Companies lie to you about fitness and education benefits

Like almost every organization, our company offers benefits that cover our employees’ expenses on educational courses and fitness classes. But, for several years, I have felt that something is wrong with that, but I couldn’t put my finger on it till now.

It’s a manipulation

Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp, wrote when they canceled the benefits in Basecamp:

For years we’ve offered a fitness benefit, a wellness allowance, a farmer’s market share, and continuing education allowances. They felt good at the time, but we’ve had a change of heart. It’s none of our business what you do outside of work, and it’s not Basecamp’s place to encourage certain behaviors — regardless of good intention. By providing funds for certain things, we’re getting too deep into nudging people’s personal, individual choices. 

Companies use benefits to make them more attractive to candidates. Companies use the same trick when they provide free meals. They force you to spend more time working.

It rots internal motivation. So you go to the Gym not because YOU want to feel better and get stronger, but because you don’t want to lose that money.

They consume time

People spend excessive time on paperwork.

• Employee must provide some proof of spending. So they have to take a photo of the receipt or seek the invoice. 

• HR manager must read these emails and log everything (all the numbers) to the tracking system.

Sure, it takes from 10 to 20 minutes, but that means 4 hours a year!

Unequally distributed

I checked the benefits tracking system, and only around 40% of our team requests compensation. What about the other 60%? Don’t they deserve the same gratification from the company? Maybe someone prefers spending time with the family or likes to go running. For sure, the company saves 60% of the benefits budget, but does it matter in the long run?

What works better

In reality, what matters is free time and a high standard of living. We have families, and we pay bills. Our kids need to go to school. We want to have some savings. The company must think about how to provide fair compensation to everyone and offer more time off work. When the basic needs are covered, you start thinking about wellness and learning of your own free will, and not because someone gives you money to do that.