Most of us have to work a day job (or night job). We have bills to pay and mouths to feed. But that doesn’t mean we have to take whatever they offer us. Many companies offer incredible perks and benefits that help take the sting out of working. Other perks at work seem nice on the outside but aren’t as great as the company makes it seem.
If you have options as to where to work, there’s a lot to consider regarding the offered perks. Sometimes you can even negotiate to get some of these sweet deals when the company doesn’t traditionally provide them!
What Are Work Perks?
Perks at work are the benefits employees get from working at a particular company or organization. Employers use perks in addition to compensation packages to recruit and retain the best and brightest employees.
Companies offer prospective employees a range of benefits for signing those employment documents. These might include traditional work perks like a hefty salary and pension plan or modern benefits like a retirement savings account and paid vacation time. These perks at work are generally considered part of overall compensation and not always considered perks.
However, I’d argue that if you’ve ever worked retail and are moving into a position that offers these benefits, they are definitely perks!
How are Perks at Work Different than Employee Benefits?
Work perks and employee benefits can be interchangeable. When they aren’t, benefits are often used to describe compensation packages, and perks describe bonuses. Compensation packages include salary, healthcare, retirement accounts, employer matches, stock options, etc. Perks might consist of other things, like a daycare on-site, or flexible schedules, or even the ability to sleep or work out while on the clock.
What Are the Best Perks at Work?
It’s hard to say which perks at work are the best. Everyone values different things. Some may be thrilled to work at a place with a foosball table, while others want a high salary so they can build their FU fund. There is nothing wrong with either approach, but that makes it difficult to call one thing out as “the best.”
With that said, there are a lot of great perks you can get at work. It’s essential to determine which types of perks you value the most so that you can ask your recruiter or hiring manager about them during the hiring process.
Here are some perks and benefits that companies might offer to attract top talent.
One of my favorite perks is the ability to have a flexible schedule. However, each organization has its own definition of flexibility. Some companies let you choose between different set schedules, like the traditional eight hours per day, five days per week schedule, or a four day per week, 10-hour schedule. They call this flexibility because you aren’t stuck working whatever schedule they give you. Although it’s nice to be able to choose, it’s not ideal.
Other companies have much better options for flexibility. They let you come in whenever you want as long as you get the work done. Or they let you decide to work 8 hours one day, then 10 hours the next to take a few extra hours off on a Friday night. Some even allow you to work remotely whenever you need to. The ability to do your work at your own pace is a great perk.
One of the best perks a company can offer parents is onsite child care. Unfortunately, this one is tough to find. However, a company that provides it shows that it values women’s work and values families.
Childcare is one of the most significant expenses a parent will encounter. Working for a company that understands that and helps reduce that expense in any way is a huge perk. A company that offers free childcare on-site gives working parents a lot more flexibility at work. Some companies may not offer childcare, but they might reimburse some childcare-related costs. Anything a company does to help families is a valuable perk.
With the exorbitant cost of college education, finding a company that will offer tuition reimbursement or helps you pay off student loans is a fantastic perk. The Federal Government offers a student loan forgiveness program that pays off all of your federal student loans after ten years of government service. It can be challenging to qualify for this program, so please be sure that you read all of the fine print before deciding upon government service as a means to pay off your loan. Also, the loans have to be federal. Private student loans do not qualify for reimbursement under this program.
Many other companies also help their employees further their education. Some companies offer completely paid tuition at partner schools. Starbucks will pay for any of its employees to attend Arizona State University’s online program, for example. However, they don’t offer any covered tuition for any other schools or programs.
Other companies will give each employee a set amount of money for tuition reimbursement each year as part of a compensation package. UPS offers $5250 per employee per year, and Wells Fargo offers $5000. You will have to work with your hiring manager and HR representative at each company to determine how to apply for that company’s specific program. Still, it’s incredible to know that there are so many companies out there offering help for tuition.
Paid Time Off
Paid time off is my favorite perk at work because, let’s be real; if they weren’t paying me to be there, I wouldn’t be. It’s even better when work pays me NOT to be there, am I right? No law in the United States guarantees any paid time off, so companies that offer comprehensive leave packages are the best places to work.
Some offer both paid time off for vacations and paid time off for sick leave, while others lump all the time off together into one pool and call it “flexible time off.” I prefer them to be separate. It would be awful to plan a two-week vacation but then get sick a few weeks before and not have enough paid time off left for your vacation.
However, any paid time off is better than no time off. It’s a great perk when offered.
The healthcare system in the United States is a mess. It’s tied to employment, and that doesn’t seem like it’s going to go away anytime soon. The most significant benefit a workplace can offer is a comprehensive healthcare package that gives employees lots of options.
