3 Ways to Choose the Right Employee Benefits and Perks

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We’ve seen a shift in the scope of workplace benefits over the last decade. Those perks are no longer limited to insurance, vacation days, and bonuses — now, “cool” office culture items like comfortable seating, fun office toys, and the like are included. Each contributes to a relaxed office vibe, but how much do these amenities truly elevate employees’ overall health and wellness?

Sure, playing games at work is fun, but what about extra healthcare coverage, more PTO, or even napping pods in the office? Thankfully, material, surface-level benefits are becoming less relevant as the importance of a healthy work culture gains more and more traction.

Society of Human Resources Management study showed a 20% increase in employee benefits and perks of health and wellness. Deciding what the best employee amenities can be challenging, and trying to develop ones unique to your organization is best.

How to Build a Healthy Work Culture

Wellness isn’t a one-size-fits-all application. Companies must build attractive and holistic plans that help make them distinctive in the eyes of top-tier employees. 

For instance, I once heard about a CEO who wanted their management team to leave daily by 5 p.m. to improve work-life balance, performance, and sustainable work practices. They roamed the halls daily at the end of the workday to ensure everyone left on time. Wellness practices could also look like mandolin factory workers regularly taking time to pick up instruments and jam together or restaurant workers having team “family meals” before every shift. 

As another example, to celebrate its 150th anniversary, a bank located in our hometown of Columbia, Missouri, gave a perk to the entire community — the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival . The event was such a success that it’d become an annual gathering that draws thousands.

The possibilities are endless, but the point is that when you invest in your employees’ wellness, you’re investing in your company, too. And a happy, healthy team boosts employee engagement. Some other perks that go beyond vending machines and games are:

  •  Physical Health and Exercise Benefits: Providing your staff with a monthly stipend for gym memberships, at-home gym equipment purchases, or educational courses are great ways to incentivize a healthy lifestyle for your employees. Microsoft has  an on-site fitness facility and will fund staff fitness-related equipment. Other companies can purchase standing desks or ergonomic office furniture to illustrate how committed they are to healthy work environments.
  •  Higher Wages: The cost of living has increased disproportionately to the pay rate. Acknowledging that and paying your employees a livable wage in response is one of the best things you can do for them. Dan Price , the founder of Gravity Payments, reduced his salary and raised the minimum wage of all his full-time employees to $70,000. He was initially ridiculed for this innovative idea, but it now serves as a success story told far and wide — over six years and one pandemic later.
  •  Social Good: Giving back to your community can provide a lot of happiness for your employees, mainly when done anonymously . Organizing a monthly or quarterly public service venture during regular work hours is an excellent opportunity to get involved in your community, foster stronger interoffice connections, and boost company joy and morale.

Employees’ health boils down to more than their physical well-being, and companies can prioritize it in numerous ways outside of material goods. And when companies put employee health first, they can amplify their organizations’ overall health and happiness and prove how much they care about workers’ well-being.

Tactics to Support Your Employees in a Healthy Way

Focusing on employee wellness increases employee engagement, but determining which perks will be best for your organization can be intimidating. Follow these three tactics if you’re ready to provide guidance and support to employees  but aren’t sure where to start.

1. Identify your work culture.

To know which perks to provide your team, do a cultural assessment of your workplace. For example, the aforementioned “family meal” won’t work as well for a company with a primarily remote workforce. Revisit your company’s goals, mission, and values, then poll your team and ask what perks they’d like to see. Resources such astalks  and books can spark inspiration and help employees think outside the box.

2. Build a community from the top down.

Start from the top, even if your organization has only a few layers of hierarchy, and involve all team members in building a community. To promote togetherness, consider holding company-wide watch-and-listen parties for various podcasts and TED Talks and then engaging in active discussions afterward.

How does our organization resonate with the stories we heard? What would we like to implement? Building community within the organization supports employees’ overall wellness and sense of belonging, especially when leaders are involved.

3. Communicate changes and pivot perks when needed.

When instituting potentially time-intensive changes, be prepared to keep the lines of communication open. Building a diverse workplace, for instance, can be a perk to the entire organization because it can only broaden the richness of experience, innovation, and resilience of the whole enterprise. 

The Value of Perks With Purpose

Are you prepared to challenge an entrenched culture? The question then becomes: Are you prepared to see a diverse workplace? And when a diverse workplace becomes the rule instead of the exception, be ready to know the definition of perk transform in ways you may never have imagined.

Think beyond your company simply being considered a fun place to work. By identifying your company culture, engaging your whole organization, and engaging in open and honest communication and feedback about the perks you’re offering, your employees’ overall health and wellness will begin to flourish — along with your company’s overall prospects.


Pack Matthews is the founder and chief designer at Ikaria Design Co.


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By Pack Matthews