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Thanks to companies in Silicon Valley, employees have high expectations of the perks that your company offers.

Besides perks like medical and dental benefits, employees are looking for companies that think outside the box and create an atmosphere that makes employees want to spend time there.

Employees want a work environment that encourages fun and helps them be more productive.

But it’s important to remember that perks don’t make a company culture.

You can have all the beer and arcade rooms in the world, but if you’re underlying culture is bad they won’t make a difference.

Employee perks are also good for retention, which is an important issue. Talent is more scarce than ever, especially good talent, and they know that companies are out-perking each other.

Even if you don’t have a lot of resources, you can still create an amazing place to work by being a little creative.

As you’ll see with this list, most of the perks that matter to employees are free, or cost very little. Even the ones that do cost money have such a high ROI that it’s worth it.

You don’t have to implement all of these, these are just suggestions. A good tip is to ask employees for feedback about what they want.

1. Parental Leave – More Than Legally Required

Having a baby is one of the most beautiful, stressful times in someone’s life. Why should you make it any more complicated for an employee?

In the United States, companies legally need to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave. In Canada, it varies by province, but it’s usually anywhere between 15-40 weeks, not all of which are paid.

Follow in the footsteps of Netflix, and offer unlimited maternity and paternity leave. From the Netflix blog:

Parents can return part-time, full-time, or return and then go back out as needed. We’ll just keep paying them normally, eliminating the headache of switching to state or disability pay. Each employee gets to figure out what’s best for them and their family, and then works with their managers for coverage during their absences.

Absolutely amazing.

2. Education Reimbursements For All Classes Taken By Employees

The idea is to encourage employees to take classes on their free time to get better at what they do.

If you want to go a step further, you can allow employees to take classes that have nothing to do with their jobs or the company, just ones that interest them.

This one will cost a bit of money, but it’s worth it.

A more educated workforce means a more productive workforce

There are tools to help you with this. Udemy for Business and Udacity for Business are great tools that you should check out.

If employees know that they don’t have to worry about the cost of those programs and that your company encourages them to develop their skills, they’ll be happier at work.

3. Donation-Matching Program

The research is clear about employees wanting to work for companies that give back to the community.

More than 85% of millennials correlate their purchasing decisions (and their willingness to recommend a brand to others) to the responsible efforts a company is making.

If you’re not offering this already, this can be an easy way to show your employees that you care about raising money for nonprofits and that you encourage employees to donate.

If you are offering it already, make sure that it is widely known about, you can even use it as part of your recruiting efforts.

DoubleTheDonation is a great service that I would recommend checking out to help you.

4. Unlimited Vacation

Modeled after Netflix’s famous policy, unlimited vacation is starting to catch on at progressive companies like Hubspot, General Electric, and even GSoft (Officevibe’s parent company).

The idea is simple: don’t track the number of vacation, sick, or personal days that an employee takes.

There is no vacation policy, be responsible about when you take vacations, but take as much of it as you want.

More than anything, it’s about treating employees as adults.

As we shift more to giving employees autonomy and letting them manage themselves, this policy makes a lot of sense.

The reason this perk makes so much sense is that it shows employees that you trust them to make the right decisions.

One thing to watch out for: employees might not take any vacation with this policy. Some companies have had to implement mandatory vacation because of this.

5. Gym Membership

Employee wellness programs should be viewed as a strategic initiative, and not a simple employee perk.

Healthy employees will take less sick days, work harder, cost you less, are happier at work, and are more likely to make friends with other coworkers.

This is a perk that will cost you some money, but the benefits far outweigh the expense.

Also, showing employees that you care about their health is an easy way to get them to stay at your company.

As a creative idea, you could set up a friendly competition between employees or departments to incentivize everyone exercising.

6. Cake On Your Birthday

Bringing an employee cake on their birthday is such a simple and inexpensive way to show appreciation to someone on their special day.

It’s a great way to show employees that you care. When an employee comes to work on their birthday, they’re hoping someone remembers and wishes them a happy birthday.

