When it comes to workplace wellness, benefits and perks from employers can have significant impacts on worker satisfaction. A paycheck may be why employees seek out new jobs in the first place, but a positive work culture, opportunities for growth and recognition, and a feeling their employers are invested in their wellbeing are reasons why they stay. For employers, contributing to an employee’s health and happiness can mean the difference between attracting and retaining the best possible talent or sacrificing the bottom line to compensate for high turnover, absenteeism and the rising prices of health insurance.
Simply put: there are lots of benefits to benefits.
Traditionally, employee benefits encompassed four main items:
Other compensations can be included such as the amount of paid time off and employer flexibility.
Increasingly, employers are also offering new and innovative benefits to their employees. Divided below into three general categories (with lots of overlap!), these new perks may be more affordable and help galvanize the larger mission of the company as a whole.
Keeping workers healthy ranges from offering incentives to stay fit to providing onsite medical and dental care. Many companies offer onsite gyms, free health trackers or reimburse their staff for off-site wellness, smoking cessation and weight loss programs. Some even offer reimbursement for those who bike to work. Larger companies are known to offer onsite medical care from flu shots to dental services. While only the largest companies—Google, Epic and Zappos, for example—may be able to offer free or heavily subsidized, healthy meals each and every day, others can at least offer healthy options in their vending machines. Patagonia encourages a culture of adventure and activity with onsite yoga, volleyball courts and even the option to surf in the middle of the day. One of the newest (and nuttiest) perks around are designated “nap rooms.” It may sound like coddling, but the research is clear about the impact a good night’s sleep (or even a quick afternoon nap) can have on productivity.
For employers who can afford it, generous parental leave programs are a sure way to retain young talent struggling to balance work and family life. Likewise, paid sabbatical programs for personal and professional growth and paid time off for volunteer work offer incentives that directly benefit the company’s own talent. But employers of all sizes are increasingly offering perks like pet-friendly work places, onsite game rooms, a more relaxed dress code and free access to local museums or other cultural outings. If video games and foosball tables aren’t your speed, and you cannot offer a daily free pint of ice cream a la Ben & Jerry’s, consider building an onsite community garden or just offering free coffee and tea to your crew to boost morale.
Beyond the significant financial benefits of stock options or 401K programs with matching contributions, plenty of other financial perks avail themselves. Seeing that money is a major stressor for employees (with 45% of those participating in a recent survey rating their level of financial stress as high to overwhelming!) finding ways to help them maintain financial security is critical for employer and employee alike. New financial wellness programs like our very own Cookie Jar Savings help employees start and keep saving money. With a simple enrollment process, employees set up their banks to automatically round up the spare change from their purchases. Then each month their employer matches that amount. For employees, it is immediately rewarding to watch the savings add up and, when needed, the money is available for easy withdrawal.
Meanwhile, Whole Foods and Zappos offer generous employee discounts (20% and 40% respectively) and others offer mobile phone discounts. Some large companies offer free housing for interns, onsite childcare or financial help with fertility treatments and gender reassignment surgery. On the smaller scale, free meals and snacks can save workers the time and money it takes to schlepp in their own sustenance. In addition, onsite car washes, haircuts and dry cleaning services have the added benefit of keeping staff from darting out in the middle of the workday for those errands. Pet insurance, too, a rising industry throughout North America, can be an affordable option with a big emotional payback.
With a little resourcefulness, nearly every employer can find some way to offer employees physical, emotional and financial perks—whether it’s a gift card to a local coffee shop or paid time off to care for an aging family member. To start, think of benefits that reinforce a company’s specific mission and purpose and consider surveying your employees for their own thoughts on the matter. After all, wellness, like charity, begins at home.