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We’re living in a new age of work perks. More and more companies are realising that to hire and retain the best and brightest talent they need to go above and beyond the standard workplace. But what is the line between a vibrant work culture and a cultish corporate culture? Today we’re taking a look at some of the perks that are generally received warmly, as we all those that have potential pitfalls. 

Recent research by Seek found that “almost 70% of candidates would be happier at work if their employer offered more perks and 62% would be more loyal if they received more benefits.” Flexibility around work hours and work location are currently front of mind for employees and job seekers. While salary increase is frequently a driving force for people transitioning jobs, Seek data found that “1 in 4 Australians would consider a lower salary if it meant more perks.” These perks need to be genuine perks such as a company car, or free meals and activities. There is also an expectation that in this day and age workplaces should have certain initiatives in place, such as staff development programs and support for mental health. These are not seen as attractive or enticing perks, but simply the standard. 

Work Perks 

1. Theatre and games room

Picture it, you’re relaxing in a clean and cosy cinema, snacking on popcorn and watching a great film or sporting event and you’re at work! It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Company theatres used to only be the norm be the norm in the film industry (for obvious reasons). Now, more and more organisations, such as IT company Interactive, are building them as an entertainment perk for employees. Additional entertainment perks are also growing in popularity, such as games rooms where fun activities like table tennis are available to staff. 

2. Chef-prepared meals

Companies such Google and Canva offer their employees free lunch and snacks. Mineral Resources Limited goes a step further with chef-prepared meals on offer. It’s super convenient for staff and saves them money too.

3. Company Gym 

There was a time when many companies offered subsidised gym memberships. Now we see a growing number of organisations building gyms within the workplace, creating an easily accessible health and wellness perk for employees.

Potential Pitfalls

Don’t get us wrong, all these perks can be wonderful and are of great benefit to employees. The drawbacks are dependent on the overall company culture and if the company is cult-like in approach. This fascinating article in Harvard Business Review illuminates some of the ways that companies can become cultish. “What characterises corporate cult is the degree of control management exercises over employees’ thinking and behaviour… Some cult-like companies go so far as to position the workplace as a replacement for family and community, isolating their employees (perhaps unintentionally, perhaps deliberately) from those support networks.” 

If the perks are presented as optional benefits for staff to enjoy at their own discretion, that’s great. But putting pressure on employees to partake in perks is a different story, especially if it comes at the expense of staff spending time with their friends and family outside of work.

Additional warning signs that your company may be cultish are often evident in the language and rituals of your workplace. For example, many years ago IBM gave employees a book of songs that was “commissioned by, dedicated to, and almost deifying its legendary first CEO Thomas Watson Sr.” I think we’d all prefer not to learn songs about our workplace and its leaders.

As HBR summarised “healthy company cultures build a sense of community, shared purpose, and collaboration among employees.  But they also give people space to be individuals and encourage a life outside the company.”