You found our guide to the best employee benefits packages and perks at work.
Employee benefits packages are forms of non-wage compensation offered to employees in addition to salary. Standard benefit packages usually include medical coverage, retirement plan options, and paid time off. Employee perks are extras, such as rewards, services, facilities or activities, available to employees. Examples of employee perks include bonuses, unlimited snacks, and team outings.
This article includes:
- best employee benefits packages for older workers
- top employee benefits for work from home
- employee engagement perks
- employee perks for remote workers
- best employee retention perks
- free employee perks
Let’s get started.
List of the best employee benefits
From medical to time off to parental leave, here is a list of basic employee benefit options.
1. Health insurance
Health insurance is one of the most important employee benefits. Access to comprehensive medical coverage can influence an employee’s decision to accept a job offer or to continue with a company instead of retiring early or seeking employment elsewhere. In a perfect world, quality healthcare would be free and available to all. In our current climate, there are many costs associated with maintaining a functional healthcare system, and low-cost medical insurance is increasingly rare in countries like the United States.
When selecting a health plan for your employees, you should aim for affordable and functional possibilities. No plan is perfect, and your employees will likely have to pay some premiums and deductibles. Because your staff will have a variety of circumstances, you should offer multiple options so that employees can pick the plan that best suits their needs; many companies offer three tiers with varying levels of coverage or deductibles.
You may also want to look into telehealth options when choosing a package. Telehealth allows patients to meet with a physician without visiting a physical office, saving time and allowing employees to seek treatment during off hours. Mail order pharmacies and prescription benefit plans are other convenient features to consider.
Though health insurance can be an investment for both the employee and employer, this benefit is crucial. Untreated conditions can worsen over time, and even more innocuous ailments like colds and bugs can spread to other employees or affect performance. Healthier employees mean a healthier company, so organizations should invest in staff’s wellbeing.
2. Paid time off
Time off is one of the most important benefit considerations. As workers increasingly prioritize work-life balance, vacation time becomes even more crucial. Professionals utilize paid time off not only to take a break from work, but also to tend to outside responsibilities: undergoing surgeries and medical treatment, celebrating non-mainstream holidays, caretaking family members, touring or moving kids into colleges, visiting faraway family, pursuing education, or launching a side hustle, to name a few. Yet employees also need time to rest and recharge still, so employers should provide enough time off to accommodate a wide range of needs.
Average time off varies from country to country. In the US, two workweeks tends to be standard for vacation, though some companies offer more or less. Some organizations have even adopted unlimited vacations, though skeptics criticize that this approach actually results in almost no vacation. Regardless of the amount of days offered, companies should nurture a culture that applauds rather than shames taking time off, as breaks can prevent burnout, boost productivity and satisfaction, and help employees to refocus and recharge.
Paid time off falls into a few different categories:
- Vacation, or time used exclusively for trips and relaxation
- Sick time, used for illness or doctors visits
- PTO, general personal time, used at the discretion of the employee under company guidelines
- Holidays, time off for national holidays. Varies greatly by industry and country. Often employers who cannot give these days off compensate with holiday pay. Some companies also offer floating holidays that allow employees to choose to take off the day before or after a holiday.
You will want to standardize your time off policies, even if policies differ based on employment type or level. You should also decide at what rate time off accrues, blockout any nonredeemable dates at year’s start, and specify how time off will increase as employees gain seniority.
Employers can choose to cover all, part, or none of the costs of a dental health plan. Regardless, employees should have access to options. Dental insurance is usually supplemental coverage; employees can choose whether or not to enroll in a plan. At minimum, most plans opt for preventative care such as check-ups, cleaning, and x-rays. Many basic plans cover restorative care like cavities, or may offer a discounted rate for procedures. Corrective and cosmetic care are less often covered, but you may be able to secure a reduced rate for your organization.
When choosing a plan, you should understand the scope of the services and the responsibilities of each party: your company, your employee, and the insurer. You will also want to pay attention to the size and location of the network. You do not want to choose a plan where the only covered providers are far away or overbooked. Research can save you from later pain. Not to mention, picking the right plan can prevent your employees from having to soldier through many workdays with a toothache. Looking out for your teammates’ teeth means that you can keep your employees smiling.
