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A Trip To Disney World Proves It: You Can’t Fix Burnout with Perks

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A Trip To Disney World Proves It: You Can't Fix Burnout with Perks

Disney World is a place filled with fun. Rides, food, entertainment, from Mickey Mouse to Star Wars, and Toy Story, it’s got everything every child could possibly want.

So why all the meltdowns from children and a few adults?

I spent five glorious days at Disney World with my sisters–no husbands and no kids. Just four middle-aged women having a great time. When our feet hurt, or we were tired, we could go back to the hotel. There was no one else saying, “you will stay, and you will have fun!”

On the other hand, we saw many parents coaxing, bribing, and sometimes yelling at exhausted kids, imploring them to be happy. It did not work.

People love perks but to a point.

Sometimes we saw a child sporting Mickey ears, holding a bubble wanted, and his face sticky with candy and ketchup, and still in utter tears. Adding one more perk to that child wouldn’t fix the exhaustion.

You could hand the child a genuine BB8 robot that could do everything, including the child’s homework, and it wouldn’t be enough to quell the tears. When burnout hits, adding another perk doesn’t work.

If your employees are overworked and stressed out, adding pizza on Fridays, working from home three days a week, and a year-end bonus will not stop the burnout. It may buy people off for a short period of time, but it’s not a long-term fix. 

Perks are not a substitute for real time off.

Perks are good things! I’m all in favor of perks–including pizza and gym memberships and other little things. But, if being in the “happiest place on earth” doesn’t stop exhaustion, your perks won’t either.

If your employees aren’t getting downtime and if you don’t support them, you can’t wiggle your way out of exhaustion with a candy bar.

Things that make a real difference.

If you want your employees to avoid burnout, sure, offer them pizza but do these things that work.

Allow people who want to (and successfully can) work from home to do so. Commutes are just big balls of stress for some people. Hybrid work arrangements often work well when it’s critical that people be together some of the time. Don’t have an unlimited vacation plan–offer a generous amount of vacation. Unlimited vacation sounds fantastic until you realize that people don’t use it. People need real-time away from work. Take a look at Europe for vacation policies that give people a chance to relax.

European out-of-offices: “I’m away camping for the summer. Email again in September”

American out-of-offices: “I have left the office for two hours to undergo kidney surgery but you can reach me on my cell anytime”


— Samuel Pollen (@samuel_pollen) April 30, 2021

If you feel burned out and your employees feel burned out, working to fix it means changing company culture. Your company needs to be a place where it’s okay to say, “you know what? My feet hurt, so I’m going to pass on that next ride and go home.”

It’s how everyone can keep going–even if your office isn’t the happiest place on earth.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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