Dangers of too many perks at workplace


What would your perfect workplace look like? One would de-finitely want a cafe serving hot food all day. A private gym would be nice, a dry-cleaning service, a roof terrace, a garden. Maybe a bea-uty salon. A few clubs wou-ldn’t go amiss. If all the luxury got a bit much, one should definitely need a do-ctor (and a dentist) on hand.

If you work for a major law firm, a bank or any of the other big companies who take staff perks seriously, this is not a fantasy as Joshua Perry can testify.

Perry has since ditched his fabulous office to become CEO of the MicroLoan Foundation but he can still remember the marvellous time he had working at Goldman Sachs in Paris.

“It was really swanky and although I was just a lowly intern, I still got all the perks. There was a department that bought lunch for you, so in the morning you would choose what you wanted and then someone would go out and get it,” he says. “And there was a next-day dry-cleaning service that returned everything to the wardrobe on your floor.”

He’s not the only one. Tania Longda is a senior associate at law firm Allen and Overy, which boasts a gym, canteen, coffee shop, roof terrace, beauty salon, dry-cleaners, physiotherapist, doctor and dentist, and a music room, in case you fancy having a few lessons.

“It’s practical to have it all to hand,” she says. “Because we have a doctor and dentist on site, you don’t have to take a whole day off and that’s a huge advantage.”

Obviously, for anyone frantically trying to snaffle that last lunchtime hair appointment before going on holiday, an in-house coiffeur sounds like the perfect solution. But stop that drooling and think about it for a moment. Would your haircut really be so relaxing if you just had to walk down one floor to have it (and skip quickly back up the stairs at the sound of the final snip)? And do you really want to spend more time at work? Because however lovely having things on demand might sound, the more perks you get, the more time you can expect to spend in the office, says Dr Nic Sale, managing psychologist at business psychology firm Pearn Kandola.

“I’m not sure I’ve come across companies that are deliberately bribing employees to stay in the office longer — they are genuinely recognising that employees are working long hours,” she says. “But rather than looking at the reasons for that or assisting them to manage their time in a constructive way, employers reinforce negative behaviours. The result is that people think, ‘why leave?’ and eventually everyone ends up working longer hours.”

London lawyer Sophia Wells used to work at SJ Berwin (where she enjoyed cafes, dry-cleaners, a roof terrace and corporate yoga). “I do think it’s part of a trend to keep us at work for longer... It seemed ridiculous to leave the office to get a sandwich when it was laid on for free inside,” she says.

Sale thinks using services provided by your company could also have other, more insidious side-effects.

“As human beings, we get our sense of who we are by the different groups we belong to — groups at work, friends, family or clubs or societies,” she says. “But if you start reducing those groups, your sense of self gets narrower. We know that organisations tend to attract people of the same personality type, so it could be very isolating.”

And if you’re involved in anything including other people — whether clients or consumers — that’s ultimately going to have an impact on how well you do your job.

Surely a little bit of pampering might not be so bad?

Not if you’re over 25, have a family, friends or think there’s more to life than work. “The perks were one of the things I hugely enjoyed about the job and look back at with fondness,” says Perry.