If you’ve ever applied to a job, you’ve seen it: the list of ~*fun job perks*~ at the end of a job description, meant to entice would-be employees with grand promises of free coffee in the break room and foosball tables! Who wouldn’t want a discounted monthly membership to the fancy yoga studio, or massage chairs in the lobby, or an automatic vacation day on your birthday???
ME, that’s who. I righteously spit in the face of your fun job perks! And you should too! Because no matter how much you might appreciate a monthly pizza day in the office… it’s not going to pay your rent.
I am here today to call out fun job perks for what they are: infuriatingly meaningless bribes meant to distract us from a lack of humane compensation. And I brought backup.
We asked our readers for a list of the kind of fun job perks employers offer in an attempt to attract potential employees. The kind that seem great on the surface, but are almost always offered instead of rather than in addition to higher compensation or better quality insurance. And as always, when we sent up the Bitch Signal, the citizens of Bitch Nation delivered.
A (somewhat) comprehensive list of fun job perks
Here are some of the super fun job perks the bitchlings told us they’d been offered at a workplace:
- free food and beverages
- a foosball table
- indoor rock climbing wall
- on-site laundry services
- weekly team happy hours
- gym membership or on-site gym
- company outings to sports games
- company outings to concerts and plays
- massage chairs
- nap pods
- meditation rooms
- standing desks and balance ball chairs
- the opportunity to volunteer during work hours
- automatic vacation day on your birthday
- game consoles in the break room
- discounts to local stores
- unpaid company retreats
- a monthly pizza day
- performance bonuses paid in alcohol
- team building exercises
- pet insurance
- a commuting allowance
- magazine subscriptions
- adding work projects to your portfolio
- credit to the company store (THIS IS NOT A JOKE)
- exposure (NEITHER IS THIS)
- a sense of accomplishment (ok this one’s definitely a joke)
Notice anything about the items on this list? As cool as all these job perks might be, not a single one will pay the goddamn rent.
Job perks vs. employee benefits: What’s the difference?
I definitely chose to omit some of the submissions we got from readers while putting together this list. Things like on-site daycare, a flexible work schedule, the ability to work from home, paid parental leave, good health insurance, and unlimited vacation time didn’t make it onto my list of fun job perks… because they’re not perks. They’re benefits.
Here’s the difference, in my humble opinion.
Workplace benefits should come standard with most jobs. And yes, my personal definition of workplace benefits is a bit aspirational. But as a great human being once said, “Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?”
We certainly don’t have universal, mandated paid parental leave in this country… but I think we should. Likewise, for many jobs a flexible schedule and the ability to work remotely is more than reasonable. You don’t need much more proof than the Plague Times!
So while these things don’t come standard with almost every job the way paid time off or minimal employer-sponsored health insurance do, I’m still counting them as benefits. Because in a perfect world, or even a marginally more humane world, we’d have reasonable workplace benefits for all.
I also didn’t include things like conferences, seminars, classes, and other opportunities for professional development on my list of job perks. These things have clear value both to the employee (they gain skills to use in advancing their career) and the employer (they get a more skilled employee without making a new hire).
But again, I think professional development should come standard as a workplace benefit. It’s something every company should invest in, not tack on as an afterthought.
Here’s more of our Bitchy wisdom on employment benefits:
- Workplace Benefits and Other Cool Side Effects of Employment
- Your School or Workplace Benefits Might Include Cool Free Stuff
Fun job perks
Fun job perks, on the other hand, are things that are nice to have… but which you could easily live without. Their value to an employee is far more subjective than, say, a universal unlimited vacation time policy or low-deductible health insurance.
Workplace benefits can conceivably be considered part of an employee’s compensation package. There is a clear and coveted monetary value associated with these benefits. And that monetary value far outweighs the worth of a mere perk like, say, a Galaga console in the break room. (Don’t get me wrong: arcade games are the sort of job perk that brings me running, but I’d rather have the bougie health insurance that gets me my epipen for $11.)
Look at job perks as the “BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!” of an employee compensation package. “If you take this job, you’ll not only get a full-time salary and health insurance… you’ll also be entered into the company-wide pizza raffle every Friday!” It’s the fun stuff! The extras! The nice-to-haves!
If you’re on the fence about accepting a job offer, maybe the job perks will tip you over the edge!
… even if they will in no way pay your rent.
I see what you’re doing and I don’t like it
My favorite hate-read is any article written about how millennials are RUINING DEMOCRACY and TRADITIONAL FAMILY VALUES with their ENTITLEMENT and their NEED TO BE CODDLED by NON-BINARY VEGAN ABORTION DOCTORS.
Or just any op-ed that suggests younger generations are a fundamentally different species from older generations.
So imagine my excitement when I learned that fun job perks had found their way into this subgenre of opinion pieces!
Like this one, which suggests:
The younger generation is less likely to be wowed by traditional HR benefits than past generations and more interested in how the culture of a business speaks to them. The good news for HR departments and business owners: Some of the things that tend to score big points with Millennials won’t necessarily cost you big bucks.
Or this article, which treats younger workers like some species of rare, exotic bird that must be lured delicately into the trap of employment with shiny trinkets and tasty morsels.
Or this one, which states in the headline “3 Things Millennials Want in a Career (Hint: It’s Not More Money).”
Speaking for my generation, let me be absolutely clear: we want money. Lots of it. As much as you can pay us.
