5 Alternatives to Traditional Benefits You Should Ask About at Your Job
Running a business is expensive, starting with paying your employees' salaries. Providing benefits to those employees is even more expensive. But if a company wants to stay competitive and appeal to top professionals in its industry, or if it just wants to improve morale and reduce turnover, then it must provide benefits to employees above and beyond their salaries.
Providing benefits to employees may be costly, but lost productivity, low morale and high turnover rates are even more costly for any organization, big or small, so benefits are vital. And, companies are finding helpful and creative ways to provide perks to their people without busting their bottom lines.
This means that when you’re on the hunt for your next great gig, you should look beyond the health plans and 401(k)s and consider the kinds of alternative benefits a company is offering. This is especially important if you want to work in a smaller organization that may have fewer resources. These days, you can find great benefits beyond just medical and dental.
Many organizations, particularly in specialized industries like health and technology, now offer tuition reimbursement to new or existing employees. This can be a great way to get a specialized degree or certification and end up with a job when you complete the course. Companies will also offer to cover continuing education and recertification courses, as well as seminars, workshops and extended learning programs for their employees. This gives staff members a chance to expand their knowledge base and keeps the company full of educated workers who are more loyal and inclined to apply what they learned within the organization.
Your compensation doesn’t just have to be made up of dollars, bonuses and insurance coverage. It can also include permission to stay home, for example. Companies may try to earn your loyalty with how much they don’t make you work. Organizations have moved to offering flex time as a way of keeping valued employees who desire a better work/life balance. To get you to climb—or stay—onboard, a company may offer you the option of telecommuting a few days a week.
Some businesses offer employees more vacation time in lieu of a pay raise, or they’ll remove any limits on sick days. Think about the kind of freedom you want, and then do the math. If your salary is the same, but you have more time off, you just started making more money per hour.
One thing that can really pull good employees away from the office is their responsibility to their families. Some very talented people leave the workforce because it’s getting more difficult to find quality, affordable childcare. A lot of parents miss work when kids are sick, or have to leave work early to manage getting children from one activity to the next. It’s difficult to plan a late meeting to make last-minute changes to a project with a deadline when all your team members have to run out the door by 4:30 to get the kids from their after school care.
To solve this problem, organizations are adding on-site daycare. It’s just one more thing to attract people who want to balance their family life with their career. It makes their lives simpler and can alleviate costs, meaning their salaries don’t have to balloon to keep them in the office.
This may not seem like the most obvious of office perks, but it’s a tiny expenditure that can bring huge rewards to the company that provides it. More and more businesses are providing their employees with transportation benefits. For some small firms trying to attract eager employees in growing, eclectic downtown areas, this means covering the cost of parking for their employees or even purchasing bus passes for everyone.
Some companies, like Facebook, will reimburse workers for transportation costs, while others provide shuttles for commuters. Some companies will even provide car maintenance while employees are on the job. It’s a small price to pay to get workers to the office and keep them at their desks.
Food, Fitness & Fun
An organization full of happy people is an organization that runs smoothly and efficiently. This is why now companies have gotten smart and sweetened things up at the office for you. Free coffee and soda in the break room isn’t that expensive, but it can be a huge boost for morale. Some places offer free lunches or an inexpensive cafeteria so employees don’t have to leave the building to eat. Some will keep you at your desk with a constant supply of complimentary foods.
Of course, all this eating and drinking isn’t necessarily good for you ... unless your company also offers a gym membership or on-site facility. This keeps you healthy and keeps your brain active, which increases productivity and lowers health care costs. Another great alternative perk is the addition of video consoles like a Wii in the break room, so you can move around and have some fun while you take a break from the daily grind. Even a quick game of ping-pong can give you a boost for the afternoon. Some places will actually bring in hairstylists and masseuses to make it easy for employees to look and feel better. These are the kinds of perks that bring value to the office and can improve the work environment for you when there may not be a ton of money to throw into your paycheck.