It’s wonderful to choose between HMO and PPO and pick the healthcare plan that works the best for you and your family. However, most people are limited by what their employers offer. By law, all large companies must offer some type of plan to their full-time employees, but that doesn’t mean the plan will be good. It’s important to discuss the healthcare plans and benefits with your hiring manager before accepting the role to ensure that it will meet your needs.
One fun perk that some companies offer is discounts. Most companies will provide at least an employee discount at their organization, but some offer discounts for partner companies. The military is well known for getting deals in tons of places, from restaurants to retail to theme parks, but other companies can offer their employees similar perks.
Some companies sign up for overall discount programs for their employees. Great Work Perks is a website that any company can join to offer its employees discounts at various locations. There are quite a few different companies that offer bulk discount packages to corporations. That helps a company offer unique and exclusive benefits to its employees.
Many companies have realized that employee wellness is a huge factor in productivity and have instituted wellness programs to help their employees. These programs might include simple programs like gym reimbursements (or even on-site gyms) or more complex features like therapy sessions.
Many companies contract with employee assistance and wellness programs to provide confidential counseling in all areas of someone’s personal life. These might include financial, mental health, or relationship counseling, nutritional guidance, or even parenting help. A contractor administers these programs to ensure the confidentiality of any employees who use them.
I’ve used employee assistance programs to get free relationship counseling in the past, and it has been a godsend. Being able to seek out free, confidential help sponsored by an employer is a fantastic benefit.
One incredible perk that very few companies offer is the chance to take a sabbatical. Sabbitalcs are a once in a career break where you can research, explore, and do whatever you want for an extended time. Generally, it’s only available to tenured professors at prestigious institutions, but other companies may allow employees to take an extended leave of absence.
The difference between a sabbatical and an extended leave of absence is that most companies pay you while out on sabbatical, whereas with a leave of absence, your job is guaranteed when you return, but you won’t get paid while you are out.
It’s hard to find a company that offers a sabbatical, but if you do, be sure to take advantage of it!
What Are Some Perks at Work that Aren’t So Great?
When looking at perks with any new job offer, be sure to consider whether they really are perks or if they are insidious cultural expectations fancied up to look enticing. The office might have a free cafeteria, but do they expect you to work through your lunch or be available during dinner hours? There might be awesome-looking nap rooms available, but is the expectation that you will stay into the wee hours of the night to complete projects?
Some companies offer seemingly unique perks, like unlimited time off. However, be sure that the culture allows you to use perks like this. Sometimes, work perks are advertised, but the culture of the organization prevents you from using them. Unlimited time off seems like a great benefit, but you get chastised if you ask for even an afternoon off or told that “this isn’t a good time,” is it really a benefit? It’s important to know if you can use the perks at work before committing to employment.
Perks at Work Mobile App
As mentioned previously, many companies contract out their perks to a third party. Perks at Work is one such third party. It’s an employee perk program that you can access via a mobile app.
I like the perks at work app better than the other companies mentioned because it has more variety. It’s a discount app rolled into a wellness app that also offers personal development features. Employees can access a variety of online classes on countless topics. There are even programs available for kids.
Interestingly, there is space for a program like perks at work in today’s society. Businesses are learning that their employees need more – not only monetarily but also for their personal and professional development. This app fills that void, and companies that use this or similar programs prioritize the welfare of their employees.
How to Get Perks at Work?
Mobile app aside, it’s not always as easy as it seems to get access to some of the great perks and benefits discussed here. The companies that offer the most perks are trying to recruit and retain the top talent, which means that in-demand fields are more likely to be offered perks during the recruitment and hiring process.
The fact that a perk isn’t publicized doesn’t mean it’s not available. It never hurts to ask a potential employee if they offer a particular perk. Sometimes, this discussion of perks and benefits is part of the negotiating process. The company may not provide you a higher salary, but they can give you more time off or access to wellness programs that would cost more on their own.
If you are already making enough money, you may even prefer these benefits over a higher salary. It’s important to have these conversations before being hired or during your performance review with your boss if you’re already at a job you love. You never know what a company might be considering implementing, and having an employee ask might be the push they need to do it.
Getting the Perks You Deserve
Not all companies offer unique perks and benefits. Sometimes we need a job and need to take what we can get. But sometimes, we have choices and options. When you do, believe in yourself and your abilities. Know that the company needs you and is willing to pay to get you. Use that to negotiate for the perks that are most important to you.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks and has been republished with permission.
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world's problems. She's self-educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming, and her cats.