Today, it’s normal for people to spend 40+ hours a week working. Because employees dedicate such a substantial amount of time toward the companies they represent, it’s necessary for employers to curate a workplace experience that supports their hard work and keeps them invested.
What’s the solution? Employee benefits.
Personalized rewards have been found to be a greater predictor of job enjoyment than salary for both prospective and current employees. With so much value tied to benefits, employers that go beyond standard perks and offer relevant voluntary benefits to employees create an environment that builds up and cares for its workforce.
Here are the best voluntary benefits you can start offering your employees right now.
#1: Shortened Workweek
Similar to paid time off, many employees seek out companies that make work/life balance a priority through operating on shorter workweeks. The American Institute of Stress found that employees today are overworked and overstressed, which result in more absenteeism, higher employee turnover, and diminished productivity.
To combat this ineffectiveness, more U.S. companies are following in the footsteps of countries like Sweden, where employers have successfully experimented with the 6-hour workday to boost employee happiness and efficiency.
Take the World Wildlife Fund as an example of this trend: The organization implemented “Panda Fridays,” where employees have every other Friday off from work.
#2: Fitness and Wellness Initiatives
It’s important for employers to understand that people today place greater value in practicing health-conscious behaviors. Offering fitness and wellness-centered benefits to support this mentality is key to appealing to employees’ interests.
Fitness-wise, many companies offer a gym for employee use and even provide fitness classes and personal training. Burton, a winter sports gear supplier, is an early adopter of these benefits—promising employees complimentary ski passes, or “snow days,” to take advantage of a fresh snowfall and loaner bikes to encourage active, sustainable transportation. REI is another leader in fitness rewards, offering employees 2 paid days off to enjoy the outdoors however they choose.
As for wellness, employers understand the importance of implementing practices that ensure workers are doing and feeling their best—for their sake and the company’s.
UnitedHealthcare administered a Wellness Check Up Survey to monitor the value of wellness programs. The results found that companies with these benefits had 56% of employees taking fewer sick days and 62% reporting increased productivity.
Examples of effective wellness initiatives include bringing in a masseuse and chiropractor, implementing flexible office seating, and offering spa discounts and wellness seminars.
#3: Paid Vacation + Time Off
Many companies offer paid vacation time; however, some companies actually pay employees for their vacations. Companies leading the way in this perk include:
- Epic Systems Corporation: Once one works for the company for 5 years, employees get a 4-week paid sabbatical to travel wherever they desire to pursue personal interests.
- Airbnb: This company gives employees a $2,000 stipend every year to travel the world and stay in an Airbnb wherever they end up.
With “paid” paid time off, the financial stress of going on vacation is reduced while employee retention is boosted through incentivizing staff to stay long term. After receiving needed downtime, employees return restored from overwhelming stress that, if left unmanaged, would have hindered workplace productivity and satisfaction.
#4: Maternity and Paternity Leave
In comparison to other developed nations worldwide, the United States lacks in offering sufficient or fair lengths of paid leave for new parents. The European Union, for instance, ensures each parent is eligible for up to 240 days of paid parental leave, with Estonia leading the way with a year and a half paid to spend time with family. In contrast, only 16% of U.S. private-industry employees had paid family leave last year, ranking us 41 countries behind.
Paternity leave for new fathers is even less common. The desire of fathers to be with their newborns contradicts the traditional stereotype that the man is the “sole breadwinner.” Yet, the Society for Human Resource Management found that only 9% of U.S. businesses allow paid paternity leave—with 76% of new fathers returning to work within 1 week of their child’s birth or adoption.
That said, U.S. companies are beginning to follow other countries’ lead to meet this demand. Netflix, for example, promises a fully paid year of maternity and paternity leave and allows a flexible return to work (full- or part-time), while Spotify provides 6 months of paid parental leave with flexible work options upon return to make balancing work and their child’s needs manageable. The company even goes the extra mile and offers the uncommon perk of fertility assistance in its insurance plans.
#5: Student Loan Benefits
U.S. student loans have advanced to an all-time high, with current outstanding student loan rates at an overwhelming $1.6 trillion. As the percentage of employees with student loan debt continues to rise, debt relief is an increasingly valued and sought-after benefit in today’s workforce. Yet, student loan debt is also a hindrance for older generations—stopping more than half of Baby Boomers from retiring.
In response, many companies have begun to offer student loan benefits. Well-known companies, including Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal, and Dollar General, offer student loan benefits to employees as a way to set them down the path toward financial wellness. Employers can implement various programs to manage student loans, such as matched payment programs, which empower employers to take an active stand in supporting their employees’ financial wellness.
Companies nationwide incorporate unique benefits to demonstrate how they’re invested in their employees. Because 80% of employees prefer improved benefits over salary raises, employers are urged to respond to these demands by providing rewards that best meet staff needs. Whether aiming to minimize turnover or increase the company’s focus on growth, perks make a difference.
|Shann Grewal is vice president of Ceannate company, IonTuition.