Providing your employees with a comprehensive employee benefits package is essential for attracting and retaining workers. With a tight labor market, organizations have to go the extra mile to hire the top talent they seek.
Employee benefits and perks are the best ways to support your current employees while making your organization stand out to job candidates.
With so many employee benefits options to choose from, how do you know which ones are best for your organization? Moreover, which benefits options are available to employers?
This article will provide unique employee benefits ideas for all budgets and tips on how to implement them at your organization.
Why should employers offer employee perks?
Before we share our list of unique employee perks ideas, it’s crucial to understand why you should offer employee benefits.
Benefits reduce employee turnover
According to Pew Research Center, 43% of employees who left their jobs in 2021 said poor or no employee benefits played a role in their decision to leave.
Offering employee perks that your current employees want helps to convince them to stay with your organization. If your benefits package is better than what your competitors provide, your employees will be less interested in looking for other opportunities.
Improve company culture and morale
Giving employees more perks boosts productivity and improves employee morale. When your employees are taken care of, they’ll feel valued and appreciated. This results in employees working harder and supporting your organization’s goals.
Employees who enjoy working for you and have a high job satisfaction help improve the work atmosphere, contributing to a welcoming and positive company culture. Plus, employees who love their work are more willing to recruit friends and family to work at your organization when a job opens up, helping you reduce your talent acquisition costs.
Attract top talent
One of the most important reasons to offer comprehensive employee benefits is to attract top talent. With any tight labor market, there are more job opportunities than workers to fill those positions. If you want to fill your open positions with qualified employees, you’ll need to bolster your compensation package.
A Glassdoor survey found that 60% of respondents considered the perks and benefits an organization offers before accepting an offer.
Additionally, some states, such as Colorado and Washington, require employers to list all the benefits and salary ranges available in their job descriptions.
To convince job seekers to apply for your open positions, you need to highlight your comprehensive benefits package.
Which employee benefits are in the highest demand?
Finding out which employee benefits are best for your organization is paramount. Before researching what employees across the country prefer, you should ask your current employees about their preferences.
A great place to start is by conducting an employee benefits survey. Your survey results will help you offer benefits that your employees value the most.
Every employee has individual benefits preferences. The benefits a Gen Z worker desires will likely differ from that of a Baby Boomer employee. Keep this in mind while designing your benefits package and looking at the benefit ideas below.
According to the Harvard Business Review, these are the top benefits valued by job seekers:
- Health benefits such as health, dental, and vision insurance
- Flexible work schedules
- Paid vacation time
- Remote work
- Student loan assistance
- Tuition assistance
- Paid maternity/paternity leave
- Free gym membership
- Day-care services
- Fitness/yoga classes
We’ll break down these benefits and more in the sections below.
Traditional employee benefits
While this article will provide unique employee benefits ideas, it wouldn’t be a complete list without mentioning traditional employee benefits. Employers commonly offer these benefits, although many organizations now offer personalized benefits instead.
Providing education benefits to your employees is an excellent way to invest in your organization’s future. The more knowledge and skills your employees have, the better suited your organization will be to tackle new challenges.
You can also promote from within your organization to fulfill management and specialized roles. Helping your employees with their education allows them to develop their skills and apply for these new roles.
Education benefits are also a great way to show your current employees that you appreciate their hard work and care for their future.
There are many different types of education benefits that your organization can offer.
Student loan repayment plans
With the average student loan debt up to $37,113 and with 43.4 million borrowers having student loan debt in 2021, according to Education Data, offering a student loan repayment benefit can help you attract college graduates.
Student loan repayment remains an uncommon employee perk despite the number of employers offering it doubling to 8% in 2020, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
Student loan repayments made by employers are currently tax-advantaged through 2025. You can contribute up to $5,250 per employee each year without affecting your employees’ income.
Tuition assistance is a popular employee education benefit for many organizations. You can reimburse employees for their college education costs with a tuition assistance benefit. Many organizations require employees to present a passing grade or earn their diploma as a prerequisite for tuition reimbursement, but it isn’t required.
Professional development funds
In addition to college education benefits, employers can establish continuing education perks to encourage professional development. You can do this by offering time and money for employees to take courses and earn licenses and certifications in skills that can benefit your organization.