Vision is also generally optional. Not everybody needs the coverage. Some teammates have twenty-twenty vision, while others cannot cope without glasses or contacts. Eye health is important and necessary for the workplace, and your company should offer some kind of vision plan.
First, you should check whether your current health plan offers an add-on for vision. Pay structures are often similar to dental plans, with differing employer or employee contributions. You will also want to check the network. Plans with a few different provider options are preferable, and larger companies may want to gravitate towards plans with chains that operate in multiple locations. Thanks to the internet, individuals can get classes and contacts from cheap consumer-direct eyewear companies. You will want to make sure any vision plans provide savings on-par or better than these wholesalers, otherwise the latter might be the more sensible option.
Good vision is especially important to safety-sensitive roles, but can affect the performance of any position. If your pre-employment process includes a post hire exam, then chances are the providers will test the candidate’s vision; you should check with the doctor’s office to confirm. Either way, if you do not offer vision insurance, then you may still want to offer semi-regular vision exams.
Basic Snellen chart vision tests tend to run cheap, and you may be able to hire an occupational medicine provider to test your staff on-site for a package rate. Deterioration in vision can be harder to detect than you think; I had no clue about my nearsightedness until I had to renew my driver’s license. Regular eye exams ensure that your staff can see clearly with no slowdowns.
5. Life insurance
Life insurance is a special type of insurance policy that pays money to beneficiaries upon the insured’s death. Though some folks buy individual plans from an independent party, many organizations offer life insurance as part of the benefits package. Before researching third-party providers, you should determine whether your current health plan offers supplemental life insurance. Many insurers bundle these services to optimize for organizations. If you do seek a third-party option, then you will want to pay attention to the terms and conditions to ensure that the plan is cost-effective.
The three types of life insurance are:
- Term life insurance, which lasts for a fixed amount of time
- Whole life insurance, which lasts a lifetime as long as payments continue
- Universal life insurance, which is similar to whole life insurance, but also offers investment options
When choosing a plan, you will want to weigh the coverage against the costs. You can also find combination plans that mix elements of different plan types.
Retirement plans typically consist of funding from employees, employers, and the federal government. These programs are attractive to staff because workers can build up savings more quickly, since employers often match contributions. Though retirement is important for all employees, programs are especially vital employee benefits for older workers who are closer to an exit from the workforce.
In the US, 401(k) plans tend to be the most popular employer-based retirement options. Employers and employees both contribute pre-tax payroll towards the fund, up to a certain amount. A portion of this money goes towards stocks and bonds, and investments that will hopefully offer a return and speed up the savings process.
Methods such as a traditional IRA and Roth IRA in the USA, or RRSP and TFSA in Canada allow for tax-free growth with more flexibility in investment choices. Other schemes exist and come with separate advantages and disadvantages. You can find a comprehensive guide to different US retirement plan types on the IRS website.
When selecting a retirement plan for your company, you should consider the contribution amounts, potential returns, and management fees. You will also want to study the timelines and costs associated with withdrawals. You should compare several plans before deciding on one.
Because retirement planning is a confusing process, you may also want to hold regular education sessions to help employees understand and select a plan that best fits.
For virtual teams, we recommend hosting an office retirement party.
While some folks may consider relocation assistance to be a work perk, if your talent pool spans a wide geographical area, then relocation help should be a standard in your package. Of course, you may not want to offer this benefit across the board. While funding a cross country move for a specialized engineer may make sense, relocating a more easily-filled role may be unnecessary.
Many relocation packages cover transportation such as plane or train tickets or car rentals and gas, moving company costs, and even hotel and dining during the transition or house hunt.
Relocation assistance benefits employees at all professional levels. Early career workers may not possess the means to move across the country to take a chance on a new job, while later career professionals often have families and established households to uproot. Funding or assisting with the move might mean the difference between the candidate accepting or passing on the job offer.
8. Stock options
Companies often offer stock options to supplement salaries. This benefit most frequently applies to executives and higher management, but some organizations extend the benefits through multiple ranks. The New York Times even published a story about Google’s first office masseuse making millions thanks to a payout of stock options.