Getting them a cake takes it a step further, and is a nice bonus for their coworkers.

Also, taking a couple of minutes to eat a piece of cake with your teammates is great for team-building.

7. Shared Kindles

This employee perk is like a book club 2.0.

We have this at Officevibe, and it’s a great way to discover new books and take a break at lunch.

The way it works here is there are 10 Kindles that anyone can rent at any time, and buy a book that the company will pay for.

Another side effect of this program is that you get to know your colleagues through the books they like (and if we have any in common), and how they describe the book.

When someone shares a book with the team and writes a whole paragraph about why they’re sharing it and why they enjoyed it, you learn a lot about who they are.

8. Paid Time Off To Volunteer

Giving employees time off to go volunteer is a great way to let them know that you support giving back to the community.

Many employees would love to volunteer, but simply can’t because of their work schedules. Having a dedicated program to help employees do that is a great way to let them volunteer.

Explain to employees that they’ll be paid for their time and not to worry. Let them enjoy!

Perhaps limiting it to one day per month or something to start would make sense.

9. Flexible Schedules

This is one of the best employee perks you could offer. This perk is completely free, and on many surveys of what perks employees want, this one comes up again and again.

Flexible schedules are about showing your employees that you respect them and trust them enough to make their own decisions.

Some people are better in the morning, and some people are better in the afternoon. Some people have families that they’d like to get home to, and that’s fine.

For example, I work 10-6, and I have a coworker that works 7-3. Whatever works best for everyone.

I understand that there are some jobs where people need to be there at a certain hour, but perhaps in this scenario you could implement shifts to make it easier.

10. Catered Meals

Providing meals to your employees is a great way to give them one less thing to worry about.

The cost of restaurants and the hassle of making your lunch make this a perk that you should be offering employees.

There are many services that provide healthy meals for employees, but if you don’t know of any, simply go to Google and type in “[city name] meals delivered to work”

Another advantage to this is you can offer employees healthy alternatives to whatever restaurants are near your office, keeping them healthier and more productive.

11. Allowance For Mental Health

This is an important perk that often gets forgotten about.

Often, when people talk about employee wellness we think of gym memberships and healthy food in the kitchen, but mental health issues in the workplace are huge.

Imagine giving employees an allowance for something that will help them mentally, like going to a spa or talking to a psychologist.

You can get really creative here, but don’t forget about mental health. Many employees are scared to talk about this stuff, it’s up to you to help them feel comfortable.

12. Company Retreats

There is no better team building activity than a retreat where employees travel somewhere for an extended period of time.

Every year, our company does a Christmas trip that brings everyone so much closer. Last year we went to Punta Cana for the weekend! Who knows where we’ll go this year.

gsoft in punta cana

You don’t have to go as wild as an all-inclusive resort, but a weekend in a cottage somewhere can bring the team so much closer together.

13. Game Rooms

This is a standard perk that’s almost a requirement at any tech company.

It’s important to remind employees that they can take time to relax and you support that as an employer.

It doesn’t matter what you actually do, whether it’s a TV, a game system, foosball table, it honestly makes no difference.

The point is to show employees that work-life balance is important to the company.

14. Lunch and Learns

Lunch and learns are a way for a subject matter expert to share their knowledge and teach other employees something new.

Not only is it a great way to learn something new and bond over lunch, it’s a way to learn more about the employee that’s teaching.

Finding out what’s important to the subject matter expert will give you insight into what they like.

Pro tip: one cool idea could be to bring an expert from the community in to talk to employees.

15. Transportation Allowance

Not everyone drives to work in a Mercedes and has a parking spot near the front door.

Providing an allowance for transportation shows your employees that you want to help get to work as safely and easily as possible.

Monthly metro passes can be pretty expensive, so it’s a nice gesture to offer that to your employees.

In many cities they have bikes that you can rent and ride to work, in Montreal we have Bixi, in the US I believe it’s Citi bikes. Offering to subsidize that is a way to help employees like a healthy lifestyle.

