While you most likely do not have an Olympic-sized swimming pool in your office complex or a professional chef cooking lunch for your employees each day, there are many ways you can offer competitive benefits to help retain your employees. While many small businesses worry about not being able to compete with the “big guys,” there are many ways to provide great benefits to your staff. And even though your pockets are not as deep as those of Google or Apple, as a small-business owner, you are able to customize your benefits to provide what specific employees really care about instead of just offering a laundry list of perks.
Here are eight competitive benefits that you can offer your employees:
1. Flexible working conditions. One of the most attractive benefits to employees nowadays is flexibility in terms of when and where they work. Many people will even stay at a job that pays less than another because it offers them work/life balance. Whenever possible, and without sacrificing customer service or productivity, allow your employees to work flexible hours or telecommute. Accessibility Partners, an IT compliance company, doesn’t require employees to work a 9 to 5 day. “As long as we meet deadlines, it does not matter when people are working and from where,” says Dana Marlowe, principal partner of Accessibility Partners, LLC. “We've found that this flexibility has allowed for work to be completed quicker, with less time lost.”
You can also provide flexibility by allowing employees to bring their babies, children and even dogs to work, within set guidelines. San Francisco-based 99designs allows employees to bring their pets with them to work on occasion. “Our employees say it’s incredible helpful to be able to bring dogs with them to work. It helps them care for the dogs better and makes their lives easier—and everyone here loves having dogs around,” says Lauren Gard, public relations manager.
2. Competitive health plans. Healthcare is a big issue with many employees, especially with all of the changes and proposed changes in recent years. One of the best benefits that you can give your employees is a top-notch health care plan with the lowest out-of-pocket costs. Great health care will help attract top candidates to your business and, even more importantly, keep your valued employees happy. Some small businesses even go as far as paying all healthcare premiums for their employees and their families.
3. Gym benefits. Offering employees access to quality workout facilities is another way to help your employees be both healthy and happy. 99designs provides employees with a membership to a gym with multiple locations, so they can work out either at lunch or when they are at home. Another option is to provide a gym stipend for employees to select their own fitness facility.
4. Wellness programs. By offering employees access to health information and wellness programs, you can add to the tools to help them better achieve work/life balance. Klemchuk Kubasta, a boutique intellectual property law firm in Dallas, works with a wellness expert to give daily support to employees. The firm also stocks the kitchen with a healthy snack of the week. “We also bring in a monthly speaker to talk about healthy lifestyle issues, ways to stay healthy at work and they always cater these with healthy foods that are also enjoyable,” says Darin Klemchuk, co-founder and managing partner.
5. Backup childcare services. Many working parents struggle with what to do when their child has an ear infection or their nanny is sick. You can take this worry off your employees' minds and decrease absenteeism due by providing backup child care for employees. Research options in your area for this service and pay for a certain number of days each year for each employee as a benefit.
6. Sick days instead of PTO. With many large companies moving to a Paid Time Off policy, where sick and vacation time is lumped together, consider allowing employees to use sick days as needed without using vacation time. Employees are more likely to stay home when really sick instead of sharing their germs, and this policy builds goodwill with employees because they feel valued. And they get to use their vacation time for recharging with their family instead of in bed nursing the flu.
7. Commuter benefits. With the cost of gas still high, some companies are now providing commuter benefits. While small businesses can’t pick up employees in vans like many of the large Silicon Valley companies, you can offer money towards parking, gas or public transportation. “We can set aside up to $125 of our monthly paycheck before taxes, and receive TransitChek cards to use to use for public transportation,” says Gard of 99designs. “Employees like how convenient it is, and that it provides some nice savings.”
8. Volunteering opportunities. Most people want to give back to their communities, but finding the time to do so with the pressure of work and family obligations can be challenging. By giving your employees paid hours for volunteering each year, they can use their gifts to help others while still having time for their families. Another option is to have the office volunteer together as group towards local causes to foster teamwork and help others, while at the same time earning some goodwill and recognition for your business.