protocol spoke to Twilio’s Vice President of Talent Management, Andrew Wilhelms, about the company’s coaching partnership, Wilhelms explained that BetterUp provides a set of Twilio-specific priorities to coaches that Twilio can update. these priorities and goals based on the type of culture change the company needs to see.

It can feel too controlling, or it can be a great way to help change a company’s culture for the better, especially if the majority of employees are feeling stressed and burnt out and are more likely to tell a coach that. to their manager. Twilio told Protocol that 99% of employees who used the coaching service last year said the sessions were a valuable use of their time, and 94% said the sessions made them more effective in their work. work.

“Thoughtful and meaningful perks can benefit both employers and team members, helping to keep their team members happy and hopefully retaining them in their roles longer,” Rose said. .

Free SunChips

Research shows that today’s employees don’t want snacks as much as they want work that aligns with their values, and that extends to benefits.

  • “I love workplace benefits that demonstrate an employer’s ethos and commitment to meaningfully supporting their team members,” Rose said.
  • These benefits can include big structural benefits like a location-independent salary and support for different types of employee leaves, but also smaller things like “sending people a small bonus on their birthday to buy a cake” , Rose added.
  • Rose is also looking for “employers who don’t outsource cleaning or security staff, to ensure that all of their team members have access to the same types of compensation and support.”

What your “benefits” say about your company culture

Some “anti-benefits” are just common decency and respect, like believing your employees are telling the truth when they call in sick. In response to Rose’s prompt, a senior system administrator pointed out a job posting that offers an “honour-based sick leave policy” in addition to its “commitment to an open, inclusive and diverse work culture.”

And think twice before listing your game room in your job description, tweeted a product designer from Miro:

“When they advertise a ping pong table in the job ad, that’s a huge 🚩 for me. And I love ping pong. If a stupid perk like this [is] such a relevant part of your benefits package that says a lot about what the company values ​​and probably its culture.”

A version of this story appeared in Protocol’s Workplace newsletter. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox three times a week.

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