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16 Cost Effective Employee Benefits Everyone Will Love

Employee benefits don’t always cost the earth. Some of the most affordable will put a smile on your workers’ faces.

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Employers pay an average of $14.13 per employee per hour for benefits costs, leaping to $23.03 for government workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals this is around a third of employees’ total compensation costs. 

There’s no doubt about it—creating a well-rounded benefits package is a serious investment for employers. Yet, you can offer plenty of cost effective benefits that will resonate with your employees. This guide introduces 16 of them. 

Flexible work arrangements

Offering a variety of flexible work arrangements signals to your employees that you care about their work-life balance. 

1. Different work patterns 

Not every employee is built to work at their peak productivity from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some may be night owls, others early risers, or you may have employees whose productivity isn’t connected to a specific set of hours but ebbs and flows throughout the week. 

Entrepreneur Naval Ravikant compares effective working patterns to two different beasts: lions and cows. 

“The way people tend to work most effectively, especially in knowledge work, is to sprint as hard as they can while they feel inspired to work, and then rest. They take long breaks. It’s more like a lion hunting and less like a marathoner running. You sprint, and then you rest. You reassess, and then you try again. You end up building a marathon of sprints.”

The great news for employers is that it costs very little to adapt working patterns to suit your employees’ natural productivity levels. Some options include: 

  • Working a compressed work week, such as 4 days, or 9/80, where 80 hours are spread over nine days across two weeks, with the tenth day off. 
  • Frontloading your work week with more hours at the beginning of the week before tapering off toward the end. For example, you could work 12 hours on Monday, 10 on Tuesday, 8 on Wednesday, 6 on Thursday, and 4 on Friday. 
  • Allowing employees to create their own schedules as long as they meet set deadlines. 

The bonus for employers offering this perk is that productivity is likely to soar, especially on Mondays, with 29% of employees reporting this is the day they get most done. 

2. Work from home 

As some employers enforce return-to-office mandates this year, companies would do well to remember just how popular remote working has been for many employees. 

In fact, according to a RingCentral report, employees would prefer to do the following tasks rather than return to a physical office environment full-time: 

  • 52% would prefer to wash the dishes
  • 40% would rather clean their toilet
  • 33% would opt to visit the dentist
  • 30% would be happy to do their taxes 
  • 27% would host their in-laws 

Although remote working may not be a great fit for every business or industry, those who can make it work could save money by downsizing or eliminating their rented office premises.  

3. Paid time off 

Unlike Iran, which offers 53 days of holiday for its workers, Yemen, which offers 45, and Togo, which offers 43 days, the U.S. has no national requirement for paid vacation, holiday, or sick leave, although some states have their own rules. In many cases, businesses choose to create their own PTO policies. But, an average of just 10 days leave per year puts the U.S. second to bottom globally, level with Nauru and just one day ahead of Micronesia, which only offers nine days per year.

For those companies that do offer paid time off, the Bureau of Labor Statistics data reports that paid leave costs $2.82 per employee per hour in goods-producing industries and $3.34 per hour in service-providing industries. 

While some employers may be unwilling to pay this, it’s important to weigh up providing paid time off against the cost associated with low productivity, burnout, and employee departures. 

4. Dogs at work 

Pet ownership rose significantly during the pandemic, with 56% of Americans now including a dog in their household. Dog-walking services are expensive for office workers, but employers can support them by allowing well-behaved canine pals to attend the workplace instead. 

Zogics is a great example of a company that loves its pups. The company’s “Dogs of Zogics” page presents 16 office dogs who “keep us company as we work, sit with us in meetings, and join us for midday strolls outside.” Zogics understands this is an important part of its employer brand which could attract top talent. The page concludes with a call to action: “Want to join our pack? Check out our job openings here.” 

Employee assistance

Employee assistance benefits support employees with any personal or professional challenges they may be experiencing. 

5. Tuition reimbursement 

Many employers struggle to fill roles that require specific qualifications or experience. Offering tuition reimbursement as a benefit can help attract and retain employees looking to upskill and further their education at the same time. 

According to Internal Revenue Code Section 127, employers can receive $5,250 per employee deductions for tuition reimbursements covering tuition, books, supplies, and equipment on certain employee assistance programs.  

6. Commuter benefits 

For employees required to work in the office full time, transportation costs can add up and eat into their income. Offering commuter benefits can offset the costs of attending work while reducing traffic congestion and carbon emissions in urban areas. Commuter benefits fall into the following categories, according to the IRS

  • Pre-tax benefits include transit passes, commuter highway vehicles, and qualified parking. 
  • Taxable benefits include gas cards, toll reimbursement, carpooling, company cars, etc. 

