25 Creative Benefit Ideas for Happy, Productive Employees
You’ve probably heard about some companies that offer their people pretty great benefits.
From free food to multiple months of paid time off for new parents, companies are pulling out all the stops—and with good reason. Companies that appreciate their employees enjoy better financial results and have higher retention rates.
Think your employees need a little more appreciation via benefits? Here are 25 creative benefit ideas to inspire you and keep your people happy and productive.
When employees spend more than a third of their life at their workplaces, it’s important to shake things up every once in a while. These on-site employee benefit recommendations can help freshen up the daily grind.
1. Dog Days
Some companies boast dog-friendly offices all week long. Even if every day won’t work, letting employees bring in their best friend once a week or month might.
Companies like Activision Blizzard offer their employees on-site massages to help them de-stress after a long workday. Some companies also bring in masseuses or provide a bonus for employees to pamper themselves. For instance, Asana offers employees a free gym membership and even provides a “nap room” to carve out some much-needed relaxation time.
3. Company Off-Sites
Whether it’s just an off-site close to the office for a day or taking the whole company somewhere exotic for a week, taking employees to a new location can be relaxing and help employees connect with each other.
4. Development Fund
Employees appreciate it when you invest in their development, and companies benefit from increasing their workforce’s knowledge base. Whether it’s tuition reimbursement or simply a development fund that employees can use to attend conferences, classes or just buy books, helping employees learn is an awesome benefit.
5. Workplace Library
Do your employees appreciate a good read? Bring in a bookshelf and encourage employees to stock it with great books. Whether employees sharpen their business skills during their focus hour or escape to a fantasy world over lunch, having these options on hand helps expand employees’ learning opportunities without requiring them to spend a fortune on books. Software company Teamwork has two libraries. One is in the center of their office that carries developer books on programming, and the other is in the marketing department and houses a collection of writing and grammar guides.
6. Reduced Hours
Some tech start-ups like Treehouse don’t work Fridays— ever. Even cutting every other Friday in half or just calling it a day at 4 p.m. every once in a while can help lift employees’ spirits.
7. Work from Anywhere
Employees appreciate the flexibility to work from wherever. Some companies allow employees to work at home when needed. Others take it to another level and encourage employees to work from anywhere in the world for one month a year. The ability to work remotely is one employee benefit that’s becoming the norm for some industries.
8. Midday Break
Some companies encourage a midday break to do yoga, and others tell employees to go catch a wave. Either way, it’s a cool benefit to keep employees from burning out halfway through the day. You can look for a gym or studio offering fitness classes close by and offer the services to employees. It could also be a great way to encourage team building (think: team spin class instead of daily stand-up meetings).
9. Scheduled Socialization
Spending time together doesn’t have to supersede the lunch hour. Teams can block out a half-hour twice a week as a recurring appointment for socializing with teammates. Research has shown that it’s important to have friends at work, after all.
Employee appreciation doesn’t need to stop when everyone leaves for the day. These creative employee benefits improve life outside the office.
10. Vacation Bonuses
Consider giving your employees a vacation bonus to spend on a trip of their choosing throughout the year. You can offer any amount, and employees get to take whomever they want wherever they desire. This is one of our favorite benefits here at BambooHR!
11. Surprise Trips
Freeborn hosts a luggage party every year where everyone who wants to participate packs a bag and brings it into the office. At the end of the day, hold a drawing and a few lucky employees get to leave on an all-expenses-paid trip.
Taking a cue from the world of education, employee sabbaticals are becoming increasingly popular. After a certain amount of time, employees are given an extended amount of time off. At REI, employees can earn a four-week paid sabbatical after 15 years of service and every five years after that.
13. Chore Help
At the end of a long day or week, chores are the last thing employees want to do. Companies are taking note and offering benefits ranging from laundry services to cleaning crews to hiring an employee whose role is to run errands for people in the office.
14. Date Night
Bring childcare professionals into the office and let employees drop their kids off on a Friday night. Employees can take a friend or significant other out for a fun night on the company’s dime.
15. Spring Break
Remember when you were a kid and your school years revolved around the week-long winter and spring breaks? Bring them back! Give employees an entire week off (separate from their vacation time) twice per year. This will consistently give them something to look forward to. It may even be more effective at getting employees to relax during their time off if there’s not peer pressure to come to the office. Not many creative benefits top extra vacation time!
16. Paid Volunteer Work
Want to make a difference in the community? Your employees do! Timberland gives each employee 40 hours of paid volunteer time per year.
17. Literary Commute
Do you have employees who spend hours in the car? Give them an Audible subscription to make the journey more interesting. You could also start a monthly Transit Book Club to discuss the latest read.
