25 Favorite Employee Perks and Benefits

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In today’s competitive job market, skilled candidates have the advantage, and they're not only shopping around for the best compensation but the best benefits and perks. 

So what do employees want? A November 2021 survey by Robert Half asked employees to rank their top benefits (non-cash compensation) and perks (extras). These were the most popular responses:

Benefits
  • 76%: Health insurance


  • 57%: Paid time off

  • 51%: Retirement savings plan

  • 26%: Dental insurance

Perks
  • 66%: Being able to choose their own schedule (within reason)

  • 37%: Employee discounts

  • 27%: Paid parental leave

  • 24%: Company-subsidized meals and snacks

If you’re looking to attract and retain top talent, increasing your offerings is one way to set yourself apart. Here are 25 unique and low-cost employee benefits and perks to consider adding to your robust employee benefits package.

Key Takeaways

  • Employee benefits and perks can help sweeten the pot when trying to attract new candidates and retain talent.
  • Many benefits and perks don’t have to cost a lot to make a big impact.
  • Focus on key categories like work-life balance, wellness, discounts, and career development when choosing new benefits and perks to add.

Work-Life Balance

Benefits that revolve around work-life balance can improve employee performance and productivity by allowing them to recharge.

Unlimited Vacation Time 

One of the more appealing employee benefits that any company can offer is unlimited vacation time. Employees must work a certain amount of hours to earn vacation time, but that vacation isn't capped.

Flextime and Work-at-Home Options 

Employees are more apt to enjoy the freedom of working from home at times and having more flexible scheduling. Many people are working parents who are juggling other life responsibilities.

Vacation Reimbursement 

When employees head out for vacation, offer them a chance to be reimbursed for 50% of their meal and gas costs. This encourages employees to worry less about taking time off, and they return refreshed. 

Generous Parental and Caregiver Leave 

Three in five U.S. employers currently offer paid parental leave. This benefit gives new parents and employees caring for adult children or aging parents the option to get more leave when they need it. Flexible working arrangements can also support this benefit without cutting down on productivity. 

Parent Rooms 

Give all new parents access to a special private room where they can transition back to regular work with a baby. This room can also double as a comfort station for prenatal mothers who need to rest and breastfeeding mothers. 

Freebies and Discounts

Everyone loves to save money, especially in a tough economy, so these perks can be quite attractive.

Healthy Cafeterias and Snack Machines 

Nearly a quarter of employees (23%) said they would return to the office in-person full time if free, catered lunches were available, according to a survey by ezCater. What’s more, having access to healthy meals, snacks, and beverages can go a long way toward increasing the health and well-being of employees. Find a vendor to bring in healthy snacks at wholesale and ditch the sweets and sodas.

Corporate-Branded Swag 

When employees feel part of something, they enjoy sporting branded merchandise. Work with a local printer to create low-cost corporate swag like water bottles, t-shirts, and more. Hand them out as incentives, at company events, and to new hires. 

Daycare and Housing Discounts 

Look around your community to apartment complexes and housing developments where referrals earn the company generous discounts for employees. Daycare centers often offer these referral discounts as well.

Free Desktop Music 

Give employees access to streaming music and headphones right at their workstations. This low-cost perk can help employees focus and reduce stress. 

Free Corporate Library 

Set up a reading room and include various business books, movies, and magazines that employees can enjoy. 

Technology and Community Discounts 

Many companies offer technology discounts to corporations. Why not pass these discounts down in the form of a corporate discount program? Maintain a list of vendors offering coupons and discounts on everything from software to travel. 

Career Development and Education

Providing training and education opportunities lets employees know that you’re invested in their long-term success.

On-Campus Career Development 

Learning is a major boost to employees because it fulfills both personal and professional goals. Case in point: As the nation’s largest employer, Walmart announced in 2021 that it would invest up to $1 billion to cover the college tuition for its associates. While you might not be able to fund your workforce’s entire higher education costs, you could still promote education with an online learning system that makes it easy and low cost for all employees, or hire area experts to host seminars at the office.

Annual Learning Stipends 

A learning organization is a thriving one. Give employees the option to participate in an industry certification program, a college class, an industry seminar, or another accredited program of their choice once a year. 

Community Education 

In the summer months, open up your facility in the evenings for community education efforts. Adults can learn a variety of life and career skills, including those that they can immediately transfer to their work.

