Company perks help draw in new employees, and then keep them engaged once they’ve settled in. But not every perk is worth your time. Some things—like honoring an employee of the month or offering competitive rewards—don’t function as well in practice as you might expect.

To find out which perks you should reconsider offering, we asked members from Young Entrepreneur Council this question:

Q. What is one traditional perk or benefit you’ve found to be not worthwhile for today’s employees?

1. Awards

Paper awards or trophies don’t work with employees—they don’t want that kind of recognition. They would prefer more challenges or responsibilities. Recognition should be about feeling part of something rather than getting something to frame for the wall. —Drew HendricksButtercup

2. Competitive rewards

Competition might work for sales employees, but for most it’s counterproductive, cultivating a culture in which employees game metrics rather than focus on doing great work. The most effective reward is management, colleague and customer recognition of great work. I prefer to foster a collaborative environment that respects employees’ need for a work-life balance and meaningful work. —Justin BlanchardServerMania Inc.

3. On-site-only perks

Things on-site, like vending machines, parking spots, gyms, or massages, don’t really work. That’s because there are so many freelancers or virtual staff that it leaves these people feeling alienated and unappreciated. It’s got to be something that works for everyone. —Angela RuthCalendar

4. That ridiculous rec room

You know the one I’m talking about. There’s a foosball table, Xbox, and a bunch of swag from ThinkGeek. It’s the highlight of every office tour, but do you know who else goes in there? That’s right: nobody. Why? It’s a trick. Maybe not actually—the boss put it there with the best intentions—but who’s playing video games while everybody else works? Whoever it was doesn’t work here anymore. —Corey NorthcuttNorthcutt Inbound Marketing

RELATED: 7 Ways to Keep Your Employees Happy (Without Breaking the Bank)

5. Open offices

It was all the rage just a few years back, but an open office design is not all it’s cracked up to be. It sounds nice to have a more open work space, and it should improve communication between coworkers in theory. In practice, however, removing walls from everyone’s cubicles just takes away their privacy and introduces endless distractions. Sometimes it’s best to just stick with what works. —Bryce WelkerBeat The CPA

6. Equity stake

The equity stake position is not as popular as it once was. That’s because people have seen there are no guarantees. Instead of that, life balance and feeling a part of something that achieves social good means so much more. —Zach Binder, Bell + Ivy

7. Employees of the month

Even if these awards do make an employee feel recognized, they also may cause bad blood in an office. For each person who gets recognized, there are other team members getting the message that they were not as good of an employee this month, as the pet or the favorite. Even the recipient isn’t receiving what he or she really wants: to feel valued, to have interesting work, or more personal time or money. —Diego OrjuelaCables and Sensors

8. Corporate team building and retreats

Teamwork and proper motivation are vital to any business. However, gathering for a weekend at a remote location and listening to a speaker, or brainstorming new ideas is usually a waste of time. Instead, sending various members of the team individually to attend focused conferences or networking events can yield greater results, as employees teach each other the skills they have learned. —Ryan BradleyKoester & Bradley, LLP

RELATED: 10 Low-Cost Employee Perks That Pay

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“Have a Bad Day Day”—yes, it really is a thing—falls on the 19th of November each year. While this “holiday” has its origins in good humor, some negative people seem to purposefully set out to make days unbearable for the people around them on any given date. And sometimes, we even get in our own way of having a good day by doing things that sabotage our productivity and ability to view our world in an enthusiastic light.

We all have our less-than-ideal moments when we fall prey to distractions, discontent, and naysayers. I’ve certainly experienced them, but I’ve found ways to make them fewer and far between. Fortunately, by keeping our minds purposefully focused and our energy positive, we can avoid ruining the day for ourselves and prevent the ill will of others from making our days a nightmare.

Here, I’ve listed the practices that work for me. By incorporating them into your daily routine, you also might stand a better chance of making the day great.

1. Start the day by reflecting on your accomplishments and what you have to be grateful for

No matter what challenges or setbacks you face, there’s always something to take pride in and give thanks for. As soon as my alarm clock rings in the morning, I take a moment to reflect on the blessings in my personal and professional life; that sets the tone for the rest of the day. By immediately focusing on the positive, you’ll start your day feeling empowered and uplifted.

2. Have a plan for your day

There’s nothing wrong with a little spontaneity, but if you play all elements of your day by ear, you’ll fall behind on your responsibilities, miss deadlines, and jeopardize business and personal relationships. By taking a few moments, either first thing in the morning or the evening before to set priorities and reserve time for what you need to accomplish, you’ll stay on track. Having a plan will help set the day’s pace and prevent you from overextending yourself.

3. Delegate when appropriate

Too many busy entrepreneurs try to do it all themselves—especially when first launching their businesses. As a “Type A” individual, I understand the urge to want to control every detail, but realize there’s only so much of you to go around. You cannot—and should not—try to do everything. By delegating select responsibilities to capable people, you can permit yourself to focus on what you do best and what you enjoy most.

RELATED: 10 Tasks to Delegate to Employees

4. Take a deep breath when someone pushes your buttons

I admit, I don’t always find it easy to let go of the hurtful or antagonistic comments or actions inflicted by others. But when I do put that pessimism aside, I feel lighter and less stressed. When people push your buttons, remind yourself it’s their problem, not yours. Don’t dwell on their negativity and let it distract you or break your spirit.