16. Company Swag

A simple perk that helps promote the company and reinforce the core values. Depending on what your company does, this could be a very cool perk to offer.

My winter hat and sunglasses are company branded and I wear them with pride :)

17. Beer On Tap

A nice perk that’s becoming very common, especially in startups.

Friday afternoon brainstorms could be much more fun with a beer to get the creative juices flowing.

As long as employees are responsible, this is a great perk to have that also reminds employees that it’s okay to unwind and not work yourself to burnout.

18. Pets Are Welcome

Pets are good for boosting employee happiness and company morale.

A study done by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University found that access to dogs boosted morale and reduced stress levels, whether people had access to their own pets or other people’s.

This doesn’t cost you anything, and shows employees that you like to create a fun and friendly work environment.

19. Interest-Free Loan

Not every company can do this, but many companies have excess cash flow that they could use to help their employees out.

The idea is to provide employees with an interest-free loan that they can easily pay back over time if they have to make a big purchase.

It’s a very nice thing to do, and more than anything, shows employees that you care about them and are there for them.

20. Free Fruits

Offering free fruits to employees is a great way to keep them healthy and productive.

It’s an inexpensive perk that pays great dividends.

Providing free fruit shows you care about the health of your employees.

Finding a provider that delivers fruit is simple. All you have to do is go to Google and type in “[city name] fruit delivery for work”

You can start simple, maybe with one basket and scale up if you see employees like it.

Fun fact: At our 120-person company, GSoft, when we did a survey about which perks employees love most, the free fruit was the number one answer.

21. Matching RRSP Contributions

Contributing to your RRSP (or 401k) is a smart idea, as you try to plan for retirement.

It can be tough for most employees to contribute a meaningful amount, which is why this is such a powerful perk.

Many companies do this, but employees often don’t take advantage of it. Why turn down free money?

22. Desk Swap

The idea here is to allow employees to sit somewhere new and “swap desks” with another colleague.

It’s great for team-building, as it allows employees who might not necessarily interact to get to know each other better.

It can also help employees with their personal growth because of the knowledge transfer that will take place.

In an article for the Wall Street Journal, they talk about how powerful this perk can be:

Proponents say such experiments not only come with a low price tag, but they can help a company’s bottom line

23. Stock Ownership Plan

One of the hardest parts of employee engagement is getting employees bought in to the company’s mission and values.

The owners want their employees to be as passionate about the company as they are.

Why try to make employees act like owners when you could just make them owners?

This can be the most powerful employee perk that you have at your disposal as an owner. Employees want to feel invested in the company they work for, this is a great way to make it happen.

24. In-House Yoga

When looking at the research on how exercise affects happiness, yoga has been found to be one of the best things you can do.

Meditation is one of the best things you could do increase your happiness, as is exercise, and yoga is actually a perfect blend of the two.

Offering employees an in-house yoga class once or twice a week can lead to a huge increase in employee happiness.

25. Standup Desks

Sitting all day at work is terrible for you.

Getting your employees a standup desk shows them that you care about their well-being and want them to be as energized and productive as possible.

You don’t necessarily have to buy something expensive, you can make one for $22.

You also don’t have to buy one for every person. Buying one that employees can share on rotation is a nice idea as well.

Employee Perks Are Good For Retention

Employee retention is incredibly important because of the effects of turnover.

When an employee leaves the company it lowers morale for everyone else.

It creates a culture of fear, where no one knows how safe their job is. This in turn affects their work, because they spend so much time worrying about if they’ll be let go.

Creating an environment where employees want to stay is important.

Replacing an employee is annoying, time consuming, and costly.

JDA, a professional services firm, did a study on how much it would cost to replace an employee.

They say that for an employee with a $60,000/year salary, it would cost $150,000 to replace them.

Having perks like these can help retain your best and brightest employees.

What Employee Perks Do You Like?

Now over to you. Let us know what you think the best employee perks are in the comments!