Written by: Mark Donohue, CEO of LifeGuides
There was a time when employee benefits were fairly straightforward. Even at leading corporations, perks rarely went beyond the standard medical, dental and 401k package.
But as we’re seeing, that time is over.
Today, forward-thinking employers are offering workers everything from office nap pods to desk-side acupuncture. And perhaps surprisingly, they’re doing it with the bottom line in mind.
While these perks may be called “employee benefits,” in reality, corporations are seeing the reward, too.
A recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that when employee benefits improve, so do companies. Employers who offered competitive, strategic benefits experienced significant increases in overall company performance, recruitment success and employee retention.
“To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace,” says Douglas R. Conant, former president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company.
In the face of Campbell’s declining market value and mass layoffs, Conant led a successful turnaround while focusing on improving corporate culture. Last year, Campbell completed construction on a state-of-the-art childcare facility at the company’s Camden, New Jersey headquarters, proving that above-and-beyond benefits aren’t limited to Silicon Valley.
Campbell’s success story isn’t fiction, and it isn’t an exception. Here are 10 other benefits that savvy companies are offering in a bid to attract talent, retain valued workers, and increase profits.
These days, wellness benefits go far beyond subsidized gym memberships. Of companies that reported improving their benefits packages, 44% boosted their wellness offerings with perks such as on-site yoga, meditation and workout classes, found one SHRM survey. Twitter, known for its generous employee benefits, even offers office acupuncture.
Being proactive about the mental and physical health of employees pays off. Work-related stress is the leading workplace health problem. Meanwhile, overweight and obese employees miss about 450 million more days of work each year than healthy workers, reports the CDC. Productivity losses from missed work cost employers $225.8 billion—or $1,685 per employee—each year.
Hoping to retain Millennial parents, top companies offer paid time off to both men and women following the arrival of a child. Most tech companies offer generous paternal leave, but Netflix leads the pack with one fully paid year to moms and dads. Cisco even offers grandparents three extra days off to spend time with new grandchildren.
Families benefit, and so do companies. A study by researchers at Boston College found paid parental leave improved employee commitment, increased skills among workers covering for new parents and reduced healthcare costs for both mothers and babies.
Some companies are offering benefits with the entire family in mind—pets included. Amazon encourages employees to bring their dogs to work, meaning up to 6,000 pups may be lounging around the company’s Seattle headquarters on any given day. “They make employees smile, and we’re proud this is such a uniquely Amazonian tradition. It’s truly ingrained in our company culture,” explains Lara Hirschfield, Amazon’s “Woof Pack” Manager.
Companies such as Ticketmaster and Urban Outfitters even offer subsidized pet insurance.
Career Training & Leadership Programs
Recruiting for high-level positions is expensive and time consuming. Which is why increasingly, companies are investing in the futures of their employees by offering career training and leadership programs.
At AT&T University, employees can pursue web development, data analytics and entrepreneurship credentials. Amazon’s Career Choice Program offers hourly associates up to $12,000 to pursue certificates and associates degrees in fields as diverse as aircraft mechanics and nursing.
“We offer training paths that could very likely lead to opportunities and careers outside of Amazon, but we think if we can help people realize their dreams, we want to be a part of it,” said Steven Johnson, global leader for the Career Choice program.
Creative Paid Time Off
Vacation time and sick days are expected. But some companies are offering more creative paid time off to distinguish themselves from the average workplace.
Each year, employees at retailer REI receive two “Yay Days” to spend in the great outdoors. Vermont-based snowboarding brand Burton takes a similar stance. While many companies expect employees to log in from home on snow days, Burton supplies workers with season ski passes and encourages them to hit the slopes.
When an employee takes a day off, everyone benefits. Research shows that employees who use paid vacation time are more productive and happier with their jobs, reducing costly turnover.
Study after study has shown that employees with flexible schedules are happier, enjoy a better work-life balance and are more loyal to their companies.
Google’s famously laid-back culture allows for plenty of flex time. Employees can report to the office—where meals are free and ping-pong tables are plentiful—or work from home. “Clocking in” is all but unheard of at the tech giant, which is worth upwards of $750 billion and regularly ranks among the best companies to work for.
Increasingly, employers are offering money-management benefits—such as programs on retirement planning, student loan management, and home purchasing—to complement the standard 401k plan. By empowering employees beyond their paychecks, organizations inspire more loyalty and even increase productivity, found a survey by SHRM.
Napping on the job is usually frowned upon. But some companies are leaning in to our midday grogginess, even providing employees with designated napping areas.
At Google, employees can snooze in EnergyPods, futuristic bubbles featuring zero-gravity beds, sleep-inducing music and calming lights. Huffington Post’s headquarters features two napping rooms—appropriately named Napquest I and Napquest II—where staffers can recharge.
While it seems counterintuitive, sleeping on the clock may actually boost productivity. When it comes to improving memory, motor skills and perceptual learning, studies have found that naps are more effective than caffeine.
Life Challenge Support
Employees have lives outside the office—and sometimes, those lives can be challenging. Stressful events like divorce, grieving, financial trouble or caring for an elderly loved one can impact both an employee’s mental health and job performance. According to research by the World Health Organization, stress can lead to significant decreases in productivity, increased healthcare costs, and high turnover rates.
Although Life Challenges are inevitable, companies can assist employees during difficult times by offering compassionate, highly trained peer support. Peer support programs pair individuals experiencing hardships with others who have navigated similar situations, and the results are impressive. Numerous studies have shown that peer support can increase self-esteem, improve outlook and empower people to make important choices.
The Future of Employee Benefits
In today’s job market, a competitive benefits package is essential to attract and retain top talent.
But it’s not simply employees who benefit from pet-friendly offices and generous flex time. When companies invest in the health and happiness of employees and their families, the bottom line enjoys a boost, as well.
Perhaps the last word is best left to the one and only Richard Branson. An early adopter of the importance of company culture, he has long prioritized employee wellbeing at the Virgin Group.
“Clients do not come first,” once said Branson. “Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
Sometimes, to get the most out of employees, all it takes is changing your perspective.