How Did Employee Benefits Evolve Over Time and Why An Upgrade is Needed?

Patricea Pop

9 minutes read

How did employee benefits evolve over time

After two years of working from home, many employees are trading in their old employee benefits such as having an office with a view, the free massage chair in the office, access to running tracks or climbing walls on  flexibility, the new preferred perk for those who enjoy the remote work style. 

Furthermore, these benefits  no longer represent a key differentiator when it comes to accepting a new job offer. Why is that?! Because many professionals can no longer see themselves spending long days trapped in an office, no matter how well-equipped that is. That’s why, when it comes to the benefits and incentives packages that companies have to offer, employees expect an upgrade that meets their real immediate needs. 

As many companies are about to lose their competitive edge in the battle for talent when the spectacular facilities offered in the office are no longer used, they have no option but to reassess their strategies. And if some of the benefits listed above sound too extravagant, that’s because they are. However, to better understand how this happened, it’s important to offer a wider context: extravagance was introduced in Silicon Valley, where the war for talent has determined companies to fight hard to attract the best people on their side. 

When it comes to impressive work culture and employee benefits, few people know that the organization that led the way was HP, which introduced employee bonuses, health insurance and beer outings every Friday since the early years of its existence (in the 1940s). Later, it came up with the idea of outdoor terraces and recreation areas for its employees and in the 1970s it was the first company in the US to introduce the concept of flextime

Over time, many companies have embraced this approach and have taken things even further so the facilities and incentives offered have become increasingly varied and at times, extremely bold. One of the corporations that is well-known in this regard is Google and its famous campus, also known as the Googleplex.

Some employees might say that appearances can be deceiving when it comes to having such facilities at work, as, although they had everything a space could offer, they were not so happy in the workplace after all. On the contrary, the fact that work was increasingly taking over their lives and that the boundaries between personal and professional life had become blurred, as well as the toxic culture that some of the companies are known for, led many to conclude that there is a dark side to employees’ benefits.

Critics say that, in return for these perks, you are expected to work endless hours and therefore, in the end, these benefits are in fact, traps. 

Quite recently, one of Apple’s employees, dissatisfied with being required to return to the imposing Copertino headquarters for 3 days a week, claims that benefits are designed to distract employees from the fact that you are selling a big chunk of your time.

In a bid to balance work and career and encourage employees to take more time off, some companies have introduced unlimited PTO or paid sabbaticals.

In practice, the effect of these new measures has been far from what was expected, with many studies showing that some employees took time off. Many have been hesitant to consider taking extended vacation for reasons such as workload, fear of not being considered for the next promotion, or simply the pressure they put on themselves when it comes to their careers. 

Moreover, in many instances, some of the days off were not dedicated to rest and relaxation, something that employees really needed, but rather for dealing with administrative, family or health issues. In short, vacation days were necessary to keep up with the pace of change in other areas of life.

As a result, it often happens that incentives have the opposite effect that employers expect, especially in organizations where benefits and organizational culture are believed to be one and the same thing. Moreover, a package for that seems extremely generous and attentive to employees doesn’t seem to have the expected utility and this happens when employees’ real needs are not taken into account.

On top of this, talent and motivation, as well as commitment cannot be bought with money or gifts. After all, a talented and well-trained professional doesn’t trade one job for another for free lunches or meditation rooms.

What do employees who feel trapped within the walls of a beautifully designed office really want from now on?

  • Flexibility
  • Meaningful work
  • Professional development 
  • Wellness packages
  • Recognition
  • Customized packages that match their needs
  • A wide range of discounts

In conclusion, although employee benefits packages are important to attract the best talent and they do have a stimulating role, when the goal behind the offer is a superficial one and it does not really meet the needs of the employees, much of the employer’s effort in this direction is wasted.

We dare you to share below with the rest of the readers what employee benefits you have right now.

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Written by Patricea Pop


It is said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a simple step and mine started a few summers ago when I wanted to do something for myself, so I enrolled in a coaching programme. This gave me the chance to look at myself from a different perspective: little did I know that it would take me to a different career path, that of being a coach.

After more than 12 years in the corporate world which taught me many lessons and several years of preparation for my new role, I now support people in business to improve their self leadership skills. I think leadership is an inside job and it is part soul searching, part strategy and part relationship skills.

I love writing about work and organizations because it is the place where we invest heavily our time and energy and we often end up feeling stressed, trapped and dissatisfied. My strength relies on my resilience, critical thinking and intuition and I believe it is an honour to accompany someone on their inner journey.

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