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‘Anti-Perks’ that Turn Workers Off and 5 Things They Actually Want Instead

With labor continuing to be a challenge for the hotel sector, the trend of “anti-perks” caught our attention. Based on a viral Twitter thread, “anti-perks” are benefits that sound awesome but actually are never used or don’t matter to employees.

Guess what was the number one “anti-perk”? Unlimited vacation time!! The downside of unlimited vacation policies has been well-documented reports, Inc., “workers are completely aware that ‘take all the vacation you want!’ often translates to ‘feel guilty about taking any vacation at all!’” and noted further the consensus view that unlimited vacation is often a way for companies “to dodge paying out vacation to departing employees” and result in reduced vacation due to unclear expectations.

office yoga and other anti-perks

Other perks that aren’t: free booze, free massages, special-purpose rooms (e.g., fitness, nap, and meditation rooms), and any myriad of team-building activities. Be sure to check the Twitter thread if you want to see the complete list and some hilarious (and heated) replies.

This inspired us to reach out to the hertelier community and find out what benefits really matter to hotel workers in today’s competitive job market. Here are the top five…

1. Flexibility

“Flexibility is the number one currency,” says Joy Rothchild, Chief Human Resources Officer, Omni Hotels. “It is hard to do in our industry because our guests need us on the ground and in person. But we have successfully piloted four-day workweeks in different roles, and we are finding that it is working as it attracts more candidates, and we are seeing great satisfaction and retention.”

Flexible work schedules have worked well for the housekeeping team at The Grand, a 207-room five-star hotel in York, according to Lisa Williams the Executive Housekeeper. By using a combination of short shifts, flexible shift patterns, an outside app-based agency, plus a robust schedule of fun perks for her team, Lisa has not only boosted productivity in housekeeping but also cleaning quality and employee morale.

Omni has successfully piloted “part-time, on your time,” says Joy. “Pre-pandemic, you were required to be available for eight hours, for five-day-a-week shifts. We have now implemented – very successfully – a system where the employee tells us when they want to work, and we will schedule around that schedule. It gives working parents, students, and our workforce the flexibility to do things like drop off children, attend a class, work a few hours and leave, or just work weekends,” adds Joy.

2. Free Meals and Stays

Michelle Walder, GM of Nomad London, says the “family meal” is a big deal to employees. “Europeans are particularly interested in the shift meals. Some of our competitors spend up to £18 or even £20 per employee, per shift, and we have upgraded our program to compete.” She also noted the ability to eat and stay at the property is a much-appreciated perk. Anne Golden, GM for the Pan Pacific London and Regional VP agrees, “We had everyone come and stay around Christmas time last year and this was a big hit with the team. We are doing more to let employees experience the hotel as guests and this has been a draw in recruiting.”

Omni is now piloting something new at The Omni Homestead Resort Homestead. “People working at remote locations work long hours, and rarely get to “escape” the resort/location,” says Joy. “To address that, we are offering a travel allowance and free nights at other Omni hotels (as opposed to employee rates). They must use the allowance for travel (it cannot be a sum added to their paycheck), and they are encouraged to take the time off to refresh. This provides the resort hiring managers with an additional incentive to attract potential employees.”

3. Mental Wellness

Hilton has beefed up their benefits related to wellness and mental health since the pandemic, says Jedlyn Tordecilla, director of human resources at Conrad New York Downtown, with a “Care For All Hub.” Jedlyn notes that the “Thrive@Hilton framework includes efforts about creating dialogue around the topic of mental health and equips team members with effective resources to continue to be healthy. These resources include sharing personal team member stories, articles, podcasts, app-based tools experiences designed to improve mental wellness and training as well as resources for managers to assist with how to navigate their own mental wellness and support their teams.”

4. Inclusive Culture

“Today’s team members don’t just want a paycheck; they want to work in a place where they can bring their true authentic selves to work each day and feel like an active part of a company purpose in which they wholeheartedly believe,” says Ayesha Williams, VP of HR for Hilton’s Caribbean and Latin America region. Hilton achieves this through a culture that promotes inclusion, well-being, and trust among team members, and encourages team members to share their thoughts and truly feel engaged in meaningful work. Ayesha continued, “For example, in the Caribbean and Latin America, we launched “My Voice Matters” an 8-week listening event that enabled leaders at all levels to receive feedback from over 4,000 team members. This campaign provided a space for our team members to share their stories and be heard anchoring around the themes of Purpose, Inclusion, Growth at Hilton, and Wellness.”

Similarly, at the Pan Pacific in London, Anne has recently completed training for her team on “How to Reframe Gendered Language,” which she says has “gone a long way to making everyone––guests and employees––feel more welcome.”

5. Money

Last but not least, money is still a top driver for hourly, manager, and executive team members. With poaching rampant, this means continual pay raises. “Perks don’t matter at all, just increasing pay twice a year and it needs to be significant,” said the HR director of a five-star resort in California who preferred not to be named. “Long gone are the days of the annual three percent pay raise,” she added noting it has been a challenge to keep staff in a tight labor market to meet the high demand levels.


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