As of January 2019, the unemployment rate in the U.S. was at four percent, the lowest in more than a decade. In such a competitive landscape, it has become crucial for employers to be thoughtful and creative in their benefit offerings to attract and retain talent.
But, how creative is too creative? Unique benefits may attract some excellent employees, but they come with their own set of pros and cons. These offerings can range from new takes on traditional benefits, to lifestyle supplements, to frivolous offerings. Here are some ways you can make unique benefits work for your business:
Refreshing Traditional Benefits
A good place to start is to refresh traditional benefit offerings, such as paid parental leave, enhanced time off, or flexible and remote work options. While these benefits don’t work for every industry, they have been shown to increase employee satisfaction by offering greater work-life balance and increased productivity.
To ensure employees don’t abuse these policies, stipulations can be added to employee handbooks. Within employee handbooks, employers should address how abusing the policy can lead to termination and include an encouraged minimum amount of time off to help provide boundaries. To ensure employees aren’t abusing remote or flexible work options, time tracking tools, such as Teramind, can encourage productivity and keep track of remote employees’ productivity.
Introducing Lifestyle Benefits
Lifestyle benefits are a little harder to implement because they can be costly and/or create legal complexities. A few examples of lifestyle benefits include pet-friendly offices or employee provided snacks or meals. These types of benefits can lead to reduced stress and improved morale. Pets and food, in particular, can promote teamwork and communication because people enjoy talking about pets and sharing a meal or a snack together. Both of these options can work especially well in industries such as design, marketing, or tech because pets can boost creativity and productivity.
However, the risks of these benefits are often higher and harder to address in employee handbooks. Having a pet-friendly office brings the risk of distraction to the pet owner who will need to keep an eye on the dog and take them out for walks. It can also open the door to legal liabilities if dogs become aggressive in an unfamiliar environment. Offering snacks or meals in the office can be expensive and put employees with food allergies at risk.
In order to successfully introduce these benefits, employers should be sure to work with employees to determine which benefits would best suit them. Get their buy-in and they will be more likely to appreciate the company’s efforts to create a better work environment.
Stipulations might be included in employee handbooks to keep everyone safe. For example, employers could designate specific days that pets are allowed to visit the office to provide those who are uncomfortable around animals the option to work from home. If employers are offering snacks and meals to employees they should be able to cover at least a portion of the cost and include any food allergens in signage.
Taking the Frills Out of Frivolous Benefits
The most ‘fun’ benefits can be the most frivolous. Large companies offer things such as Netflix subscriptions, free alcohol in the office, beanbag chairs, nap pods, and more. While these sound like great benefits, they can be unnecessary and not always welcomed. According to a survey by Fractl, most employees prefer traditional benefits such as health insurance, flexible hours, and the option to work from home.
If a company has the capital to provide these benefits, they can offer them as part of the benefits package. An attorney should be consulted to ensure compliance and identify risks for things like offering office happy hours.