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7 employee perks that actually work

As a business owner, you may or may not know that there’s a big difference between employee benefits and employee perks. Benefits typically include health insurance, paid time off or retirement benefits. Perks, on the other hand, represent an additional way to invest in your employees’ happiness and job satisfaction.

The benefits of providing perks

Not only does providing perks enhance your employee’s happiness, but it also helps to attract and retain top talent. In today’s climate, many job seekers (and employees) are looking for something far beyond a competitive salary and benefits package—and that’s where perks can make a big difference in your company’s culture.

Employees want to feel supported and that their company has invested not only in the work they do but in their career paths. From a flexible work schedule and employee recognition to paid time off for volunteering and wellness initiatives, here are several perks that can help entice your employees to stick around. 

1. Flexible work schedule

One perk highly regarded by employees is a flexible work schedule—in both hours and location. Even if you’re unable to offer a remote or hybrid work environment for your team, consider flexibility around their work hours. Some employees may do their best work earlier in the day, or even later in the evening. 

Allow your team to work in chunks throughout the day to help maintain the work-life balance necessary to raise a family, take care of other family members or just help your employees prioritize their needs. Give your team the freedom to step away during the day for a doctor’s appointment or run a quick errand and make up the time later. 

2. Shorter work week

Another perk to consider is a shorter work week. This is something you could test out during your slower seasons by allowing your team to take Fridays off. There are no rules that say employees must work five days a week to maintain productivity. (Unless, of course, your business needs to be open more than four days a week...then you’ll need to adopt a rotating schedule so all employees can adopt the four-day workweek.)

If you decide to offer this perk, be intentional in the way you do it and consider how work can get done in a four-day week, rather than a typical week. Will you schedule fewer meetings? Extend deadlines for projects? Think about how you’ll keep lines of communication open. Test it out for a month, gather feedback from your employees and reassess the shorter workweek initiative as needed.

3. Career development training

Invest in your employees’ careers by offering development training. Sit down with each of your team members and devise an employee growth plan. Doing this will help motivate them, boost their morale and help you map a path for their development.

Take it a step further by offering paid career development training during work hours so your team can learn new skills without giving up their personal time. Not only will it help your employees in their careers, but the skills they’ll learn can be beneficial to your business. 

4. Parental perks

As your employees expand their families, consider offering paid maternity and/or paternity leave to allow new (and repeat) parents time with their new addition. Doing this lets your team know that their contributions are important...and that they still have a place in your business.

If you’re unable to provide paid leave outside of FMLA, consider a small cash perk to help with newborn expenses or to offset childcare costs. Also, consider switching focus from the number of hours worked (time-clock mentality) to the quality of work performed. Giving new parents this flexibility will ease the transition while they settle into their new normal. 

5. PTO for volunteering

Many workers would love to spend time volunteering but may not have the PTO available to do so. Providing the option of volunteer time off (VTO) gives employees the opportunity to give back to their communities outside of their existing PTO.

Not only will offering VTO help your business stand out from others, but it shows that you care about your community and giving back. Employees will appreciate the opportunity to be part of a business that is socially responsible. 

6. Employee wellness initiatives

In years past, wellness was defined as a gym membership or access to an onsite workout facility. It’s now grown into all aspects of wellness: healthy lifestyles, mental health, mindfulness, financial wellness, stress management and even cultural behaviors.

Allow employees to personalize their meaning of wellness and offer subscriptions to mindfulness or workout apps, or create accountability groups for your team to encourage and motivate each other. Each employee may want to focus on something different, so you’ll want to provide several options for wellness initiatives. 

7. Recognition and rewards

Employees want to be seen and heard, and what better way than to recognize them for a job well done? You could write a simple note of gratitude (yes, instead of an email), praise an employee during a meeting, or provide a gift card to their favorite eatery or local small business.

Have your team join in to recognize others’ hard work as well. When employees feel supported, they’re more likely to stick around. Take the time to recognize your employees—a small but important gesture that can go a long way.

It’s time to perk-olate

Thoughtful perks are crucial to retaining your best employees (as well as attracting qualified candidates). Don’t feel like you have to offer every perk listed. Instead, start small with employee recognition and slowly add additional perks. Any investment in your team—large or small—is a good one. 

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