5 Employee Perks That You’re Sure to Love | Photo of man in a dress shirt working on his laptop outside | Photo by Eric Strausman

Eric Strausman

5 Employee Perks That You’re Sure to Love

•  4 minute read

More and more often, companies are offering their employees nontraditional perks that can make a huge difference in their professional development and daily life.

In an era of diminishing incomes, employee perks are meant to take the sting out of lower wages. Since the 1970s, wages in the United States have grown only 0.2 percent per year, according to a 2017 report by the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution. Workplace perks are an attempt to keep employees happy, despite sluggish salary growth.

If a company offers you a job but you don’t love the salary, take the employee perks into consideration. Do the benefits offset the lower salary? Let’s look at some of the employee perks that are independent of your pay and can make a financial difference in your life.

 

Employee Perks vs. Benefits

First, let’s be clear: Employee benefits are not perks. Benefits are non-salary arrangements or compensation for workers. Traditionally, those have been things such as health and dental insurance, stock options, and retirement plans such as 401(k)s.

Employee perks tend to be smaller bonuses offered by companies to make them more attractive to talent. These might include something along the lines of catered lunches or a gym membership.

Let’s examine the merits of some common workplace perks that are offered these days.

 

1. Help With Student Loan Debt

The health care company Aetna offers their full-time and part-time employees help with student loan repayment. Aetna matches up to $1,000 in student loan payments per year for part-time employees and $2,000 a year for full-time ones. There is a $10,000 cap for full-time employees and a $5,000 one for part-timers. The company won’t match any amount above that, regardless of the number of years the employee puts in.

The brokerage firm Fidelity Investments offers $2,000 a year — also with a $10,000 cap — which is paid directly to the lender on behalf of the employee. More than 5,000 employees have taken the company up on this offer, according to Fidelity’s website.

Why This Is Worth It

Student loan debt is a big burden that many millennials carry with them into the workforce. If you don’t have the capacity to fully cover your loan payments, it can be a godsend to have your company help out. With this perk, you can make serious headway on your student debt.

 

2. Professional Training

Companies that pay for their employees to learn more and improve at their work are companies that are investing in themselves. Why wouldn’t a company want well-trained workers?

It isn’t just very large corporations that offer to pay for professional training. For example, Pecan Street, a small nonprofit in Austin, Texas, paid for Travis Hyzak, its programs manager, to take a coding course at General Assembly, a company that provides certificates in things like user design and types of coding.

“After presenting my supervisor with several course options and discussing them, we decided on a course, and Pecan Street paid up front,” Hyzak says. “I didn’t even have to fill out any paperwork”

Why This Is Worth It

To stay in demand as a worker, you must stay on top of learning. Technology is constantly evolving, and skills such as coding, user design, and online content management are becoming more valuable.

If your company will pay for you to develop new skills, you can use that as a stepping stone to a raise or a new position. You can essentially learn on someone else’s dime and use that knowledge to make more money.

 

3. Travel Reimbursement

If you’re a commuter, your company may help you out with the cost of getting to and from work. Portland, Oregon–based Cozy, a company that provides services for independent landlords and renters, reimburses its employees for public transit costs.

Harmonix, a music game development company in Boston, subsidizes commuter rail passes and offers fully paid subway passes to its employees. About 275 companies in the Boston area have some sort of discounted rental programs with the bike-sharing company Bluebikes, to help their employees get to and from work.

Why This Is Worth It

Commuting can suck up a big part of your paycheck. If your company will reimburse you for some or all of it, it’s one thing you can knock off your monthly budget.

 

4. Fitness Classes or Gym Passes

Some companies have impressive fitness perks.

Nike and Reebok both offer on-site fitness classes for employees and encourage them to take some time out of the workday to work out.

To encourage employees to adopt an active lifestyle, the sports apparel company Brooks offers a yearly stipend that can be used to pay for a gym membership.

Why This Is Worth It

It’s all too easy to live an unhealthy lifestyle in today’s workplace. A free gym membership or a health stipend saves you gym membership dollars and gives you the opportunity to become healthier or maintain your level of fitness.

 

5. Sabbaticals

Ever want to take some time off work and still have your job waiting for you when you come back? That’s called a sabbatical, and some companies are making it happen for their employees.

The accounting and professional services giant Deloitte is such a company. It offers two sabbatical programs: an unpaid one-month sabbatical that workers can take for any reason, and a three- to six-month sabbatical that can be taken for personal or professional growth. During the six-month leave, workers are paid 40 percent of their base salary.

Why This Is Worth It

Taking time off is a foreign concept to many Americans. We’re a country that believes in the “work harder, not smarter” mindset. But taking a sabbatical can help us rediscover our creativity and keep us from burning out.

 

What Employee Perks Does Your Company Offer?

If you’re ready to get in on these employee perks for yourself, check with your company to see what it offers. While employee benefits are usually defined in your contract, perks can be a little harder to track down.

Visit your HR representative for employee perks like student loan help or tuition reimbursement. Ask your coworkers whether they have any favorites or have taken advantage of something that you haven’t. Ask your manager if you’re eligible for any programs you might not be aware of.  In short, find out what your company has to offer, then dive in.

Or if you’re looking for work, use tools like Jobscan to help boost your chances of landing a cushy, perk-filled job.