Stock options can make modest salaries seem more attractive, and can also grant workers a greater sense of ownership in the company. Staff who own shares are more interested in increasing the company’s performance because better profits for the company mean better personal profits too. Startups tend to favor this model as a way to lure top talent despite funding constraints.
Stock programs allow employees to buy company stocks at a low price and potentially sell at a higher price. Usually there is a time period where employees can buy. Staff must wait until the stock “vests” or reaches maturity before cashing in or selling, making stock options a persuasive employee retention benefit.
You will want to outline the vesting schedule for your employees, and also distinguish the difference between stock levels, as not all stocks hold the same value. For more information on stock options, you can check out this helpful article from the Harvard Business Review.
9. Tuition and loan assistance
More professionals attend college now than at any other point in history. Not just young professionals either. According to a Forbes article, college enrollment of students 50 years or older is so high that adult learners are actually the majority of degree seekers in America. With these statistics in mind, tuition and loan assistance become very attractive employee benefits.
Offering educational assistance can help you attract high-quality candidates with specialized skills, or candidates invested in continuing education. Loan programs can also help reduce turnover rates, since employees will want to remain with the company to see the benefit to fruition and will be grateful for the help with schooling.
For best results, you will want to lay out the terms of your program. Many companies lay out grade requirements and reimburse after course completion, but some pay up front conditionally. Some organizations require workers to remain with the company for a certain number of years to receive or avoid having to repay the credit.
You will also want to decide what areas of study and schools your program covers.
10. Parental leave
Many professionals want to start families. Parental leave allows employees to take a leave of absence from a role for the sake of welcoming a new family member. Parental leave allows employees to create and grow families without sacrificing employment or career growth.
The term “parental leave” usually conjures the image of maternity leave, where a pregnant female professional takes sabbatical to give birth and care for a newborn, but this concept can extend to non-birth family additions such as adoption and foster care too. Paternity leave refers to a father taking time off to bond with and tend to a new child.
While mandatory parental leave is standard in some countries, in others this benefit is at the discretion of the employer. You may want to offer parental leave options, especially if you notice a pattern of employee turnover for this reason. If you cannot leave, then you may at least consider providing flexible working hours or work from home options for new parents.
11. Remote work options
Remote work is a gray area between perks and benefits. Though companies do not have to provide work from home options, a majority of job seekers and job holders desire more flexibility in the work environment. According to the Harvard Business Review, 80% of workers surveyed wanted work from home options. In the poll, remote work tied with vacation time and was second only to health insurance and more flexible work hours.
While experts might consider remote work a perk in the present, chances are that in the future telecommuting options will become a standard benefit. Employees tend to be more focused and productive, and virtual offices are more cost-efficient for employers.
There are few reasons not to adopt a virtual work model. One argument against remote work is that employees feel lonely and less close to colleagues, but employers can remedy this disconnect with virtual team building.
Remote work also has vast implications for other benefits on this list, for instance slowing the spread of germs and keeping staff healthier, and allowing parents to minimize childcare costs.
Organizations that do not want to go fully virtual can always adopt a hybrid model and allow employees to work offsite a few days a week. This method allows for greater flexibility and balance, and produces more satisfied employees.
12. Home office allowance
As remote work becomes more common, more organizations adopt home office allowances. One of the most important employee benefits for work from home is to provide a stipend so employees can secure all necessary tools and equipment.
Companies like Google supply up to $1000 for employees to furnish home offices, and even a couple of hundred dollars can go a long way. These funds can go towards purchasing furniture, laptops, sound blocking headphones, modems and routers, internet services, and other work accessories.
Despite the upfront costs, these measures produce a return on investment in the form of employee productivity and commitment. Plus, funding the home office setup reduces inequality that might favor candidates who can afford to self-fund high speed internet and higher-end computers over talented candidates of limited means.
13. Employee referral bonus
Employees that enjoy working at your company are often willing to refer friends and family for new roles. Since this contribution is above and beyond normal expectations for their role, a great way to recognize it is with an employee referral program perk. For example, you could pay a bonus after the new hire has worked with your organization for three months.
