The real price of perks at work

September 8, 2015

The second part of my conversation with Charlie Taylor at the Irish Times focussed on perks at work.  Are free sandwiches, gym membership etc enough to keep you working for your current employer? Or, would those perks be the deciding factor between two jobs of equal merit?  I, for one, don’t think so.  Perks always come with an assumption of reciprocity.  It may not be this week or next, but you will be expected to ‘pay back’ those freebies.  The cost is loyalty, extra hours in the office campus, not to mention the emotional component of guilt if you think of eschewing the freebies.

Dan Ariely’s work in this area is fascinating.  We attribute more value to something that’s free (that’s why we queue up for free cups of coffee or giveaways at shops). Read more here. It seems more significant when it doesn’t require us to put our hands in our pockets.  But over time, the value of free diminishes.  Those free sandwiches will become part and parcel of the daily routine and won’t feel that special after a while.   Unless the basics are in place – salary, career progression etc no amount of free food will compensate.


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