The Three Worst Workplace Incentives and How to Fix Them

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Airbnb will give employees $2,000 to travel and stay in any Airbnb listing in the world; Burton Snowboards offers up “snow days” along with season ski passes to hit up some fresh powder. And Adobe shuts down entirely for one week during the summer and for one week in December.

These are just three examples of major companies that go above and beyond when it comes to providing incentives for team members. Perks don’t have to be this grandiose either, but the general consensus is that a workplace should offer more than just the bare benefits minimum to ensure employee happiness.

But what happens when a perk starts to fizzle out and lacks the stickiness that made it such a great idea in the first place? Let’s take a look at a few good incentives that have become “not-so-great,” and how you can turn them into perks your staff will enjoy.

Complimentary gym membership

What makes it secretly the worst? For years we’ve been told that sitting for hours on end is slowly killing us, so what could possibly go wrong with giving staff a free membership to the local gym? Depending on the schedules of some of your team members, their ages, and their own health concerns, it’s slowly becoming an incentive that lacks a one-size-fits-all approach.

Try this instead: Consider the self-care needs of your employees and provide a stipend that they can use to stay happy and healthy on their own terms. For example, Eventbrite offers a monthly stipend that staff can use on juice cleanses or yoga classes. Additionally, see to it that your team is seated in comfortable, ergonomic chairs that benefit their posture and purchase new ones as needed.

RELATED: These 13 Employee Perks Weren’t Such Great Ideas After All

Free snacks

What makes it secretly the worst? It’s all kind of in the name, isn’t it? Nothing sounds better than free doughnuts, chips, soda, and coffee every day in the office—until you’re crashing at 2:30 p.m. after the sugar high wears off.

Try this instead: This is a tricky one because inevitably something semi-sweet will creep its way into the workplace (especially where birthdays are concerned). If you don’t have the space for a cafeteria and can’t offer catered lunches, consider Evernote’s approach: At its Evernote Academy, employees can take team-building courses like macaron baking. Enroll your team in cooking classes each quarter. This will allow them to discover healthy alternatives to sweet treats and to learn how to cook them. More than just making a meal though, learning to cook is also a great team-building exercise without being too cheesy.

Unlimited vacation

What makes it secretly the worst? In theory, everything about this policy sounds incredible, but the reality is it’s a privilege that seldom gets abused by anyone. Surveys have shown that when allowed to take more paid time off, employees are less inclined to actually do it. Lately, this one has been falling under the “use it or lose it” category with some companies even rescinding the opportunity if nobody takes advantage of it.

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