Pandemic, labour shortage, mass resignations, employees’ reaffirmed desire to work in a professional environment and workplace culture more suited to their reality and their needs: the world of work is in the midst of a transformation. The outcome of this change includes many benefits… for women! While great opportunities are opening up to them, the time has also come to negotiate. Negotiate salary, of course, but also benefits that will allow them better growth, for greater fulfilment.
These benefits — that a growing number of organizations are vaunting on social media to better attract talent — are unquestionably appealing, not to mention advantageous for employees, be it for their health, quality of life, or professional development. However, some of these benefits can create a toxic culture, unrealistic expectations, and even roll back certain acquired rights. Here are a few examples of benefits that are not really benefits, and some tips on how to better select those that will really benefit YOU.
1. Flexible schedule
The word “flexibility” is used all over the place, but what does it really mean? The answer can vary from one company to the next, but the real issue is hidden behind policies that support said flexibility. For example, “boundaryless” flexibility, while interesting in the short term, can be especially damaging in the long term, because it establishes a culture of constant connection that encourages employees to work longer hours. So, what if we talked instead about the right to disconnect?
2. Unlimited vacation time
At first glance, unlimited vacation time seems amazing! But it turns out this kind of benefit can get risky… Indeed, when the incentive to take vacation days disappears, most employees won’t take any at all. Why is this? It’s because they’ll tend to prioritize their commitments to clients, observes Ronica Roth, agile business consultant. This type of policy can backfire on employees, especially those working for companies with a very competitive culture. Employees who want to stand out and be promoted will be inclined to take fewer vacation days than their colleagues, to stay one step ahead.
3. Unlimited home or remote office
Journalists Anne Helen Petersen and Charlie Warzel explain the risks of working from home, or remotely, on an unlimited basis, especially when it’s unstructured: without good management tools or a dedicated manager, working from home can quickly blur the line between work and personal time. Also, as with infinitely flexible hours, this kind of policy can lead to employees working more, without regard for their breaks.
Gender inequalities are at risk to be increased by policies that do not frame work from home by taking into consideration equity. According to an American study, “men plan to go to work 3 to 4 days per week, while women would only go 2 to 3 days per week.” This will lead to an imbalance that will favour men in diverse situations, especially in promotions to management positions. The end game? Women are once again left behind. Are we ready to accept such a regression?
4. Free meals
Faced with the chore of packing lunches, getting a free meal at the office seems like a perfect solution! But beware of the expectations that come with such policies, explains Bryne Hobart, a specialist in new technologies and finance. He says that although they’re offered with no malice, free meals can lead to a workplace culture that encourages employees to work longer hours. They also reduce social interaction outside the office. In highly competitive companies, this sets a precedent in favour of employees who appear to work harder.
5. Fun or “family” corporate culture
Is there anyone who hasn’t heard the word “family” in a description of corporate culture? A family, fun, or collegial culture may seem ideal, but the reality is often quite different. This kind of culture can become insidious, as it plays – again – with the boundary between private and professional life. It can affect the power dynamics between employees and upper management, create a toxic sense of loyalty to the company, or even instill a climate of fear when it comes to discussing thorny issues.
What are the real benefits?
In the end, the real benefits are the ones that employees truly need to develop professionally and maintain genuine well-being that will enable them to lead a more satisfying and fulfilling life overall. More than anything, organizational involvement is essential to ensure that the needs of all are considered and that benefit guidelines are set to avoid widening gaps and inequities. Some examples of truly advantageous benefits are:
a fund for professional development and tuition fees;
- half days on Fridays;
- 4-day work week;
- fair vacation time for all;
- good health insurance (including vision and dental);
- clear rules for disconnecting and well-established limits.
All the benefits listed above are measurable, quantifiable and, above all, they foster equity among team members and work-life balance.
In short, don’t be seduced by trendy perks like free meals, ping-pong, and weekly happy hours at the expense of real benefits that contribute to your advancement and quality of life. In the end, the real benefits are the ones you need, based on your reality. On that note, happy negotiating!