11 Terrible Job Perks Nobody Really Cares About

Employers often boast about the perks of a job, but some are just plain bad.
Updated April 3, 2023
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different employees working and interacting in workspace

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Employee perks are, by definition, supposed to benefit the worker. They exist as a form of compensation in addition to base pay or salary. 

Among the most desirable are flexible hours, paid leave, a retirement plan, health insurance, tuition reimbursement, paid time for self-care, and mental health days.

However, there are some perks that nobody cares about — or that can even be harmful. Here are 11.

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Gym memberships

DenisProduction.com/Adobe fitness gym working out equipment

More than two-thirds of Americans don’t use the gym memberships they personally pay for. 

If most people aren’t going to the gym when it’s coming out of their own pocket, a paid membership through an employer isn’t much of a perk. Health and wellness plans tailored to the workers’ needs are much more enticing.

Entertainment gimmicks

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe employees playing table soccer in workplace

Most in-office entertainment is a gimmick. Having a foosball table, a ping-pong table or arcade machine in the break room sounds like a lot of fun at first, but the novelty wears off quickly.

Game tables are not so much an employee benefit as they are a distraction or window dressing. Workers don’t want to spend all their time in the office. They want to have fun on their own. 

The same goes for funky office furniture like bean bag chairs, hammocks, slides, and swings. They’re unnecessary.

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Naps/nap pods

WavebreakMediaMicro/Adobe woman chilling on a bean bag

Taking a nap at work has plenty of drawbacks. For one, taking a nap can leave you feeling drowsy when you wake back up. 

It can also wreck your ability to sleep at night if you already have a hard time going to bed — any nap after 3 p.m. can cause problems.

Daytime naps can also increase the risks of depression, according to a Harvard study. And then there’s the perception that it’s a sign of laziness. 

Nobody needs their colleagues spreading rumors about them.

Free snacks

beats/Adobe candies and pretzels in bowls on table

Getting free snacks at the office is another case of something sounding good at first, but ultimately being irrelevant and, in fact, harmful to employee health. 

According to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 25% of the more than 5,200 employees they surveyed ate food from work at least once per week.

The food workers ate “tended to be high in empty calories,” mostly from fats and added sugars. And the average added caloric intake was close to 1,300. That’s bad news for employee health.

Free alcohol

rawpixel.com/Adobe employees cheering with champagne glasses

Grabbing a beer with your friends at work outside of office hours can be a great way to bond. However, there are serious downsides to freely available alcohol in the office. 

For one, it’s the most abused drug in America with nearly 14 million people either abusing it or being alcoholics themselves.

And it’s a costly drug in terms of accidents, health, personal issues, and productivity. There’s also a dollar cost that ranges from $33 billion to $68 billion per year. 

Most people don’t want to work with colleagues who are drunk, or even impaired, on the job.

Too many parties

chokniti/Adobe employees celebrating victory in office

Some people love office get-togethers. Some people loathe office get-togethers. A holiday party once per year is usually seen as a good time, provided everyone behaves themselves. 

But too many birthday celebrations or social gatherings can lead to workers getting annoyed.

It gets even worse when workers are asked by other employees to help foot the bill for birthdays or retirement parties. You can’t force employees to have a good time at the office.

Pet-friendly offices

Drazen/Adobe employee working on a desktop with pet

Everyone misses their pets when they have to leave home for work. The flip side of that coin is bringing your dog or cat into the office, provided the company allows it. 

The trouble is that animals don’t always behave, and even when they do, they still need to eat, drink and do their bathroom business.

All of that is disruptive enough for the pet owner, but it can disrupt the rest of the office too. Beyond the inherent distraction of having an animal in the office, it can also be dangerous to employees with allergies.

Open offices

fizkes/Adobe employees working in office

Companies frequently float open floor plans as a benefit: no more cubicles, more visibility, more in-person collaboration between employees. 

That’s not the reality of the situation, though. The Harvard Business Review found that those open office plans actually make things less collaborative.

According to HBR, face-to-face interactions fell by a stunning 70% at two Fortune 500 firms after they switched to an open office plan. One reason is that despite the lack of physical walls, people put up their own personal walls to block distractions out.

Mandatory team-building exercises

Tyler Olson/Adobe teamamtes making pyramids using blue planks on a patio

Team-building activities have their place, and they can bolster the relationships between workers, but if employees feel like it’s a chore, they aren’t going to get any benefits out of them. 

A different approach would be to make those activities voluntary. It’s a simple way to make sure that workers who participate are fully engaged and get the most out of the exercises.

Company smartphone

Novak/Adobe man using smartphone in street

It’s hard to say no to a new, free smartphone. The problems arise when there are no clear boundaries about when it is or isn’t appropriate to get emails or texts or any other form of message from your employer. 

Nobody is very far from their smartphone nowadays. We take them with us everywhere, including vacations.

When it comes to a company-provided device, it’s easy for employees to feel like they’re always on-call, or that every message is an emergency. Make sure there are established ground rules about communication.

Unlimited paid time off

Davide Angelini/Adobe woman with arms up at beach

Unlimited paid time off sounds great in theory, but it doesn’t work in practice. Employees take fewer vacation days when there isn’t a standard at the company they work for, according to Insider. 

Worse, 29% of Americans with endless PTO said they’re still working and checking email while on vacation.

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Bottom line

mavoimages/Adobe employees in a workspace using laptop together

Perks are designed to help employees feel better about their work environment, but those perks have to be enticing or at least offer real benefits. 

For example, open floor plans are useless to most employees, who prefer privacy to get the job done. Arcade machines and ping-pong tables serve no purpose for someone who doesn’t want to play games at the office.

Perks can be great but never choose a job solely for the perks. Be sure it’s a job you can enjoy and grow in based on the work you’ll be doing and the actual paycheck it provides.

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Author Details

Will Vitka Will Vitka is a D.C. area reporter and writer. He previously worked for WTOP, The New York Post, Stuff Magazine, and CBS News.

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