By far the most ubiquitous, popular, and highly recommended benefit among business owners and management teams was a flexible work schedule (usually including telecommuting & work-from-home options).
Michelle Hayward, CEO, and Founder of Bluedog Design thinks that flexible work schedules should see even more use. “The most under-appreciated and under-utilized perk in a modern workplace is flexibility," says Hayward. "With accountability to the team in mind, employees are empowered to make decisions to attend a child’s school performance or to work from home when life happens or plan flex hours to make a commute less stressful.”
Robin Schwartz agrees. “Being able to occasionally work remotely as well as being able to shift hours that best fit an employee’s life and job goes a really long way in keeping employees happy and [maintaining] engagement," Schwartz says. "Knowing they are encouraged to balance their work and life is a great perk.”
Dana Case, Director of Operations at MyCorporation.com says she"[finds] that one of the most desirable employee perks is being able to provide flexible scheduling options to all of your team members…By accommodating the scheduling needs of your team members and their personal lives, you’ll see how much they feel appreciated and are motivated to work hard for the business.”
It also enables your team to be productive no matter where they are in the world, and no matter how scattered each member may be. Michael Hollauf, CEO and Co-Founder of Meister Task is a staunch proponent of digital collaboration, stating: “We’ve also enabled flexible working, encouraging employees to work from wherever they work best. To allow this, we encourage all team members to be available on Slack during working hours and track their tasks in our task management tool, so that all team members can stay in the loop with project progress, even when working across different locations.”
A close second to flexible work schedules is loosening the reins on PTO. Many employers keep a tight grip on both vacation days and personal leave (in some cases verbally or culturally discouraging the use of even those days that are permissible by company policy). According to experts, this is a serious mistake. Not only does this create a serious liability in the form of unused PTO, but it also tends to result in team members experiencing burnout and, frequently, leaving the company for more favorable employment.
When asked what one benefit he would most recommend, Steve Pritchard, founder of Cuuver, answered: “A generous amount of time off. Giving employees plenty of opportunities to pursue their personal passions and unwind from work can go a long way towards improving their performance when they are at work. This ensures they don’t become frustrated with the lack of ability to take more than one vacation a year or take a few long weekends.”
He wasn’t the only one. Mollie Delp, an HR specialist at Workshop Digital, said, "unlimited vacation...[giving] the team the flexibility and reassurance that they can feel comfortable taking time off without penalty goes a long way. They don’t have to stress over a random Friday or afternoon where they need to be somewhere else (for themselves or family) and how it will overall effect their time off at the end of the year...”
The key, however, seems to be making sure your team knows that when you say “take some time for yourself,” that you really mean it. Lisa Oyler, the HR director at Access Perks, says to "give employees plenty of time off to reboot and spend quality time with their families – but also set clear expectations that [they] don’t need to have their phones out or be ready to take a work call. Let them unplug!”
Another great way to increase engagement is through prizes, bonuses, awards, and other incentives. Turning work into a competition or game can motivate your team to do their best. It even works internationally, according to Christian Rennella, VP of HR & CoFounder of elMejorTrato.com. “After 9 years of hard work and having gone from 0 to 134 employees, I can assure you that the best strategy is ‘gamification'," Rennella says. "Thanks to this gamification we were able to improve our retention by 31.1%.”
It doesn’t have to be elaborate, though. Even simple rewards for hard work can do the trick. Nate Masterson, HR manager for Maple Holistics says that "business managers who utilize incentives will often see that extra push once there are valuable items and experiences on the line. For instance, some companies offer a round of golf, 5-star brunch, or extended weekends if certain projects are completed ahead of schedule. This simple gesture is often enough encouragement for workers to get their act together and step up their game.”
Health insurance is typically the most expensive benefit (by a wide margin), but it’s also the most sought after. Paying for insurance out of pocket is expensive, and paying doctors’ bills without insurance is even worse, so it makes sense why applicants make career decisions based largely on insurance benefits.
This is most apparent amongst millennials, who frequently value insurance above all other benefits, according to Brandemix founder Jody Ordioni. “Studies show that health is the most important benefit to millennials, and therefore, offering a suite of benefits that relate to health (on-site health clinic, 100-percent paid health/dental/vision benefits) would be my top recommendations," says Ordioni.
“We find that often it’s small things that matter. Like setting out bowls of healthy snacks throughout the office a couple of days each week. It’s nice for the employees, good for health, but it also brings groups to the break rooms, where they can mingle and get to know people outside their own departments. The same concept applies to volunteer opportunities, and our highly competitive (yet still fun) 5k.” — Lisa Oyler (HR director, Access Perks)
“Because people loved being recognized and people love food, ordering catered lunches can be a great way to bring employees together at the office. This will not only help establish a more sociable and welcoming environment, but it also provides a much-needed midday break.” — Nate Masterson (HR manager, Maple Holistics)
“We hold ‘Pizza and Presentations’ twice a month, where we treat our employees to a catered lunch in one of our conference rooms. Not only does this allow our team to enjoy time together and receive updates about each department’s projects, but it also provides everyone a chance to celebrate milestones in the company. This is a great way to say thank you to your employees for their hard work.” — Emily Burton (Fueled)
“I like summer Fridays, which we do a version of at Community Health Charities (and other employers have offered this). Some employers have you work longer hours during the week and get every other Friday off, or for us, we close early every Friday afternoon for employees to get a jump on the weekend during the summer. This is very popular!” — Amanda J. Ponzar (Chief Marketing Officer, Community Health Charities)
“Snow days! When winter weather causes hazardous travel conditions, we encourage employees to stay home and take a ‘snow day’. Essentially, they are not charged against their leave for opting to stay out of the office. Many workers have children who may also have a canceled school day when bad weather hits. Encouraging employees to stay home, if possible, not only reduces the stress of their day but shows them that we value their safety. In return, we often see the employees ‘online’ or still producing work remotely.” — Robin Schwartz (Managing Partner, MFG Jobs)
“One of the most creative employee perks we’ve provided is organizing weekly company-funded yoga lessons within our offices…[we’ve also] taken a number of steps to provide employees with both in-house training and external professional development events, such as sponsored conferences.” — Michael Hollauf ( CEO and Co-Founder, Meister Task)
“We look for those things that require engagement. Like a stocked library and monthly book club, where 97th Floor purchases the books for participants. It’s provided the most value in terms of keeping engaged people further engaged and generating new ideas and insights that directly impact our culture, our work, the way in which we work and the lens through which we measure our successes, and failures.” — Wayne Sleight (COO, 97th Floor)
“Typical benefits we offer include a great holiday package, regular bonuses, and dress-down Fridays. The more unusual perks are surprise retail vouchers after a great performance, and activity days like waterspouts, go-karting and treetop obstacle courses. We also host regular fuddles, where we extend lunch hours so our team can enjoy lots of food and socialize.” — Lee Fisher (HR manager, Blinds Direct)
“Two of the most creative I’ve heard about are maternity concierge service where this particular company helped with pre- and post-birth with everything from helping you choose the right car seat to facilitating meals. And the other, one company offers shipping costs of breast milk for moms, and more companies are incorporating this benefit for new moms who have to travel.” — Mary Pharris (Fairygodboss)