5. Give yourself something to look forward to

Do this every day. Even the worst of days can seem less deflating if you reward yourself for your efforts. Carve out time for a massage, a special meal, quiet time with a favorite book, a long walk with your dog, a game of kickball with your kids before dinner, or whatever else will help relax you and makes you happy.

While acknowledging Have a Bad Day Day with some good-natured humor might be fun, actually having awful days on a regular basis can derail your business goals and aspirations. Rather than take bad days as a given, commit yourself to discovering ways to make them rare exceptions.

RELATED: This Simple Method Can Help You Deal With Whatever Life Throws Your Way

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We put big stakes on winning in our culture. “Losers” aren’t respected; they failed, after all. In some circles, failure is such a sin that it dwarfs anything else about “the loser”—any good they might have done, or smart moves they might have made.

Even if we don’t think of failure as if it was the third rail, we all know we should avoid it—even little children know this. Because success is where all the good stuff is, right? There aren’t any upsides to failure. But that might not necessarily be so. It all depends on how we define success or failure in the first place.

Avoiding failure: the hidden cost

For some, simply avoiding mistakes can define a sort of success. It’s certainly a safe way to go about your life, though, it’s actually more likely to hem you in than anything else.

That’s the real problem with trying to avoid failure at all costs. Fear of failure can restrict a life—or a business—so badly that it might technically succeed at thousands of tiny things, but fail in the big picture. Kind of like a Blockbuster store that is run perfectly according to its manual, but is so focused on being a perfect Blockbuster store that it never sees Netflix or YouTube coming.

Some people call this playing “the small game.” It’s when you get all the little things right. You avoid risk. You look good in front of your peers and your “superiors.”

In business, this might mean you pick a nice, safe, proven business model. You design your business for steady, predictable growth. You do well in good years, maybe even getting the 5% or better revenue growth most small business owners expect for 2017.

Don’t get me wrong—I do not knock this business approach. I just want you to be aware that there are risks to trying to be perfectly safe. If you are totally focused on avoiding every possible failure, you can pen yourself into the small game…and find yourself in the business (or personal) equivalent of owning a perfectly-run Blockbuster store.

RELATED: 5 Entrepreneurs Who Failed Before They Found Success

Move fast and break things

Then there’s the other side of the spectrum. The high-risk, high-reward mindset. It’s embodied in sayings like Facebook’s old mantra, “Move fast and break things.” This fearless embrace of potential failure sounds almost romantic to some. It’s a good angle for a pitch in Silicon Valley or a way to sell a movie script in Hollywood. And if you’ve got the backbone, and the resources, and the resilience, it can be a formula for success.

Just don’t get too romantic about it. I cannot lie to you: Failure hurts. It’s hard. Both entrepreneurs and regular people know big failures aren’t romantic. It’s frightening to have $7 in your checking account. Having your parents give you “that look” when you show up on their door after your business (or your life) has crashed is no fun.

So let’s face it: We fear failure. Even those of us who don’t let it make decisions for us—we still fear failure. We just don’t let it hem us in. As has been said before, “courage is fear walking.”

But there is one major problem with how most people view failure: They see it as an end. In fact, it’s just a beginning. The lessons of thousands of success stories (almost every one, actually) are that success starts with failure. That’s the norm, not the outlier.

When we’re honest with ourselves, we all know failure is inevitable. But even to say that is a little bit dishonest. Failure happens more often than success. Most of the stretches we take in life are likely to fail, and the good news is that’s fine.

To succeed, we must fail

As Soichiro Honda, founder of Honda Motor Co, puts it: “Success can only be achieved through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents the 1% of your work that results from the 99% that is called failure.” He’s not the only one to take this view. As books like Failing Forward will tell you, failure is just the early stages of success.

So here’s the problem: If we are scared off by failure, then we will never get to the good stuff. We’ll avoid failure like the plague, cutting ourselves off from success.

It may just be that failure is the essential ingredient of success. This includes small failures—things we’ve tried that didn’t work—and big failures…especially big failures—good, hard, rock-bottom crashes.

As J.K. Rowling said in her exceptional 2008 Harvard graduation address, rock-bottom failure means a stripping away of the inessential. It refocuses us. She says the gift of her low point was:

I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me…And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

That benefit alone might be enough to make a case for failure. But it’s not its only virtue. Failure—repeated failure, especially—teaches one of the key skills of a winner: perseverance.

People who overcome failure build up tremendous perseverance. This lets them not only keep going through their failures, but causes them to press on, even when things are good. It’s that perseverance that turns good into very good…and with even more work, very good into great.

Failure develops other sister virtues to perseverance, too—like resilience and flexibility. These are the assets of people who not only succeed but also don’t clutch on to their success. They know they’re good enough to get it back, should fortunes change again.


So maybe every failure is success…just a success not yet hatched. Like so many things in life, we just don’t recognize it for what it is when we first encounter it. If that’s true, we might even start creating our successes by deliberately risking failure.

RELATED: 5 Reasons Small Businesses Fail—And How to Avoid Those Fatal Pitfalls

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