Perks Your Employees Actually Want

While some companies win attention for over-the-top workplace benefits such as office slides, free CrossFit classes, on-site barbers and on-site car washes, employees actually want perks that are more down to earth.

Perks we want

They want to stay healthy. They want time to manage their non-work lives. They’d like the opportunity to work from home. And more vacation is great too.

Healthy Workers are Happier Workers

Admittedly, health insurance is costly for employers—about $6,000 per year per worker. But if you can find money in the budget, offering health insurance to employees can help your company hire talented people.

If you already offer health insurance, consider setting your company apart by adding dental and vision coverage. For example, for every adult 19 and older without overall medical insurance there are three more without dental insurance, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). To put some teeth in your policy, add better dental and vision coverage.

Bottom Line

Why overall health insurance is better than an office slide: Sliding down a slide is a scary fun way for employees to revisit childhood. But it’s even scarier to worry that a major medical event could mean bankruptcy. Employees who have health insurance aren’t distracted worrying about how they’ll pay for their diabetes medication, root canal, or heart attack.

Benefit to your company: You’ll save money and reduce absenteeism. Employed adults lose more than 164 million hours of work every year because of dental disease or dental visits, according to the NIH. As for vision care, employers who offer their workers stand-alone vision benefits experienced $5.8 billion cost savings over four years based on reduced healthcare costs, averted productivity losses, and lower turnover rates, according to a study conducted by HCMS Group.

Balancing Life with Flexible Schedules

When some companies advertise flexible schedules, what they really mean is the company’s needs are flexible, and employees are expected to work nights and weekends. What employees want in terms of flexible schedules are schedules that help them juggle their needs—children, pets, aging parents, doctor’s appointments, sleep schedules, and more. As long as they get their work done, they want some choice in the hours they actually do that work.

Many companies have core hours, for example from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when all employees need to be at their desks and available for meetings. Beyond those hours, employees can come in earlier or work later. Your early risers can work 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. while your night owls cover 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Bottom Line

Why flexible schedules are better than free CrossFit classes: CrossFit appeals to a narrow swath of would-be-buff employees. All workers will benefit from and appreciate a flexible work schedule. Plus you won’t lose productivity while the CrossFit employees brag about burpees and dead lifts.

Benefit to your company: Your employees will be working when they feel best and most productive. Workers will be in the office for longer hours so your clients are more likely to be able to reach someone on the phone as opposed to getting voice mail.

Getting More Done Wearing PJs and Fuzzy Socks

Telecommuting, or working from home, is one of the top perks workers request. They save money on gas, parking, office clothing, dry cleaning, and meals out. They save commuting time. They don’t have to dress up or worry about getting to and from work in bad weather.

When some bosses think of employees working from home, they imagine their staff slacking off away from the watchful eye of management.  In many cases workers are more productive at home.

In a nine-month study at Chinese travel site Ctrip, call center employees who worked from home completed 13.5 percent more calls than the staff in the office did. Ctrip got almost an extra workday a week out of them. The work-at-home employees in the study also quit at half the rate of people working in the office. Not surprisingly, they also reported higher job satisfaction.

Bottom Line

Why telecommuting is better than an on-site car wash:  Adding an onsite car wash can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Allowing employees to telecommute can actually save money. Ctrip saved $1,900 per employee during the nine-month study.

Benefit to your company: You can delay expanding your facility and parking because you’ll need space for fewer workers. And you may see higher productivity and higher worker retention.

More Vacation Time

A little extra time off, and the encouragement to take it, can go a long way in hiring top-quality employees and ensuring loyalty. Nearly one-fourth of American workers get no vacation at all, according to “No Vacation Nation,” a report by The Center for Economic and Policy Research. For those who do get vacation, the average is only 10 days per year. That compares to 20 days a year in Europe.  Adding 5 or 10 more vacation days per employee could put your company ahead of others competing for top talent. Some companies, concerned about the accounting liability of untaken vacation time, have switched to unlimited time off—trusting workers will take the right amount of time for them.

Fostering a culture that encourages employees to actually take that vacation time off is just as important as offering it. To ensure a true break, don’t contact your employees while they’re away.

Bottom Line

Why more vacation time is better than an on-site barber: A free haircut is nice. But employees may not like the barber your company hired. And how’s the bald guy going to benefit? More time off works for everyone.

Benefit to your company: Your employees will be relaxed, refreshed and ready to be more productive when they return from a break.

When you add benefits employees actually want, your workers will be healthier, happier, and more likely to stay. If they want a sliding board, they can go to the local park.

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