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3 Employee Benefits That Could Backfire

From dry-cleaning services to dog-walking perks, employee benefits are only getting more eye-catching.

Offering a wide range of workplace benefits may seem like a generous way to support your team. And it can be! Certain benefits — health care coverage, paid time off and financial support included — will always be universally popular. However, others may receive a mixed reaction from your employees or even backfire and affect your company culture.

Here are three types of employee perks that could backfire if not handled correctly.

Weight Loss Challenges

When “The Biggest Loser” first came on television, it jump-started a trend of weight loss challenges in workplaces and communities across the country. Although the show hasn’t aired since 2016, similar challenges and competitions continue to give employees incentives to lose weight.

Now, there’s no question that maintaining a healthy weight can help employees improve their overall health. But encouraging them to lose weight within a specified period and through a competition can raise several issues.

  • Unhealthy weight loss strategies. Overusing diet pills or supplements, fasting extensively and adopting bulimic behaviors could help shed pounds before a weigh-in, but the weight loss may not be sustainable and can actually lead to malnourishment or other dangerous health conditions.
  • Weight shaming. Some employees might see these kinds of challenges as a criticism of their bodies or feel like they’re being singled out to participate because of their weight. For those who may have struggled with their weight in the past, the experience may have hurt their confidence and self-esteem.
  • The wrong focus. Emphasizing weight rather than overall health can send the message that being within a certain weight range is the key to being healthy. In reality, health is influenced by many factors beyond the scale. The National Institutes of Health offers wellness toolkits that offer information on five crucial areas of health.

Instead of a weight loss challenge, consider offering benefits aimed at supporting a healthy lifestyle that’s sustainable and inclusive for all employees.

Some ways to do this include:

  • Offering discounts on a local gym membership or fitness classes.
  • Partnering with a nationally recognized weight loss program.
  • Encouraging employees to walk and stretch throughout the day.
  • Selecting healthy foods for company functions.

If possible, offer a range of options that employees can choose from based on their situation and preferences.

Happy Hour and Cocktail Parties

Bars across the country offer happy hour specials, and it’s not uncommon for coworkers to choose to go out together to drink. But when the gathering is a more formal, work-related function, some employees may feel awkward or excluded.

There are many reasons people avoid alcoholic beverages. They could be a recovering alcoholic or have a loved one who abuses alcohol. In those instances, being around people who are drinking may make them uncomfortable. They might also have a health condition that prohibits them from drinking alcohol. Or maybe they just don’t care for the taste or effects of alcohol.

An event where the majority of people are drinking alcohol — and where drinking is the implied expectation — can alienate those who don’t drink. They may withdraw socially or opt to skip the event entirely, missing this opportunity to network and bond.

Instead of hosting an alcohol-focused event, think outside the box for work-related gatherings, and if you want to center an event on drinks, consider having a “mocktail” party or a juice bar so everyone can participate.

Sports-Centric Events

Baseball is a summertime staple, and it’s a fun bit of nostalgia to draw on whether you’re taking the staff to see a professional game or rounding up a casual game on a local diamond. But is it as much fun for employees who aren’t into sports? Going to a game for a work outing could mean hours of boredom, anxiety or alienation. Participating in a game could be even more frustrating for those who don’t know how to play.

If the goal is team building, look for alternatives that don’t involve as much prior knowledge. For example, a scavenger hunt encourages team-based problem solving. You can also ask your employees for their favorite activities or games that aren’t sports. You may be surprised by the interesting options they suggest.

When in Doubt, Ask

As you consider ways to improve your employee benefits, make sure you focus on the people who will be affected by your choices — your employees. Check in with your employees before adding new offerings or perks to better understand how much value they’d bring. Gallup suggests asking four key questions before investing time or money into new options.

Your employees are the human element that makes all of the moving parts in your business function successfully. Make smart investments back into your workforce by delivering workplace perks that help all of your employees feel included and supported.

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