Here is our guide to employee referral bonus programs.
List of employee perks
From paid meals to development opportunities to company retreats, here is a list of perks to raise employee morale and increase retention rates.
Bonuses are the definition of an employee perk. Companies routinely offer bonuses to thank staff for effort and loyalty to incentivize improved performance. The amount of bonuses varies based on performance rubrics and profits, and organizations could choose to adjust or skip bonuses depending on earnings.
Holiday bonuses are an annual tradition across many organizations, but companies might also offer bonus pay following a particularly successful quarter or a period of extreme challenge. Many companies also offer bonuses for referring qualified candidates.
Bonuses typically arrive in the form of an extra check or direct deposit, and employers might also offer non-monetary rewards such as vacations, gift cards, dinners or lunches with the CEO, tickets to a show or sporting event, or extra time off. You could even offer innovative bonuses such as funding for side projects, exclusive access to company events, or a prize of the employee’s choice.
2. Meals and snacks
Few perks are as universal as food. While far-off commuters might favor remote work perks and parents may prefer child care assistance, everybody needs to eat, and almost everybody enjoys eating. Food has mighty uniting powers, and snack breaks and shared meals can help facilitate team bonding. Not to mention, catering and stocking the office pantry is more time-efficient, since having food on hand saves employees the time of leaving the office to grab a bite.
Many companies supply complimentary snacks to fuel staff. Conscientious organizations tend to favor healthy options like fruit, veggies, yogurt, and whole grain goodies, but stress snacking on chocolate is occasionally necessary. You can poll employees and take requests to ensure you buy a variety that pleases your entire staff.
Snack-time sparks light conversation, and you may want to inspire deeper discussion. Team dinners and team building lunches are even more nourishing than snack breaks. During full meals, teammates can have longer conversations and make deeper connections. Plus, occasionally catering or covering meals saves employees money and can supplement a modest salary.
3. Company retreats
Folks enjoy an occasional getaway. Yet many workers check emails or perform other job tasks on vacation. Disconnecting from the office is much easier when the entire office disconnects simultaneously. One of the benefits of company retreats is that the whole team takes off together, meaning minimal distractions and interruptions. During team building retreats, teammates can focus fully on bonding and building skills. Corporate retreats are major employee engagement perks, since these affairs both treat staff and connect employees to company culture.
Organizations may book days at a local attraction or resort, or may even host the weekend on owned land such as a company cabin or centralized campus. Retreats usually involve a mix of activities such as team building games, seminars, meals, entertainment, and unstructured free time. Though work does occasionally occur in the form of lessons or meetings, mostly these retreats are a chance to relax, reset, and mingle with coworkers. Employers typically foot the bill and sometimes pay employees regular wages too, meaning that staff receive complimentary food, lodging, and fun while getting to network with peers and advance careers.
Here is a guide with ideas for remote retreats.
4. Fitness perks
As the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle became evident, more companies are adopting fitness-based perks that encourage employees to adopt healthier habits.
Examples of fitness perks include:
- On-site gyms
- Discount or reimbursement on gym memberships
- Online workout access
- Wearable athletic devices like FitBits or smartwatches
- Home fitness equipment
- Subscription to wellness apps
- Consultations with a personal trainer or nutritionist
- Treadmill desks, standing desks, or yoga ball chairs
- Walk breaks
Check out our list of team building workouts for more ideas.
Because fitness takes motivation and means, a boost from the boss can make adopting a wellness routine much easier. Not to mention, regular exercise improves physical and mental health, meaning employees will be more present and productive.
You can also develop an employee wellness program.
5. Employee recognition
Recognition is an important employee engagement strategy. Every team member wants to feel that their work is being seen, valued, and appreciated. Organizations use many different acknowledgement tactics, and several recognition methods fall into the category of free employee perks.
