Perks vs. Benefits: Improving Your Company Culture

Especially in attracting Millennials, many employers believe they need to fluff up their workplace with perks. These might include having an air hockey table, a no-walls workspace, or beanbags instead of chairs. While these are fine and fun to have, the real fault comes in calling them benefits.

The Downside of Perks

Perks like energy drinks, video games on breaks, and ping-pong tables are fun for companies, especially during breaks. But they aren’t as good as some employers believe. This is because fancy toys and break areas may have diminishing returns. Gaming tables or dozens of fridges may be expensive, and the former will lose interest over time.

Plus, employees may begin to ask the question if these perks actually help them, or if their shiny veneer is actually a trap in an otherwise unhealthy job. For example: free dry cleaning or free pizza (with no clocked-out lunch break attached) may come across to them as a way to keep them in the office. Though it may benefit your business, it will not benefit your employees to keep them working a few hours longer per week. Perks and benefits both should sustain your employees and business, helping them both be productive and healthy.

Why You Still Need Them

Perks do liven up a workplace. While they can’t improve a company culture all on their own, nor make up for the lack of benefits, perks are attractive and can add to a good culture. Perks can allow your employees to relax on their breaks, if you do them right. Plus, you can keep your workplace from feeling sterile and utilitarian–a death knell to creative types!


Unlike perks, benefits directly affect the security and wellbeing of your employees. If they have the proper benefits, they’ll be less likely to take days off or quit. Plus, you’ll actually be able to attract candidates to your office. Telling prospective employees that you have no or few benefits can send them running for the door.

Legally, you need to provide:

  • Time off for voting, jury duty, and military service
  • Contributions to short-term disability programs in applicable states
  • Federal Family and Medical Leave
  • Worker’s compensation requirements
  • Payment for state and federal unemployment taxes

You do not need to provide benefits like:

  • Retirement plans
  • Dental or vision plans
  • Health plans (except for Hawaii)
  • Life insurance
  • Paid vacations
  • Holidays
  • Sick leave
  • Paternal leave

Be warned, though: avoiding these when many other employers do may drive away candidates and create a disgruntled employee culture. Learn more about why time off benefits you as well as your employees!


A word of caution: perks and benefits don’t make a company culture alone. There still must be elements like communication and respect between executives, management, and staff. Check out our other tips for building a good, healthy company culture within your business.