One of the great things about being a salaried employee is gaining access to a host of workplace benefits, from health insurance to paid time off to a 401(k) plan. But while some of those benefits might seem like awesome perks, the reality is that they're not all they're cracked up to be. Here are a few you might, in fact, be better off without.
1. Free lunch
We all know that food is expensive, so it stands to reason that if your company offers its employees free lunch during the day, that's something to celebrate. But before you get too caught up in the glory of no-cost soups and sandwiches, remember that by providing lunch, your employer is essentially pushing you to stay in the building all day rather than take an actual break. This especially holds true if you don't have a dedicated lunch or break room and therefore have no choice but to consume that free food at your desk.
2. A free cell phone plan
Even a cheap cell and data plan will easily cost you $50 a month, so if your company is willing to pay that bill for you, it might seem like a boon. The flip side, however, is that in providing you with that service, your employer might, in turn, expect you to be available at all times. And that's a good way to kiss your work-life balance goodbye.
3. Free car service home for working late
Some city-based companies will pay to send you home in a car if you work past a certain hour -- say 8:00 or 9:00 at night. And if you're looking at a 45-minute subway ride versus a cushy lift home in a car that'll take you right to your door, the latter might initially hold more appeal. At the same time, such a policy might prompt you and others like you to work later than necessary, thereby giving up more of your downtime. And while there's nothing wrong with occasionally clocking in longer hours, recognize that the more you do it, the more your company will come to expect it.
4. Comp time for working weekends
Some companies offer comp time when you're forced to work over a weekend to address a pressing need. Often, what'll happen is that you'll put in a day that you don't normally work, and your company will, in turn, give you a day back to use later. At first glance, it probably seems like a sweet deal, especially when the alternative is to work on a weekend without getting much more than a thank you in return. But remember that while it's nice to get a day back, you might be restricted as to when you can use it. Or -- a more likely scenario -- you might be forced to use it within a very limited period of time (say, the upcoming week), thereby narrowing your chances of actually getting to use it at all.
5. Unlimited vacation
Though most companies haven't hopped aboard the unlimited vacation train, a growing number of businesses are allowing employees to take time off as needed as opposed to having a preset number of days to use within a given a calendar year. Initially, unlimited vacation time might seem great, since, in theory, it allows you to escape the office without restriction. But be aware that much research has shown that workers actually take less time off under limitless policies. In some cases, you might land in a situation in which if you do take more vacation days than your peers, it reflects poorly on you, thereby causing you to -- you guessed it -- limit your own time off anyway.
Let's be clear: It pays to be open-minded about your workplace benefits and not assume that your company has evil intentions behind them. At the same time, be wary of these perks in particular, because what might seem like a good thing at first could end up being nothing more than a reason to eventually hate your job.