In 2019, we saw large enterprises go above and beyond with their efforts to attract candidates through unique office perks. It’s no surprise why, as 48% of candidates report weighing in on perks before accepting a job offer.
If you’re a small business owner, hiring on-site baristas and in house-masseuses are likely not the perks you can afford to offer. However, just because you don’t have a huge budget, doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible and competitive in the perks that you offer.
Perks vs. benefits
First, let’s differentiate between benefits and perks.
A workplace benefit is a form of non-wage compensation that is added to your salary. For example, healthcare, retirement savings contributions, and stock options are all considered benefits.
A perk is an added bonus, geared at helping boost culture and improve the employee’s level of work-life balance. Traditional work perks include things like corporate discounts, company cars, or snacks at work.
As the culture of office perks has evolved, organizations are becoming increasingly creative with how they use perks to stand out. Beyond the traditional package, companies now have things like in house performance coaching, onsite yoga, free breakfasts or lunch, and even unlimited paid time off policies.
Before investing in any big initiatives, it’s important to talk to your employees about what they really want.
Common work perks for small businesses
While offering company perks can have a significantly positive effect on employee life, a survey done by Clutch indicates that only 42% of small businesses offer any form of company perks. This gap presents a huge opportunity for small businesses to become more competitive.
What you can offer
What people really want in a modern workplace is a strong sense of autonomy, meaningful and fulfilling work, and work-life balance. As a small business owner, you can do this for your employer without breaking the bank. Consider offering the following perks as a starting point.
1. Paid sick leave
At the very least, you should always give employees what is legally obliged for sick days (this will change depending on where you are). Beyond this, people should be able to take time off as they need when they have personal or health needs that require attending to without having to dip into their vacation days.
2. Learning and mentorship
Learning and mentorship do not have to cost you an arm and a leg! In fact, there are many different ways that you can help your employees grow and develop (for free!)
3. Flex scheduling
By letting employees vary their schedule beyond the traditional 9-to-5, you give them freedom and autonomy to attend to their personal lives, whether it’s picking up their children from work, or simply sleeping in when they need the extra rest.
Allowing your team to telecommute when they need can help boost productivity, reduce stress, and increase satisfaction with work-life balance
5. Relaxed dress code
Removing corporate dress codes helps your employees save time, money, and overall helps them feel more relaxed and comfortable at work. It also costs you nothing to implement.
6. Pet-friendly zones
Letting people bring their pets to work is another way to increase overall team morale. You’ll have to make sure that there are areas in your office where people can go if they have allergies or don’t feel comfortable around pets. With some thought and planning, this is a great perk to offer employees that can provide a lot of comfort to pet owners.
What to consider as you roll work perks out
Before investing in any big initiatives, it’s important to talk to your employees about what they really want. For example, if you’re spending frivolously on office food while cutting back on employee development, this might aggravate your team if their interests are more aligned with personal growth. As people begin to spend increasingly more time working from home, you’ll have to think through how your office perks will translate for those who are remote.
Next, make sure you’re thinking long term about whatever perk it is you’re offering. Once a perk becomes available, employees will come to expect it and feel resentful if it’s ever taken away. If you don’t see yourself being able to maintain the perk, don’t offer it.
Finally, perks should never be a replacement for proper treatment, fair wages, or equitable opportunities. Perks should be there to enhance your employee’s life and show them that you care.
As a small business owner, the money you earn early on will naturally go back into your businesses, rather than on perks. However, perks don’t always need to be monetary and can boil down to company policy and structure that enhance the employee experience.