18. Bike Share
Start a bike share program to help your employees stretch their restaurant radius without worrying about parking or traffic. The health aspect is an added bonus.
Traditional Benefit Enhancements
Traditional benefits can be hard for employees to get excited about. It’s not like they’re going to cheer, “Yay! My health insurance increase could have been worse!” But there are creative ways to enhance your traditional benefits in a way that’s meaningful to employees.
19. Wellness Contests
Incentivizing wellness can give employees additional motivation and accountability for making positive changes in their lives. An effective rewards system will provide a mix of incentives, with both go-at-your-own-pace individual challenges and group competitions. Mixing up the incentives helps employees of every personality type find a wellness goal that’s their speed. Using Fitbit, BP hosts a Million Step Challenge that gives each employee a Fitbit and challenges them to walk a million steps in a year. People who hit the mark within the year are eligible for a $1,000 reduction in their insurance premiums the following year.
20. Intramural Lunches
A couple of years ago, BambooHR issued a challenge for our employees to get more physically active. In response, a lunchtime volleyball league started up in the field across the parking lot, complete with hammocks and a boom box. Combining social hour and physical activity is a wellness win-win.
21. Walking Meetings
Wellness doesn’t have to wait for break time. Taking brainstorm meetings outside (or just down the block and back) can help people reach their wellness goals. As an added bonus, it’s much easier to stay awake and alert when everyone is moving.
22. Mental Health Days
Everybody has a few days a year where they just can’t come into work—anxiety, grief, depression, and other mental illnesses can have debilitating effects. Instead of accepting that employees will use a sick day, give a few mental health days. You can set some boundaries (such as don’t let deadlines slip or skip presentations), then let your employees use them on days when they wake up and just can’t do it.
23. On-Site Dental Clinics
Is there anything worse than using time off to go to the dentist? What if your employees could get their dental work done at the workplace and get back to business? Check to see if your dental provider supports onsite dental programs. This could be the key to help employees start using their dental benefits.
24. Finance Classes
When it comes to wellness efforts, it’s difficult to separate physical wellness from financial wellness. Helping employees learn good financial principles can help relieve the stress that poor financial management can bring, which in turn improves physical and mental health. At BambooHR, we reimburse employees for taking an after-work financial knowledge class—and then reward them with $100 for completing the course.
25. Benefits Q&A Sessions
Do you know how your 401k works? What about your HSA? If you work in HR, the answer is probably yes. But for everyone else in your organization, it can be hard to remember every detail of every benefit. Some employees may have questions, especially if they’re experiencing a life change that might affect their benefits. Understanding a benefit is the first step to using a benefit, so it’s important for your organization to educate employees. Work with your retirement and health benefit providers to schedule quarterly Q&A sessions and invite any interested employee to attend.
What Companies Offer the Best Benefits?
Glassdoor revealed that four out of five employees would choose benefits over a raise. Several companies understand this and have truly paved the way by providing impressive perks for their people.
Not only does Google dominate the search engine market, they also own the creative benefits game. Aside from the standard benefits (health, PTO, etc.), Google employees receive special perks such as:
- Travel insurance
- Free legal advice
- On-site medical care
- On-site massages and physical therapy
- Electric car charging stations
- Access to a heated pool
- Complimentary college courses
It’s not just large tech firms that offer attractive benefits. Renowned outdoor clothing brand Patagonia offers their employees:
- Complimentary yoga classes
- Access to free bikes, skateboards, and scooters
- Company-subsidized organic meals in an office cafe
- On-site child care center where employees’ children can spend time during the weekdays
For those who love to travel, being a staff member at Southwest Airlines would be ideal. This airline provides:
- Free and unlimited flights for employees and their eligible dependents
- Discounted stays at hotels, tickets for other airlines, and rental vehicles
- Opportunity to earn up to $500 by diving into specific health and wellness programs
How Do You Offer Employee Benefits?
While it’s important to provide basic coverage, expanding what you offer with creative employee benefits ideas can make all the difference in making your employees feel valued. Be strategic when offering these special benefits. You want to make sure that you’re attracting and retaining talented employees while operating within budget. When you’ve decided on the benefits to offer your staff, you should:
- Update your benefits program/package so that it clearly defines and communicates each creative employee benefit
- Help employees understand how they can take advantage of these benefits with helpful documents and/or in-person meetings
- Ensure that all benefit providers are paid each month
Make Employee Benefits a Beneficial Cycle
It’s important to get employee feedback to truly deliver creative perks and benefits your teams will genuinely love. Employees can tell when companies try to help them be more productive and successful by offering great benefits. And they’ll reciprocate by being productive, engaged employees!