You can also provide group skills training for leadership, communication, and other topics.
Personalized health benefits
Health benefits remain one of the most popular and desired employee perks. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, health benefits options are more important than ever. Traditional health benefits such as group health insurance don’t work for all organizations.
These personalized health benefits give your employees more freedom to use their medical benefits.
We’ll look at a few common health benefits in more detail.
Health savings accounts (HSAs)
While you can’t offer health savings accounts (HSAs) on their own, you can pair them with a high deductible health plan (HDHP) if your organization provides group health insurance. An HSA allows you and your employees to contribute funds tax-free to a savings account for qualifying medical expenses.
This allows your employees to use their HSA funds on the medical expenses they find most valuable for them.
Health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs)
Health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) allow you to reimburse your employees for their qualifying medical expenses using tax-free money. HRAs are often a better fit for organizations than traditional group health insurance because they give your employees more freedom over their healthcare.
With an HRA, employees submit their expenses for reimbursement from your set monthly allowance. Once an expense is approved, you reimburse employees up to their allowance.
Three of the most popular types of HRAs are:
- Qualified small employer HRA (QSEHRA)
- The QSEHRA is designed for organizations with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs). A QSEHRA is capped at an annual contribution limit set by the IRS.
- Individual coverage HRA (ICHRA)
- Great for organizations of all sizes who want the ability to customize their benefit with eligible employee classes and no allowance caps. Employees must have individual health insurance with minimum essential coverage (MEC) to participate.
- Integrated HRA, also known as a group coverage HRA (GCHRA)
- Integrates with your existing group health insurance policy to supplement your benefit.
Another healthcare reimbursement option is a health stipend. A health stipend allows you to reimburse employees for their healthcare costs, similarly to an HRA. However, stipends are taxable for both the employer and the employee.
A health stipend is an excellent choice for organizations with employees who receive advance premium tax credits (APTC) because they can use their stipend and remain eligible for their APTC.
Providing paid time off (PTO) for your employees is essential for any employee benefits package. Employees need time to spend with their families, recharge, and take care of important tasks like going to the dentist.
PTO allows employees to relax and recharge so that they can come back to work feeling happier and more productive.
Here are a few PTO ideas for your organization.
Giving employees PTO for volunteering is a great way to promote selflessness and create a more positive work environment. According to Deloitte’s 2017 Volunteerism Survey, volunteerism can boost employee morale and create an uplifting work environment, all while helping your community or a cause that you’re passionate about.
Unlimited paid time off (PTO)
With a tight labor market, many organizations are moving from an accrual-based vacation system to unlimited PTO because of the tight labor market. This gives employees unlimited vacation time as long as they get their work done, and it doesn’t impact the organization's overall productivity.
Unlimited PTO often replaces separate systems for vacation time, sick leave, and mental health days, rolling them into a single benefit.
Providing unlimited PTO helps improve your employees’ quality of life, which will only come back to help your organization by reducing employee stress and improving overall productivity and culture.
Workplace events and outings
While events and workplace outings aren’t technically employee benefits, they are great perks that can create a vibrant company culture that promotes diversity and inclusion and makes everyone feel welcome.
Workplace events can occur during the workday, such as birthday celebrations, seminars, or DEI activities. But, events can also take place outside the workplace or after work hours. For example, you could throw a summer BBQ on the weekend and invite your staff or take everyone on a retreat full of team-building activities.
Employee events don’t need to be in-person either. Virtual events and games can be just as rewarding!
These events give your employees a chance to get to know one another personally. After the pandemic left many people feeling isolated, creating connections is more important than ever.
Providing financial wellness benefits can help your employees plan for their future and eliminate potential stressors that can carry over into the workplace.
Financial wellness benefits can include:
- Financial literacy programs
- Providing tools or access to financial advisors
- Classes and seminars
- Financial planning
Personalized employee rewards
Another personalized benefits trend that’s grown exponentially is custom employee rewards and experiences. These employee rewards programs are designed to improve company culture by delivering unique employee experiences for special occasions such as birthdays or work anniversaries.
