Small companies often can’t compete against the generous pay packages of large corporations—but they can compete on “soft” benefits that aren’t nearly as expensive. These perks are often very low cost, or even free, but they can bolster employee loyalty and satisfaction. Similarly, only 33% of small business owner want to grow their businesses, so it makes good business sense to retain your key employees with benefits.
As we enter open-enrollment season, it’s a good time to think about how you can improve your benefits package—and your employee morale—in the year ahead. Here are seven soft benefits employees will love:
1. Flexible scheduling and shorter workweeks.
A 2013 survey by CareerBuilder found that flexible scheduling—the ability for workers to determine their own schedule, at least somewhat—is one of the most coveted employee perks, with 59% of respondents saying it was important. Some companies go as far as allowing employees to work four-day workweeks; others just let them design their own work schedule within certain realistic parameters. About 40% of workers told CareerBuilder they would appreciate “half-day” Fridays.
2. Free food.
Food, as they say, is the way to the heart. Providing employees with complimentary meals and snacks can create a family-like feel to the workplace. Some companies host “pizza Fridays” or a weekly breakfast, while others stock their break room with complimentary healthy snacks that employees can grab throughout the day.
Almost everyone has dreams of taking an extended vacation or a simple break from work, but few workers have the vacation time to do it. Offer employees a paid sabbatical—essentially an extended vacation, such as four or six weeks—every five to seven years of employment can give your employees a much needed mental break and build loyalty. Red Frog Events of Chicago gives employees a four-week sabbatical after five years of working for the company. “A month away allows enough time to come back hungry to tackle the next big project,” Red Frog founder Joe Reynolds wrote on Inc.com.
4. Wellness benefits.
The most common wellness perk is gym membership reimbursement, and certainly many employees will appreciate that. But some companies take it a step further and offer on-site fitness classes or yoga, or will pay for their employees to participate in local athletic events. Gravity Payments, a Seattle company, hosts a running club for employees, according to Forbes.
5. Voluntary benefits.
It’s hard to design a benefits program that meets every employee’s needs. To help compensate, many companies now offer their employees access and discounts to services and benefits (e.g., accidental death and dismemberment insurance, disability insurance) they might want. For example, some companies provide their employees with discounted pet insurance or legal assistance.
6. Charitable giving opportunities.
Many people want to give their time and/or money to good causes, but simply don’t have the time or opportunity. Charitable activities through work, such as volunteer days where employees help stock food at a local food bank, can be a great team-building activity while also appealing to employees’ generous side. Some employers also match employees’ charitable donations up to a specific dollar amount per year.
7. Freebies and discounts.
Companies can come up with all sorts of things to give their employees—whether paying their cellphone bills or providing tickets to sporting events or Netflix memberships. These extra perks don’t have to cost a lot, but can go a long way when it comes to creating a happier, more loyal workforce.
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