Health and Wellness

Employees have a greater focus on taking care of their health, especially having been through a pandemic. Consider adding benefits that promote self care.

Wellness Facilities and Support 

You can set up an unused office space or patio with some simple fitness equipment or create walking and bike paths around the office building. You can also offer a wellness room for meditation and yoga, or offer once-a-month chair massages from a local wellness provider.

Fitness Classes 

Once a month, host a local exercise instructor to teach employees yoga, spinning, resistance training, running, and other forms of fitness. Make this a regular part of your wellness program. Arrange for discounts for participants who want to continue these classes. Or, you could look into programs like Peloton’s Corporate Wellness, which 64% of members say makes them feel more productive at work.

Personal Care Services 

Bring in a hair stylist for once-monthly haircuts for employees or try a dry cleaning service drop-off. 

Financial Wellness

Anything you can do to help employees manage their money and plan for life’s milestones is valuable.

Supplemental Insurance 

There are a number of supplemental insurance programs that can be offered at group rates to employees for pennies on the dollar. Things like spousal life insurance, pet insurance, cancer care, and hospital cash plan can be valuable to employees who need this extra level of coverage. 

Financial Services and Banking 

Many financial institutions offer low-cost and free access to banking services. This can include mortgages, savings and checking accounts, and financial planning. You can even have an ATM installed in your company cafeteria to make it easier for employees to access fast cash for healthy lunch choices. 

College Scholarships for Employee Children 

Each year, let employees request scholarships for their children heading to college. Select recipients of awards based on their grades and achievements.

Social Activities and Company Culture

Providing lots of opportunities to help employees bond and feel included can enhance their experience and your overall culture.

Special Interest Clubs 

Open up your company to area clubs that help teach employees important life skills. This can include public speaking clubs, weight-loss support groups, craft circles, and even safety awareness clubs. 

Volunteer Time Exchange 

More than a quarter (26%) of employers offer paid time off for volunteering, according to SHRM's 2019 Employee Benefits Survey. Sometimes called Volunteering Time Off (VTO), it allows you to reward employees for giving back to the community. Similarly, you can give employees an opportunity to use payroll deductions to donate funds to their favorite causes, and offer to match them. 

Team Bonding Events 

Bonding can be as simple as a weekly basketball game held in the company parking lot or a team visit to a local museum during off-peak hours. Just have fun with it. 

Quarterly Cookouts or Potlucks 

Give employees something to look forward to with a small get-together held in the company cafeteria. Make this a family event whenever possible. Ask employees to bring a dish to pass or something to add to the grill. 

Game Room 

Give employees a place to de-stress and unwind with a break area complete with gaming equipment. This can include a mix of physical games and mental games.

The Bottom Line

When putting together a perks and benefits program, it’s a great idea to start by polling your employees to figure out which offerings they would most appreciate. Be creative when looking for new ways to sweeten the compensation. Doing so will help your company retain more high-performance employees and impact your bottom line results.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What’s the difference between a benefit and a perk?

Though the terms are used interchangeably and may overlap in some cases, benefits usually refer to some sort of non-cash compensation (therefore, part of a person’s compensation and includes such things as paid leave, retirement contributions, and insurance), while perks tend to be extra offerings that help enhance employee experience—free lunch and discounts to local attractions, for example.

How much do benefits cost employers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), benefits made up 29.6% of employee compensation for private industry workers as of March 2022. Benefits tracked by BLS include paid leave, insurance, legally required benefits like social security, and retirement or pension contributions.

Updated by
Dawn Papandrea
Dawn Papandrea is a credit card expert with 10+ years of experience covering credit cards, banking, and personal finance. Her reviews of credit cards and other financial products appear on The Balance and on personal finance sites elsewhere. Dawn earned her master's in journalism and mass communication from New York University and has a bachelor's in English from St. John's University.
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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Robert Half. “12 Employee Benefits and Perks for Your Hiring and Retention Plan.”

  2. Mercer. “Reviewing your PTO Benefits? Look Beyond National Norms.”

  3. ezCater. “​​Survey Says: Free Lunch at Work Matters to Employees.”

  4. Walmart. "Walmart To Pay 100% of College Tuition and Books for Associates."

  5. Peloton. “The Power of Peloton, Now For Business.”

  6. Society for Human Resources Management. “What Is Employer-Sponsored Volunteerism?

  7. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employer costs for Employee Compensation—March 2022.”

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