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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

4 Seemingly Awesome Company Perks to Think Twice About

A job offer that comes with a long list of company perks can be pretty convincing. Unlimited vacation time? On-site dry cleaning? Free food all day, every day?

Show me where to sign!

But as great as the perks may seem, some may have strings attached that can affect how (and even if) you take advantage of them.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that you should avoid working for a company that offers them—it just means you should do your homework before you make any job-related decision based on them. So, before you sign on the dotted line, here are the pros and cons of a few common perks.

1. Tuition Reimbursement

In the spirit of continuing education, companies will sometimes offer assistance with tuition for classes online or at local colleges.

Why it Can Be Great

If you want a way to advance your career while you work, this seems like an ideal option. You could elect to earn your MBA or simply take a coding class here or there. Either way, with an additional degree, certification, or even just a few classes under your belt, you can position yourself to negotiate your way to a higher role or better salary—or even your next big thing.

Why You Should Think Twice

Some companies require that whatever classes you take are relevant to your current or foreseeable career. Which means it could be a hard sell (although possible, if you position it right) if you’re currently in customer service but want to take some marketing classes to move into a different department. So, if this is a big draw for you, it’s worth asking the people you’re talking to during the interview process when and how they’ve taken advantage of the benefit.

Beyond that, you’ll want to read the fine print. Companies sometimes include a stipulation that requires you to stay employed with the company for a certain amount of time after you use the benefit. If you don’t? You’re forced to pay back some or all of the tuition fees. (My company, for example, requires you to pay back 100% if you leave within a year or 50% if you leave within two years.)

2. Combined Sick and Vacation Time

Instead of having, for example, two weeks of vacation time and one week of sick time, this benefit would give you a total of three weeks of paid time off (PTO) to use any time you need a day off.

Why it Can Be Great

Without having to differentiate between sick time and vacation time, you technically have access to more vacation days than you would otherwise—especially if you’re one of those employees who rarely calls out sick. Time to plan that big spring break trip!

Why You Should Think Twice

Understandably, the allure of more vacation days is powerful. If you have the choice between using your PTO days for vacation or using them for staying home sick, you’re probably going to lean toward the vacay. Which means that you—and all your co-workers—are going to be a lot more likely to drag yourself into the office when you’re coughing, sneezing, sniffling, or worse.

What’s more, if you end up using all of your PTO for vacations and then do get sick, you’re probably looking at unpaid time off.

3. Unlimited Vacation Time

More and more employers are offering unlimited vacation time. The idea is that you’re free to take off as much time as you want, as long as you get your job done. In the end, the company’s looking for results—regardless of how many hours you spend in the office.

Why it Can Be Great

Uh, hello—unlimited vacation? No explanation needed. Bring on the beach and piña coladas!

Why You Should Think Twice

With no guidelines around taking time off, employees can begin to question how much vacation time is truly acceptable. They don’t want to look like the slacker of the group or risk losing out on a promotion because they’ve taken too many vacation days. And so, these employees may take even fewer vacation days than they would otherwise. (It sounds crazy—but just talk to anyone who’s worked for one of these companies.)

Plus, if you ever leave that company, you won’t be able to cash out on any unused vacation time—even if you never took a single day off.

4. Lifestyle Perks

Imagine if you could drop off your dry-cleaning, go to the gym, bring your dog to work, and eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an on-campus cafeteria—all at your office. Everything you need to take care of your daily lifestyle right at your fingertips.

Why it Can Be Great

It’s pretty easy for your life to get in the way of work. You have to pick up the dry-cleaning by 6 PM, which means you have to leave the office by 5:30 PM. You can’t leave your dog at home for too long, so you have to watch the clock to make sure you get home in time to take Spot for a walk. But with everything you need, from food to a gym to laundry services, at your office, you can focus on work, knowing that your everyday responsibilities are completely taken care of.

Why You Should Think Twice

It’s hard to imagine that anything is wrong with this picture. Who wouldn’t love to worry less about fitting in mundane—but necessary—tasks to your daily life?

The concern here is figuring out if the perks are a sign of the company’s generosity or its high expectations of employees. In a recent New York Times article, Gerald Ledford, a senior research scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, said that often, companies offer these perks “because organizations want employees to work 24/7. If you never have to leave to get your dry cleaning, to go to the gym, to eat or even go to bed, you can work all the time. They’re golden handcuffs.”

Before you let yourself be drawn into a company based on perks alone, make sure you know how they work. Then, by all means, take advantage of them!

Photo of woman working by pool courtesy of Shutterstock.