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Work Benefits

8 work benefits beyond health insurance and retirement funds

  • 5-min read

Employee health insurance and retirement funds are still important, but so are a Peloton and free Uber Eats. Here are some top employee benefits being offered in 2022.

Employee working from home enjoys a more creative employee benefit package than ever before, including things like pet insurance
MarioGuti / Getty Images

When you’re negotiating a new job, be sure to ask about pet insurance for your Covid puppy and discounts on cryopreservation. Yes — you read that right. In today’s job market, employees have the upper hand, and they’re after enhanced benefits like wellness perks, flexible work arrangements, and a home-office budget. In fact, 57% of employees surveyed by Glassdoor said employee benefits were a top consideration for taking a job.

A history of work benefits

Benefits have come a long way since 1636, when Plymouth — now a slice of Massachusetts — paid out what is believed to be the first pension plan for employees. But the landscape is shifting dramatically. Millennials and GenZers have done to employee benefits what they did to their parent’s business casual dress code – giving it a serious upgrade with mom jeans and Doc Martens. In response, many companies are upping the ante.

In a recent survey of companies with 500 or more employees, three-quarters of employers said addressing their workers’ mental and emotional health will be a top priority in the next three to five years, compared to just 44% in 2019. A few decades ago, employees’ mental wellness was like a streak of pink in your hair in a corporate office—not on the table.

The 8 top employee benefits

To respond to a rapidly changing workplace, companies are surveying their employees on what they need to succeed and feel supported.

Flexible-work arrangements

The office is now an employee’s living room, basement, fire escape, and even car (this story comes to you from the party room of an indoor trampoline park). Even as offices reopen, workers want the option to work from home or go hybrid. To accommodate work and family, some also want to build their own schedule. (Punching in from 9 to 5 seems so 2019, you know?) With flex time, employees can shift work earlier or later or into chunks of the day, when they’re available and can be most productive.

Physical and mental wellness

…and we’re not talking about medical and dental. Today’s workers want an employee benefits plan that provides physical and mental wellness.  After a grueling stretch juggling work, family, and health, workers are requesting easy access to mental health services, including telehealth therapy, in-person counseling, and meditation apps. Teach for America, for one, offers its employees and alumni free access to the meditation app Headspace.  

To stay fit—and sane—they’re also seeking expanded fitness benefits. Companies are offering free gym memberships and virtual classes, new on-site facilities, and even discounts on home equipment like Peloton bikes. Want to make sure you look good on Zoom? A handful of companies, including Google, Genetech, and Ulta Beauty, offer free or discounted beauty services, including haircuts and manicures—Alexa, play “Sugar Baby” by Megan Thee Stallion.

To help workers survive marathon workdays, Citibank encourages staffers to carve out a meeting-free time from noon to 1 p.m., encouraging their teams to break for lunch, take a walk, or catch up on personal tasks, and also video-free Fridays. (Sorry, you’re still expected to dial into audio calls.) Crying in your Sweetgreen salad about your workload hits different when you have some peace and quiet and don’t have to be Zoom-ready.

Family and pet benefits

Taking care of your family has never been more important—and that includes any dogs, cats, gerbils, and chickens you adopted to cope with the pandemic (no judgment). When it comes to family- and pet care, workers want enhanced employee benefits.

For humans, employees are offering access to and vouchers for childcare, including credits for daycare or nanny services and backup childcare and eldercare support. To help employees start a family someday, companies as varied as Cisco, DoorDash, and Ernst & Young are among firms that offer reimbursement for egg freezing, which can run as much as $20,000. To care for furry friends, pet insurance, stipends for pet care like dog walkers, and the option to bring their pet to the office can all be part of the package.

Home-office perks 

We all need a Room Rater-approved Zoom background. Employers can help by sending office-grade furniture and equipment, including monitors, standing desks, ergonomic keyboards, and desk chairs—or padding employee paychecks with a home-office allowance.

Recognition and rewards

In the old days (like back when you actually swapped your PJ pants for khakis), if you landed a big client or hit your sales goals, you’d want a bonus or a salary bump. Today’s workers still want monetary incentives, but they’re also willing to accept recognition and rewards for a job well done. A growing number of companies, including Hitachi, Meredith, Patagonia, and Keiser-Permanente, are introducing online recognition programs. On these platforms, employees and managers can give shoutouts to coworkers and award points that can be exchanged for rewards or experiences. (Think a new pair of sunglasses or a spa day.)  Companies are also honoring workers by donating to their favorite nonprofits or organizing company volunteer days.

Career development

Employees expect regular reviews and insight on their career journey. Employers can respond with career development services, including coaches, mentorship programs, and skills training. Eventbrite provides free access to 18,000 online courses on Udemy, ranging from web design to photography to public speaking. These efforts could help weather the Great Resignation; according to a recent LinkedIn survey, 94% of employees said they’d stay at a company longer if they were offered career development and support.

Flexible leave

Sick days, personal days, vacation days—what was the point of the delineation anyway? Paid time off (PTO) is more popular now, where employees can use their time off for any reason, including caring for family members and pets, for illness or medical care, personal obligations, and, of course, much-needed vacations. As an added benefit, employers can award paid volunteer time off, or VTO. Portland, Ore.-based Umpqua Bank, for one, gives its staffers up to 40 hours of paid VTO per year. 

In-office perks

When employees need to be in the office, they want it to be welcoming and fun. In response, firms are ponying up for meal delivery service, drinks—including beers on tap and wine tastings—and free meals. Remember office parties with cake and paper plates? The latest in-office events are amped-up gatherings with guest speakers, concerts, improv classes, and even dance parties. To soften the sting of commuting, employers are stepping up with rideshare services, parking and public transportation vouchers, and gas reimbursement. 

The modern HR benefits menu

In today’s red-hot job market, workers want enhanced employee benefits that address their expanded personal and professional needs. When employees are happy and healthy and feel employers are responsive to their needs, they’re more likely to be productive and stick around. After all, who can resist the office beer cart or a quick ride on your free Peloton between Zoom calls?