Outside-of-the-Box Benefits

Seven perk-driven strategies to engage and retain employees.

By Jeanie Heffernan

A company’s greatest asset is its workforce, and that is why it is vital to equip workers with the best tools and resources to do their jobs. But today’s employees are also looking for benefits that help maintain a positive work-life balance. While traditional benefits such as medical, dental, and vision insurance might be what initially come to mind, many organizations are beginning to think outside of the box to foster a more engaged, productive, and healthier workforce. Recent iCIMS research found that 92 percent of full-time employees believe that companies offering non-traditional benefits are more likely to recruit top-tier talent. These benefits also serve as retention tools; a comprehensive benefits package gives employees a reason to stay with a company other than the paycheck.

Outside-of-the-box benefits come in a variety of forms: from helping employees live healthier lives to providing opportunities for them to save money or remove some of the stress of daily life. The ultimate business goal is to improve the overall well-being of employees because they work hard to ensure the organization is operating at its maximum potential.

There are some unique benefits that are becoming increasingly popular to offer to employees:

On-site fitness and gym reimbursement. Physical fitness is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and can result improve both energy levels and overall mood. That’s why some employers are adding fitness facilities to help employees maintain—or start—a workout routine without missing a beat at the office. Plus, group fitness classes can be ideal for team-building because they create a fun, new way for employees to interact while increasing creativity, productivity, and energy levels.

For employees who find it difficult to get away from their desks—such as those in call center environments— microburst initiatives are a good approach. Growing scientific evidence supports the benefits of microbursts— short, simple bouts of physical activity that help your body and mind overcome fatigue. Best of all, they are accessible, easy, and can be done right at a desk.

For companies that don’t have the space or means to provide an onsite fitness facility, gym membership reimbursement programs that cover the cost of an employee’s monthly fee can be an alternative. Getting employees active does have an impact: Recent SHRM research found that 74 percent of organizations with wellness initiatives in place report they were “somewhat” or “very effective” in improving the overall engagement of employees.

Preventive wellness: Paid time off. For most employees, their paid time off is a valuable commodity to be used for vacations, covering childcare needs, or simply relaxing. But sometimes—often reluctantly—the time must be used for doctor appointments. In fact, 60 percent of American workers feel uncomfortable leaving work for preventive care appointments finds research from Zocdoc.

To encourage employees to take a more proactive approach to managing their health and address gaps in care, some employers are now offering paid time off to complete preventive screenings, such as an annual physical, mammogram, or colonoscopy. This benefit can vary in length depending on the appointment type and employers can provide parameters. For example, an employer can decide that wellness paid time off does not apply to sick visits or certain screenings, such as eye exams or dental cleanings.

• Registered dietitian. A nutritionally-sound diet is essential to an employee’s overall well-being. It can prevent or help manage certain illnesses, promote a healthy pregnancy, and improve overall emotional vitality. To help employees maintain a balanced diet, companies can offer nutrition counseling sessions with access to a registered dietitian or physician who can answer questions, set goals, and provide guidance for healthy eating. And offering on-site visits at the office just adds another level of convenience!

• Tuition assistance. Tuition costs can be a financial burden for employees pursing higher education or who have college-bound children of their own. To help ease the overall stress associated with college tuition, organizations are providing access to tuition reimbursement or reduced tuition programs. In fact, according to SHRM, 61 percent of employers are now offering tuition reimbursement.

Going further, some organizations are providing associates access to reduced tuition for their children, stepchildren, grandchildren, and even the children of family members. For example, through the College Tuition Benefit program, employees earn credits that can be used toward undergraduate tuition when an eligible student attends a participating private college or university nationwide.

• Volunteer programs. For those looking to make a positive impact in their community, a corporate volunteering program can provide exciting opportunities. Many employers now offer time to participate in diverse service projects and events that support a variety of worthy causes and organizations. To accommodate the busy schedules of employees, some companies have begun to offer on-site volunteering opportunities that employees can partake in during the workday. It not only makes an impact in the community but can also be a tremendous team-building experience for employees.

• Work flexibility. Many businesses now offer options to accommodate unexpected events and responsibilities facing their workforce while also meeting the business needs of the organization. According to SHRM, 56 percent of employers now offer the option to use flexible work arrangements. Flex time allows employees to come in early or leave later while not falling short of their required hours. Another option is offering the ability to work remotely, which is convenient for employees who can’t make it into the office on a given day. Once reserved for emergency situations, a work-from-home option can also be a positive, long-term solution for both employers and employees.

• Identity theft protection. In an increasingly digital world, cyberattacks are a core threat to business, government, and individuals alike. According to a new study from Javelin Strategy & Research, identity fraud hit a record high in 2016 with 15.4 million Americans affected, up 16 percent from 2015. To strengthen protections around the personal and financial information of employees, some employers have begun offering identity protection services, including credit monitoring, fraud detection, and fraud resolution support.

The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to designing and providing comprehensive benefits packages for employees. When choosing the right perks, take a pulse of the needs of employees. A simple survey can help determine which benefits to incorporate into work culture. With the right blend of compensation and benefits, companies can earn a competitive edge when vying for top talent and to retain current top performers.

Jeanie Heffernan is senior vice president and CHRO for Independence Blue Cross.

Posted June 8, 2017 in Benefits

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