Nobody cares about eating icecream while they’re being shot at.

A couple of years ago wellness perks were all the rage.

Gym memberships for all, fruit bowls in the kitchen, ping pong tables in the breakroom and free beer on Friday’s seemed to be the way a lot of companies chose to engage their staff and help boost their wellbeing.

This was great and the staff who got these perks seemed to love them, so why the backlash against these perks now?

The answer is very simple.

Perks cannot replace a poor working environment.

Perks are, by their very nature, added benefits.

They are not a substitute and they are not a bandaid.

No amount of morning yoga sessions can ever make up for a toxic work culture or a psychologically unsafe environment and companies that try are seen right through.

Imagine a company that offers free massages and healthy snacks, yet has poor communication, inadequate pay, promotes people out of problems, and routinely requires their staff to work hours that are outside what’s been agreed upon.

Will these perks be enough to counteract the negative effects of these fundamental issues? Unlikely.

On the other hand, if a company prioritises creating a positive work environment, and then adds wellness perks as an added bonus, the benefits will be much better received and actually have an impact on overall wellbeing.

Another way to say this is instead of trying to work out which additions will help fix staff who are breaking down, look to change the things that are causing the breakdown in the first place.

Wellbeing initiatives are a fantastic benefit to any company, and staff appreciate them greatly when they’re offered, but they can’t ‘fix’ staff if the ways in which they’re required to work are unsustainable.

How do you find out if staff want the added extras or instead want you to fix some fundamental issues?

You ask them.

Surveys, focus groups and regular meetings with elected representatives specifically around working conditions and wellbeing are some simple and overlooked ways of finding out what your people want.

Do they want in-office massages?

Or do they want greater flexibility in their work?

Do they want one-on-one health consulting?

Or would they prefer more role clarity and greater communication from their manager?

There is no blanket right answer, only the right answer for your workplace.

So, if you want to truly be an employer of choice and offer something over and above what other workplaces do, make sure you get the fundamentals right first, then add the perks that staff actually want and would engage with.

At the end of the day everybody loves a perk, but nobody cares about eating ice cream while they’re being shot at.

Want to know more about workplace wellness? Book in for a free, 30 minute discovery call here.

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