Employee recognition perk ideas:
- Customized trophies or plaques
- Labelled parking spaces
- Feature on the company website or social media page
- Peer shout-outs
- Award ceremonies
- Handwritten thank-you from the president or CEO
- Point system and catalogue of rewards
- Celebrate work anniversaries and birthdays
There are many other ways you can shout out your crew for being great. Acknowledging hard work and achievement increases an employee’s desire to perform. Creating a culture of recognition is a recipe for success, because amplifying the praise maximizes drive and positive energy.
Check out our list of employee appreciation quotes to help give recognition.
We also have a post on how to do employee of the month.
Many companies offer discounts on a variety of services and products. The employee discount is the most common example of this perk. Often, workers and immediate family members can buy company products at a bargain price. This perk satisfies staff and also attracts teammates who are fans of the brand and thus much more likely to be passionate about the product.
Occasionally, organizations will partner with third party vendors to introduce discount programs that span a wider range of services. Discount plans can help employees feel special and further cement a group identity.
Employee discount programs might include:
- Movie tickets
- Tickets to entertainment like concerts and sporting events
- Admission to industry or community events, such as conferences or city food festivals
- Vacations, including attractions, hotels, and rental cars
- Dry cleaning services
- Parking, tolls, or other commuting costs
In addition to reduced prices, some initiatives also offer exclusive access, early admission or pre-sales to members. You should research plans before making selections. Certain providers are more reputable than others, and some companies sell member data, so read terms and conditions carefully. You may also be able to custom build a plan with your city’s chamber of commerce or local businesses directly.
7. Child care assistance
Working while raising small children is hard. Child care is not cheap, and many professionals either rely on family to watch kids during the workday, budget for daycare, or make tough career calls based on having children. The circumstance can limit a person’s professional choices, especially when weighing whether to relocate for a job.
Many parents choose to temporarily leave the workforce because the costs of daycare match or exceed half the household income. For this reason, child care assistance is one of the most powerful employee retention perks.
The perk can take many forms:
- Stipend for child supervision
- In-house company daycare
- Babysitting during corporate events
- List of recommendations and resources
- Flexible working hours
- Designated pumping and nursing areas
- Allowing children in the office for extenuating circumstances
Juggling family and work is an ever-growing reality of the modern world. By offering child care assistance, you can give employees more financial and professional freedom, and retain top talent within your company.
8. Development opportunities
Professionals want to keep learning. An astounding 93% of respondents would remain at a company that invests in staff’s careers, according to a LinkedIn Workforce Learning Report.
Many professionals leave jobs out of necessity, feeling like the only way to advance career wise is to jump to a new company. Yet if organizations offered more advancement and training opportunities, staff would be more likely to stay. After all, job searching and switching roles requires a great deal of time and energy. Employees who can achieve the same growth within a current company can forego those efforts and focus on learning and levelling up.
Examples of workplace development opportunities:
- Mentorship programs
- Lunch and learns
- Peer networking groups
- Online training sessions and webinars
- Manager coaching
- Certification and training courses
- Stipend to develop skills
Providing development opportunities signals that a company cares about an employee’s future by showing a commitment to unlock the teammate’s true potential.
9. Travel or meal reimbursement
Employers should cover work-related travel expenses. There is no reason that employees should need to fund trips to visit clients or faraway branches from personal funds, at least not without getting reimbursed after the fact. Still, travel and meal reimbursement is often seen as a perk. Getting paid to travel and dine out is a dream for many.
If operations include frequent trips, then you should develop a company travel reimbursement policy. You will want to outline which forms of transportation, lodging, and meals the program covers. You may designate a preferred hotel chain that offers your organization a discount, or mandate that employees fly economy on short trips.
Some employers specify a daily or weekly budget. Either way, you should encourage employees to log expenses regularly, and should regularly check costs to ensure the team does not exceed the limit. This way, when a quarter proves to be costly, you can adjust mid-course and opt for lower-cost alternatives.
You may also consider extending your policy to cover beyond business trips. For instance, you may reimburse gas, mileage, tolls, and parking for events like conferences, retreats, or team building outings. You might also want to offer assistance for personal travel by providing a partial vacation stipend or partnering with a travel program like AAA.
