Popular Perks for Employees

A workplace that’s designed to keep employees happy and productive helps pay for itself in many ways, such as greater retention and a sense that the company genuinely values the people it employs. Although the snazziest perks may be beyond the reach of many small and mid-size businesses, following are examples that a number of companies offer.

On-site exercise facilities

A healthy workforce is more energetic and productive. Healthy employees also have less downtime due to illness. Many companies promote employees’ health and well-being by providing on-site exercise facilities. These can include weights, a variety of exercise machines, and locker rooms and showers.

An unused portion of the company’s building can make an ideal site for an in-house workout space. If that’s not an option, many companies offer complimentary or subsidized memberships at nearby gyms.

On-site childcare

Some companies provide on-site childcare. Not only can this prove exceedingly convenient for working parents, but parents also have the opportunity to visit with their children, an option that’s often impossible with other daycare arrangements. That can do wonders for employee morale. The downside is that childcare can be expensive, particularly with regard to liability insurance. Meeting any pertinent state and local childcare regulations also can be costly.

Tuition assistance or reimbursement

Most employees want to feel they’re moving forward with both their lives and careers. A tuition assistance or reimbursement program can help make that happen. Here, you pay for part or all of your employees’ tuition, covering anything from college and university classes to more specialized training and seminars. The employee feels valued, while you, in return, have a professional with a growing array of knowledge and skills.

Employee sabbaticals

Sabbaticals were once limited to scholars and college professors, but some companies now offer them to their employees. Encompassing both paid and unpaid forms of leave that can last several months, sabbaticals often are offered to employees who have been with a company for a number of years. Generally, employees on sabbatical can do pretty much what they want, including traveling, learning a language, or reconnecting with family and friends.

On the plus side, a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that people who take sabbaticals not only experience a decline in stress during their sabbaticals but also have less overall stress after returning to work.

On the other hand, you’ll likely have to rearrange staffing or work responsibilities to pick up the slack for the absent employee. Of course, this could allow you to provide development opportunities to those employees who fill in for the person on sabbatical.

Note that some states severely restrict an employer’s flexibility to offer sabbaticals by controlling their frequency, duration, and permissible uses.

Be careful to ensure that any perks you offer are deservedly distributed and don’t violate any laws. When granting time off, for example, consult with an experienced lawyer about any impact on exempt employees of a partial-day absence; deducting an amount of salary because of a partial-day absence may compromise the employee’s status as exempt from overtime laws and other wage protections.

In addition, some employees may not see this as a perk. Some state laws mandate that employees be afforded a certain amount of time away to attend their children’s school-related activities. Finally, some bonuses — including referral bonuses — may be required (by the U.S. Department of Labor) to be included in the wages used to calculate overtime.

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