Are cool workplace perks always worth it?
Fresh fruit and healthy snacks delivered every morning. Ample time off to vacation in exotic places. Weekly sessions with a personal trainer and a massage therapist. Perks like these may be readily associated with the celebrity lifestyle, but for many information technology professionals, they're the kinds of benefits that now often come with the job.
Many employers today, especially technology companies, are offering creative incentives along with generous compensation packages to attract and keep skilled IT workers.
But the wow factor of such offers may conceal some downsides to working for the company that provides them -- namely, long hours and high stress. Also, the value of such offerings can be fleeting compared to, say, less glamorous benefits such as a solid retirement plan.
On the other hand, impressive perks such as on-demand cars or unlimited vacation time would be hard for most any professional to dismiss. Who doesn't want free access to a vehicle and the ability to take as much time off as you want, whenever you want?
But when weighing whether to accept a position at a company that offers cool perks like these, the real questions you must ask yourself are: Is this compensation package really worth it? And how will it affect my work-life balance over the long term?
The following tips can help you determine the answers:
Assess the corporate culture
While it's convenient to have a state-of-the-art fitness center on-site, someone who will pick up and deliver your dry cleaning every week, or round-the-clock access to a fully stocked game room, perks like these can make it easy for employees to spend a lot more time at the office than they might otherwise. On the surface, these benefits seem like they're meant to improve work-life balance, but in many cases, they simply tip the scale in favor of work.
If you believe you'll thrive in this type of corporate culture, great -- though don't be surprised if sometimes you'll need to bring a toothbrush and change of clothes to the office. But if a fuzzy line between work and personal time isn't for you, don't feel like a misfit. You're not alone in wanting a clear escape hatch from the office. Fifty-one percent of workers polled for a recent CareerBuilder survey said flexible schedules are the key to employee retention.
Look beyond bright and shiny things
Your heart may skip a beat when a potential employer says you'll never have to pay for breakfast, lunch or dinner in the employee cafeteria -- or that you can bring your dog to work. But as the hiring manager runs through the list of all the nifty perks the company provides, are you also hearing mention of things such as "professional development opportunities," "tuition reimbursement" or "performance-based bonuses"? In the long term, these rewards can have a far greater impact, not only on your overall job satisfaction, but on your career as an IT professional as well.
Also, don't be dismissive of offerings such as medical and life insurance plans, family leave policies, disability coverage and sick time. When the need arises, these types of benefits likely will mean far more to you than a free car cleaning or made-to-order sushi.
Evaluate the rewards of the job itself
It's easy to be persuaded by the promise of generous perks and pay when you're evaluating a job offer. But it's critical to also consider whether you'd thrive in the company's workplace culture and whether the position would be rewarding to you professionally. Would the role challenge or inspire you? Would it provide a platform for growth and allow you to learn new skills or deepen your expertise? Trust your gut instincts if you sense the job will leave you wanting, and remember that no incentive can truly compensate for an unfulfilling employment situation.
If you're satisfied with the perks, pay and position offered, be sure any benefits specific to your work arrangement are put in writing. For example, perhaps you've been promised a certain amount of vacation or the opportunity to telecommute two days a week. Also, any incentives tied to your performance -- such as a bonus -- should be clearly outlined in the offer, along with the goals you must meet and timeline for achievement.
Finally, none of this is to say you should necessarily be turned off by a company offering creative perks. Some companies include both nice-to-have amenities and solid career-building and work-life balance elements in their job offers. Just go in with your eyes open and concentrate on fairly evaluating what an employer puts on the table.
With more than 100 locations worldwide, Robert Half Technology is a leading provider of technology professionals for initiatives ranging from web development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. Robert Half Technology offers online job search services at www.rht.com. Follow Robert Half Technology on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roberthalftech.
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