It’s a great job market out there in many industries, particularly the tech industry, and with that comes the fierce race to attract and retain employees with competitive benefits packages and perks. Not since the dot com era have we seen companies offer such innovative benefit options, and like Prince, employees are partying like it’s 1999.
There has been much ink spilled on the generous benefits large multinationals like Google and Facebook offer their employees. However, most companies can’t afford expensive perks like onsite concierges or free cafeterias. Or, they don’t have the real estate to set up bocce ball courts (like Google) or rock climbing walls (like Chesapeake Energy). In this parent’s mind, Campbell’s Soups wins the perks race with their onsite full-scale kindergarten program.
However, if your company does not have the bandwidth or financial resources to do these types of perks, do not despair. Here’s a list of top affordable perks for your employees that are low or no cost.
1. Flexible Scheduling. Flexibility is a huge deal with most employees. And it makes sense. Employees’ personal and professional lives are consistently becoming more intertwined. With competing priorities it can be difficult for example to work, while still dropping the kids off at school or dealing with a long commute. As such, one of the most powerful benefits you can provide your employees is the ability to design a flexible work schedule. And really, with programs on the cloud and advanced communication options, unless you have a job that truly necessitates being in a specific place and a specific time – a coffee barista or restaurant worker for example — it makes sense to accommodate this.
2. Remote Work Days. There is much to love about working remotely. Companies’ policies differ on this topic but even for those that do not have telecommuting programs in place, periodic work from home opportunities to award for a job well done can be a real motivator. Providing your employees the opportunity to work in an environment in which they are most comfortable is good for the company as well. This author is most productive in a quiet coffee shop. Away from the distractions of the office, but not at home being a slug-a-bed.
3. Physical Fitness. It is common today for companies to offer their employees a gym membership discount. Gym memberships are a win-win as employees get subsidized access to weights and treadmills, and the employer reaps the benefits of a physically fit workforce reduces the cost of healthcare and makes for happier employees. However, not everyone loves the gym. Be truly innovative by allowing your employees discounts on a variety of different physical activities. Discounts on Pilates, yoga, boot camps or even discounts on exercise gear will be welcomed.
4. Onsite wellness options. It’s difficult to get time off to accomplish personal tasks. This is particularly difficult when it comes to health and wellness. Offering employees services such as onsite free flu shots is both extremely convenient and makes for a healthier workforce.
5. Home sweet office space. In 3rd grade I had two teachers who were ahead of their time. Instead of one teacher, they shared a flexible schedule, one taught 2 days a week and the other 3 days. I’m sure I made a lot of friends, did interesting projects and had fun that year. However, what I remember when I think of my 3rd grade class is that our room was set up with chairs in a circle, no one was confined to a desk, and we had this great loft in the corner that they had built. When it was time to study, we could go up in the big loft with pillows and bean bags and do our work there. It was the best. This principle still holds true as adults. Set up a comfy couch area and a coffee cart pop-up and if you build it, they will come.
6. Food and Fun. People love free food. Some companies offer major perks like a subsidized cafeteria, catered lunches or parties, but you don’t need to be that extravagant. What about having one surprise food event per month? Employees will love a visit from a Taco Truck. Or perhaps a cookie tasting? Ice cream socials make visiting a conference room much more fun.
7. Take me out to the ball game. If there’s a major sporting event, the World Series, World Cup, the NBA Finals, the Olympics, instead of cracking down on sports-minded employees whose productivity diminishes on game day, embrace these events and use them as an opportunity for a morale boosting company event. Invite employees to go casual that day and wear gear from their team of choice. Secure a conference room, some pizza and broadcast the game for everyone to watch. There’s no sense going against the tide; your employees will be watching from their desk anyway.
8. Productivity and Personal Time. It will come as a surprise to exactly no one that I believe one of the best perks you can provide your employees is a virtual assistant. Whether they help with business and administrative tasks or assist them in managing personal responsibilities, employees appreciate this invaluable benefit.
9. Back-Up Childcare. This one is huge. I cannot count how many times I have missed work because I had to care for a sick child. Providing employer-sponsored back-up childcare at places like Bright Horizons is a lifesaver. While this benefit probably does not fall under the “inexpensive “ category, employers can provide a similar option without breaking the bank. At services like Care.com, you can offer discounts to employees so they can search for childcare options.
A little creativity goes a long way toward burnishing your image as a forward-thinking employer. As the labor market tightens, a company that sends a taco truck around once a month or that subsidizes pilates classes stands out to job seekers. More importantly, these programs can improve the satisfaction of your current employees and encourage them to do their best work.