Pros and Cons of Unlimited Vacation Time and Other Perks
When you’re negotiating a job offer, salary is important, but benefits and perks matter too. After all, there’s a big difference in your quality of life and overall happiness if you have two weeks of vacation every year versus four weeks.
Some perks can add up to significant savings: If your company pays for you to join the gym of your choice, you can cut hundreds or even thousands of dollars from your yearly personal budget.
So it’s wise to consider both your annual salary as well as perks and benefits when reviewing job offers. But make sure to really think about each perk, too. Ask yourself: Why is the company offering it? Try to assess if it’s a perk you’ll actually use. Discover four perks that may sound good on paper, but aren’t necessarily a big win for employees.
Perk #1: Unlimited Vacation
Anyone who’s ever done elaborate math to carve out a holiday that doesn’t revolve around spending time with family around the holidays or attending weddings knows that it’s always better to have more paid time off. Some companies offer unlimited vacation days, so employees don’t have to perform this elaborate calculus.
The potential downside: American workers are really bad at taking their vacation days. According to a Glassdoor survey, the average employee only take 54% of their yearly allotted time off. Unlimited vacation time sounds generous, but employers can be fairly confident that most of their workers won’t take advantage. The lack of clear framework, along with potentially differing management styles from department to department, can make employees uncertain what amount of days off are permissible.
If you get a compensation package that offers unlimited vacation time, consider asking how much time off employees typically take. Speak to your manager early on in the year to map out your planned days off. And make sure you take at least as much time off as you did in your previous job. Keep in mind that unlimited vacation days means you won’t be paid out for unused vacation days when you leave the job, and plan accordingly to use days well before you give notice.
Perk #2: Free Lunch
At some companies, it’s common to offer free lunch each day. This perk offers employees an obvious savings in either the time spent packing a brown bag lunch or the cost of buying a daily meal.
The potential downside: Ever heard that old saying about how there’s no such thing as a free lunch? It’s true in this case, too. When you get a free meal from your employer, what you likely sacrifice is choosing what you’d like to do during your lunch hour, whether that’s a trip to the gym, an hour’s worth of errands, or just a break from being around co-workers and in the office building. The company offers free meals for a reason. Effectively, more employees are now having “working” lunches, which can lead to increased innovation. And, eating at the kitchen one floor down probably takes up a lot less time than if you went out to lunch or even ate at your desk while reading online.
Perk #3: Beer on Tap
Free beer at work? Frequent happy hours paid for by management? Again, this is one perk that sounds incredible. One reason companies offer this perk is to encourage a strong community among employees. Much like free meals, social events with free drinks can also encourage staffers to stay later in the office, too.
The potential downside: For parents—or any employee with a vibrant circle of friends—these social events can be frustrating, rather than fun. Attend, and you’ll miss out on time spent with friends and family. Skip the events, and you’ll miss potential work breakthroughs or career-further opportunities. If this perk is on offer, consider trying to encourage the HR department to make some social events family-oriented (like a Saturday employee picnic or BBQ) so you can more easily attend. Or, prioritize attending a certain number of drinks-focused events each month, and leave early.
Perk #4: A Free New Phone and Paid Cell Phone Service
This is another perk that offers employees significant savings: new smartphones costs hundreds of dollars and a monthly plan can easily run to $1,000 a year.
The potential downside: A free phone comes with the demand (or, at the very least, an expectation) that you will be on call. That means answering emails after dinner, addressing issues during the weekend, and taking calls even on days off.
The Bottom Line
Some perks sound better in theory than they are in reality. Evaluate your job offer thoughtfully, considering all the reasons an employer is offering a perk, and what effect the perk will have on your day-to-day life and happiness.