10. Care packages
Employee perks for remote workers present more of a logistical challenge than perks for centralized workers. While you can order lunch for the entire office at once or hand out swag up and down the hallways, providing these same goodies to telecommuters requires more organization, manpower, and trips to the mailroom.
Most work from home perks translate into reimbursements and stipends, which seem less tangible and personable. You can give perks a more intimate touch by sending employees care packages. Care packages are like getting a present from a friend, and can make remote employees feel valued and included. You can custom assemble a package with items like succulents, cookies, candles, stationary, or whatever else your employee enjoys, or you can order a themed box from a site like Cratejoy.
11. Company parties
Company parties allow employees to unwind and relax while socializing with colleagues. Parties can be a great chance for coworkers to connect, especially for distributed teams who get fewer opportunities to interact. Celebrations can also be a way for bosses to thank employees for great efforts and results.
Most organizations host at least one large annual party, typically at Christmas time. Yet companies can also throw bashes to commemorate the completion of a project, the end of a season, or a particularly fruitful quarter. Departments also host smaller parties to celebrate minor holidays like Valentines Day or personal successes such as promotions or engagements.
Remote teams can join the festivities by holding virtual company holiday parties or other virtual team celebrations. Online holiday parties allow distanced teammates to connect and have fun and strengthen the sense of community among the team.
How to choose employee perks and benefits: 3 Tips
Selecting employee benefit packages is an important responsibility that requires substantial research. Here are a few helpful tips that will help you structure your search and decision making process.
Tip #1: Compare notes with industry leaders
Because you will compete for talent against other industry leaders, you will want to compare notes with your competitors and make sure your perks and benefits measure up. Your programs do not need to be identical to your rivals’; in fact, your offerings should be distinct. Yet the package should be comparable and attractive enough to sway candidates to your company.
Some organizations are transparent about pay and benefits and openly post compensation rates. If not, then sites with user-generated data like Glassdoor may be able to give you an accurate picture. You could also scan competitors’ job postings, or ask employees or industry acquaintances who have worked for those other companies to comment on the benefits.
You can also look to outside industries for inspiration. Companies with high employee satisfaction levels and great bottom lines are the organizations to emulate. While you should keep pace with your own industry’s standards, you can also borrow from other fields or test your own ideas. Trailblazing new concepts might just put you ahead in the hiring curve.
Tip #2: Ask your employees
No one knows your employees’ wants and needs better than your employees. Instead of speculating or relying purely on third-party data, you can head straight to the source and ask your people what they want. Of course, this will be more of a wish list than a list of demands. While your employees may want premium-free health insurance and two months of annual vacation, this might not be possible.
Chances are, your employees will have a sense of what is reasonable, and will keep requests plausible. You can use surveys to find out your employees’ priorities so that you can decide which benefits to introduce first. Your employees might even contribute a new idea or a helpful provider lead.
Perks are much more flexible than benefits, and linked more closely to personal preferences than need. By asking your employees for opinions, you can design perks that delight and inspire your crew, plus you will make your staff feel heard and valued to boot.
Tip #3: Do not try to replace company culture with perks
Perks are extras, not substitutes. Just like you cannot call a bowl full of cherries a sundae, you cannot expect perks to take the place of company culture. A gym membership or free lunches will not fix poor communication, an overly-competitive atmosphere, or lack of accountability. You need to consciously build a rich company culture by embodying organizational values and training strong team building leaders.
Perks are a way to advertise your company culture, not to build it entirely. You can show off your vibrant community through team building events, but you must also encourage camaraderie and cooperation in the office. Fitness perks show that you care about your employees’ health, but staff wellbeing also means not overworking your crew.
Creating a positive work environment extends beyond offering extras. Bonuses like discounts, awards, and retreats are occasional, but attitude and behavior are everyday. Thus, perks can be proof of commitment to the employee experience, but should not be the only proof.
Here is a list of ways to improve company culture.
Gone are the days when companies traded cold hard cash for a few hours of honest work, with no further frills. In fact, those days never really existed. Turn of the century coal towns offered employees houses, grocery stores, and social services too. Throughout history, work has rarely, if ever, been about just the paycheck.
We also have a list of return to office incentives and perks.