In many ways, today’s workplace is reinventing what it means to have a job. Vacations and Christmas bonuses are not even the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to job perks and benefits. Holistic workplaces are nothing new. We are making work more a part of the worker’s life than ever before since we put down our plows and walked into the factories.
However, today’s work perks can be a mixed bag. With the potential gratifications come some pitfalls that workers must navigate when deciding which perks to take advantage of and which to leave alone.
In ways far beyond Casual Fridays, many companies are encouraging workers to adopt casual attire, incorporate their individual touches in personal work spaces, play at work, and more. This casualness can be a major draw for many workers, but it may lead to challenges as well.
Flat corporate structures and experimental policies can make the workplace even more confusing. Maintaining clear expectations in the midst of disorder can help promote a more professional attitude when necessary. Encouraging strong goals, setting reasonable objectives, and instituting good progress-tracking procedures can help keep work on target.
The demands of a global economy mean that many workers must devote more hours to work than in years past. Providing a comfortable and inviting place in which to work is one way to make longer hours more palatable. From company gyms and onsite theaters to five-star cafeterias, companies may feel the urge to compete in order to be perceived as the “cool place” to work. In some cases, this intention may be backfiring.
While the separation of work and private life is not always easy to maintain, breaking down all walls between the two can lead to negative consequences. Some aspects of work require separation from workers’ personal lives.
Considered the ultimate no-no in generations past, companies increasingly are allowing alcohol at work, even during working hours. As Americans, in general, change their attitudes towards alcohol, the workplace is also experiencing this cultural shift.
The potential dangers of alcohol use are widely known. In the office setting, the use of alcohol can lead to improprieties, loss of productivity, and uncomfortable emotional breakdowns. Relieving tensions can be good, but the loss of essential inhibitions is not, especially in professional contexts. Setting clear limits and providing standards of behavior can help prevent alcohol-related problems and create a framework for dealing with issues when they arise.
This theory goes something like this: a worker is given a job to do with a deadline. Provided that he or she meet that deadline and the work is satisfactory, he or she can take as much time off with pay as he or she deems fit. Other workers are offered better-than-average paid leave, and some may even be forced to take it by their employers.
Companies should look to their workforce for solutions. Open and honest communication about what the company needs from them and what workers want from their jobs can help relieve resentment and build a new set of criteria to be an employee of the month.
Employees may be tempted to think that learning new skills and making themselves “more valuable” will always be seen as a benefit to their employer. This is true in many cases, but managers and supervisors who don’t see themselves moving up any time soon can feel threatened by employees who are looking to grow too fast, even to the point of suggesting that these employees may no longer be good fits for their jobs.
Companies that want to encourage innovation should train supervisory personnel in the art of recognizing and rewarding talent. Once supervisors understand that employee development reflects well on them too, they may be less likely to feel threatened.