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Five Low-Cost Benefits That Employees Will Appreciate

By Kelly Spors, Writer and Editor for Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership

Employee BenefitsIn today’s competitive employment market, job seekers aren’t just looking for higher pay: They also want to work for companies that provide them with a great quality of life. In fact, a recent Ernst & Young study found that millennial workers, in particular, value a job that allows them to have a fulfilling personal life.

While offering comprehensive health plan may be cost prohibitive for some companies, there are plenty of other benefits that are far less expensive, yet still very desirable among today’s workers.

Here are five popular employee benefits that are relatively affordable to offer:

1. Vacation buy-up
Time off is an attractive benefit that many workers don’t feel they receive enough of. Allowing employees to buy more vacation time is little or no extra cost to the company—beyond losing the employee for however many extra vacation days they buy. But it can be seen as very valuable to the employee. Typically, the company determines how many extra vacation days employees can purchase and bases the cost of those days on the employees’ hourly wage or salary. (Check out our Vacation Purchase Program toolkit to learn more.)

2. Flexible scheduling
Work-life balance—the ability to have a fulfilling personal life on top of a career—is an important goal for many workers today. Employers can help them achieve that goal by offering flexible scheduling. Each company is different, of course, in its ability to offer flexible hours. Some allow their employees to dictate their work schedules between a certain window of time, while others let their employees take off afternoons or mornings occasionally on request. Read three tips for designing a better flexible-scheduling policy.

3. Volunteer/charitable opportunities
Many people want to donate their time or money to good causes, but simply don’t have the time or opportunity. Companies might consider providing one or two days a year when employees can volunteer for a specific charitable cause (either one selected by the employer or the employee). Some companies also provide matching donations to employees up to a certain dollar amount, whether $50 or $500. These are good ways for employers to generate goodwill, while also making their employees happy.

4. Wellness benefits
Healthier employees generally means lower health care bills. But many employees today also embrace workplace-sponsored programs and initiatives that encourage them to stay healthier both at home and on the job. These can range from the company providing free healthy snacks in the break room to more elaborate and higher-cost perks like providing gym membership reimbursements or on-site yoga classes to hosting a walking club.

5. Discounts and freebies
More companies today are offering their employees discounts to various services and entertainment offerings, whether 20% off at a local drycleaners, free tickets to sporting or theatrical events or coupons to local restaurants. The perks can vary widely depending on the interests and needs of your employees. But many companies can arrange such discounts and freebies at a relatively low cost.

Which benefits you offer your employees can largely depend on which types of benefits you think they’d value most. If you’re not sure, consider surveying your employees to find out.