Fun job perks are a nice way to sweeten the deal when you’re trying to attract Millennials and Zoomers to your company. But all the break room snacks in the world won’t tempt me if the financial compensation isn’t up to snuff. After all: break room snacks won’t pay your rent.
What’s wrong with fun job perks?
If you’re my boss and you’re reading this, please take note: I do not actually want to get rid of pizza day. Pizza day is in fact one of my core values. If my employer were to do away with free pizza day in the office, I would instantly sink into a deep depression indistinguishable from catatonia.
My fundamental problem with this non-financial compensation is the same problem I have with getting paid in Exposure Bucks: it won’t pay the rent.
When an employer spends money on fun job perks (not to mention bonuses or stock options for top executives), it better happen only after their employees are compensated humanely. A list of fun job perks on top of a wage that barely keeps employees above the poverty line is frankly insulting. It’s like saying “So sad you can’t pay your rent this month… maybe some free coffee to keep you alert enough to do your job will help!” It doesn’t solve the problem. It belittles the problem.
And while some employers might think offering fun job perks is a way of recognizing the individual personality and humanity of an employee… without fair compensation it really does the opposite. Don’t even talk to me about fun job perks until my basic human needs—like a roof over my head—are met.
Be the change you want to see
We are living in a time of unprecedented labor shortages. Only, it’s not really a labor shortage. It’s a fair wage shortage. It’s a shortage of tolerance among workers for unacceptably low wages. And I think that’s fantastic.
And it seems companies are waking up to the reality that if they want to fill out their labor force, they need to dispense with the fun job perks and start offering meaningful compensation. I think that’s also great!
Maybe my disdain for fun job perks is pedantic, nitpicky, or completely out of line. But my passion for fair compensation is not.
If you’re an employer, I hope you take this away from my complaint: Take care of your employees through equitable or even generous compensation packages before you even consider what kind of perks to tack on. Budget for a living wage before you budget for arcade games. Build a lactation suite before you build a climbing wall.
And if you’re a job-seeker? Negotiate your wages! Advocate for a better salary! Ignore the fun job perks, especially if they won’t pay your rent. Here are some more ideas on how to boost your income:
10 thoughts to “A (Somewhat) Comprehensive List of Fun Job Perks that Won’t Pay Your Rent”
One MILLION percent this!
Shakespeare warned you:
“And oftentimes, to win us to our harm the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence.”
As a Milllennial, I do think we care more about the culture of the company, just not in the way those articles tend to think. And no, it doesn’t always have to cost companies more, but I think a lot of companies are scared it will.
For example, I work part time from home. I’ve never actually met any of my coworkers or superiors, and have only interacted with them through our forum and emails. But when I needed time off because of my severe depression, I actually felt comfortable enough to tell my boss the real reason. And my trust wasn’t betrayed. I even took off almost the entirety of their busiest month and they didn’t bat an eye. And while I appreciate their compassion, it also makes good business sense. I’m already trained, I’ve been working for them for more than 7 years and my work has always been stellar.
For another example, my husband works for a local manufacturing company. He could definitely make a ton more if we wanted to live somewhere else, but we’re strongly attached to the area. However, there are other companies nearby enough that offer higher wages. But my husband has actually had two coworkers leave for one of those companies, and they were both back within a year. The higher wages didn’t make up for the monetary benefits at this company (excellent Medical and Dental, above average paid time off, including the last week of the year when the factory is closed) and their loyalty to their employees (high job stability, lots of programs to invest in their employees and lots of flexibility with work from home to take care of problems that wouldn’t meet FMLA).
So yeah…don’t infantilize us by saying we want to play Catan at work after hours and be best buddies with our boss. We’re making business decisions too.
Disagree on commuting benefit not being worth anything. My employer pays for an unlimited monthly transit pass (subway and bus, regional rail available for $10 a month). This is in line with core values of reducing my carbon footprint while also being worth over $200 a month. I now take buses and the train more places, because I know it adds no incremental cost. Increased ridership increases safety on transit lines. After health and retirement benefits, this is my favorite perk!
How do we feel about uniform stipends? Like, you have to wear these particular items of clothing at work as part of the job, but the company will spot you for the first $150? It feels like a weird catch-22 that makes the company look magnanimous, am I wrong?
I’ve worked on many farms and looked at postings for jobs at many more, and a CSA share is often included in the compensation package. It’s great–food to put in my body–but it also doesn’t cook itself, and definitely doesn’t pay the rent.
And how about free meals? This could be either shift meals on a daily basis, or room and board included for a seasonal job in Alaska or Wyoming. ASKING FOR A FRIEND.
Favorite advertised job perk, and I’m not kidding about this one: “If you want to work more hours, we can accommodate.” Because agricultural work is exempt from overtime.
When will be the BGR merch shop have the tshirt for ‘I NEED TO BE CODDLED BY NON-BINARY VEGAN ABORTION DOCTORS’ available?
*taps debit card aggressively*
Yes! As someone who was recently made redundant and is now job searching, some of the ‘perks’ Ive come across should be the bare minimum.
I’m with Nacho on the commuting benefit being worth real money. My monthly train pass is over $100 and that’s now money I can spend on literally anything else.
perks I’ve seen offered:
– fruit available at the workplace
– subsidized magazin subscriptions for the magazine you work for
– subsidized glasses
– subsidized bikes
– subsidized cargo bikes
– Company car that allows personal usage
– life insurance