They are also a great way to reduce employee turnover, as employees will want to stay at your organization to experience their employee rewards.
Personalized employee experiences include kayaking trips, vacations to other countries, spa days, and more.
You can also provide personalized employee rewards at a smaller scale, such as gift cards for popular stores or restaurants.
Americans spend a lot of time sitting in traffic or driving great distances to and from work each day. Even in 2020, when traffic levels dropped to a 40-year-low for much of the year, the 2021 Urban Mobility Report found that commuters still spent dozens of hours on the road.
For example, commuters in Seattle spent on average 31 hours sitting in traffic in 2020, while commuters in Boston spent 50 hours on average. These numbers weren’t just found in large urban areas, either. Even smaller metropolitan areas such as Omaha saw commuter traffic averages of 19 hours.
Offering commuter benefits can help cut down on traffic while giving your employees more time during their day to work on other projects.
Popular commuter benefits include rideshares, carpooling programs, transit passes for public transportation, and private shuttles.
Commuter benefits can improve your employees’ quality of life and help with recruitment in large urban areas.
Plus, some commuter benefits are tax-free.
Wellness benefits are one of the most desired employee benefits. According to MetLife’s 2022 Employee Benefits Trends Survey, 52% of respondents said health and wellness programs such as free gym memberships are a must-have in the workplace.
Establishing an employee wellness program is essential for reducing burnout and improving employee productivity.
Some popular employee wellness programs features are:
- Smoking cessation programs
- Employee health screenings
- Stress management classes
- Mental health programs
- Gym memberships
- Yoga or meditation classes
- Wellness stipends
A taxable wellness stipend is a great way to provide your employees with a flexible wellness benefit. You can reimburse your employees for their wellness expenses with a wellness stipend. Simply set up a monthly allowance for the categories you select, such as gym membership reimbursements or mobile wellness apps.
Your employees request reimbursements for the wellness expenses they want, giving them more freedom over their benefits.
Remote work and flexible schedules
Remote work and flexible work schedules are desirable benefits for employees. Remote work gives employees more free time and saves them money thanks to eliminating their commutes, but it can also save money for your organization.
On the other hand, flexible work hours allow employees to achieve a work-life balance that’s better for their mental and physical health.
If you have remote employees at your organization, you can provide them with additional employee benefits such as a remote work stipend. This gives employees a monthly allowance that they can use on their home office setup costs, internet access, and cell phone bills to ensure they have all the tools they need to be successful while working remotely.
Other perk considerations
To round out our guide of unique employee benefits ideas for all budgets, here are a couple of fun perks that you can try at your organization.
When the weather is warm, and the sun’s out, employees likely have weekend plans on their minds while finishing the workweek. Some organizations have begun offering half-days on Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day, while others give their employees the entire day off.
Each week, summer Fridays can be a fun perk that employees look forward to.
Care packages are another fun and relatively inexpensive employee perk that can improve morale. Each month you can give your employees a fun care package full of snacks or small gifts. This can be especially beneficial for remote workers who feel disconnected from your organization.
These care packages can be themed around holidays or company initiatives, such as Mental Health Awareness Month or the Fourth of July.
You can get creative and create these care packages yourself or use a third-party care package vendor.
Pet insurance is becoming a popular employee benefit thanks to increasing pet ownership and rising vet costs. According to the National Pet Owners Survey, 70% of U.S. households own a pet.
The number of pets insured rose to 3.1 million in 2020.
For employees who have beloved pets, offering pet insurance is a great perk that provides peace of mind and financial wellness.
Employee benefits are essential for attracting and retaining employees, improving morale, boosting productivity, and ensuring that your employees remain happy and healthy while at work. It’s best to offer a wide range of employee benefits to ensure your employees feel valued.
We hope this guide to unique employee benefits ideas for all budgets helped you gather ideas for your organization’s comprehensive employee benefits package. While not all of these ideas will work for every organization, there’s something for everyone. Remember, even a small budget or benefits package can significantly impact your employees’ lives.
If you’re interested in offering HRAs or employee stipends to your workforce, PeopleKeep can help! Our personalized benefits administration software helps you easily set up a new employee benefit in minutes.