Employers may offer a commuter stipend as an affordable way to offer this perk to employees. The stipend enables employers to contribute monthly to an employee’s commuter account, which can be used for eligible commuting costs. 

7. Career coaching 

“Helping employees develop their careers” is an L&D priority focus that has climbed five places from position nine to four this year, according to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report

Some employers may offer professional development stipends to spend on external career coaching services, while others may opt for affordable in-house training programs. This benefit ensures employees align their personal goals with the company’s objectives, enhancing performance and job satisfaction. 

8. Financial education 

Half of Americans say their finances are in worse shape now than in 2020, with 59% of U.S. adults feeling like the economy is in recession, even though it isn’t. Additionally, 42% of people report that their short-term savings have worsened, and 34% believe their investments (including retirement savings) are performing less well. 

Employers can support their workforce during these challenging economic times by offering financial education, such as counseling, workshops, and webinars. These resources don’t require much in the way of an upfront investment but can: 

  • Reduce employee stress levels and improve mental health 
  • Increase employee productivity 
  • Make informed decisions about benefits packages 

Tickets and employee discounts

Companies can partner with local and national vendors to offer their employees discounted tickets or goods. These partnerships are an easy way to delight employees and create a positive company culture. 

9. Events and movie tickets 

Negotiating discounts for event and movie tickets makes it affordable for your employees to enjoy cultural, educational, and entertainment experiences—all the good stuff. Whether it’s a local theater production, a major sporting event, or the latest blockbuster, discounted access encourages employees to get their kicks outside of work while providing opportunities for team outings and bonding.

10. Gym and wellness discounts 

Partnerships with local gyms, fitness centers, and wellness platforms promote healthy living to your employees. Memberships and class passes support physical health; similarly, discounts for wellness apps or services, such as meditation and yoga, support employees in managing stress and enhancing their overall quality of life. A flexible wellness stipend can help you cover all these fitness services within one benefit program. 

11. App and software discounts 

Negotiating discounts for productivity tools, educational platforms, or personal finance apps isn’t just about filling up your employees’ home screens—it’s about empowering them to pursue different interests and improve their skills. This benefit supports their professional growth and also their personal satisfaction.

12. Hardware and equipment discounts 

To run their choice of apps and software, employees need robust hardware, including laptops, desktops, tablets, and cell phones. Offering discounts on this technology or providing a flexible technology stipend supports employees’ work-from-home setups and personal technology needs. 

Quality of life

The modern workforce is constantly seeking balance and fulfillment in their personal lives. Employers can offer benefits that improve the quality of life outside of work, including:

13. Direct deposits 

Getting paid on time and in full for the work they complete shouldn’t be considered a benefit for employees. Yet, the typical organization makes 15 mistakes each pay cycle, which can significantly impact the employee experience. Direct deposits are a convenient way of compensating employees promptly and accurately compared to writing out paychecks manually. 

14. 401k 

While there’s no federal requirement for employers to provide 401(k) plans to their workers in the U.S., different states have their own mandates. Companies offering voluntary retirement plans to their employees must comply with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which is enforced by the Department of Labor. 

Payroll administrators pay employees’ contributions to a 401(k) directly from their paychecks, making it easy for them to save for retirement. Employers can also choose to match a percentage of their employees’ contributions. For employees, the salary deferral is $23,000, but the total contribution limit, including employer contributions, is $69,000. It’s worth knowing that 78% of 401(k) savers contribute enough to obtain their employer’s full matching contribution. 

Employers new to offering 401(k) plans may be eligible for a tax credit of up to $5,000 to support the setup and plan administration costs, including educating employees about how it works. You should also factor in the cost of offering employer-matching contributions and any resources involved in filing paperwork with the IRS. 

15. Time off for volunteering 

Encouraging employees to donate their time and skills to a good cause builds workplace morale, purpose, and motivation. It’s also an opportunity for employees interested in giving back to positively impact the community. Some organizations offer paid time off or flexible schedules that permit staff members to volunteer at a local nonprofit for a few hours per month. Those that do experience 52% less turnover.  

16. Family leave 

The Family and Medical Leave Act provides eligible groups of workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year, and group health benefits must also be maintained during this time. Employers may want to improve on this basic provision by offering additional benefits like paid parental leave, adoption assistance, and paternity or partner leave. 

These offerings support employees in starting a family while maintaining their financial stability and job security. It’s an investment that can increase retention, attract top talent, and improve overall employee satisfaction for the company.  

Curious about the variety of stipends you can offer to employees? We put together a guide to employee stipends to provide an overview of this popular employee benefit and offer inspiration as you design your stipend program. Download the guide to learn about the types of stipends available and how to design a successful program.

A Complete Guide to Employee Stipends: 14 Ideas With Tips and Best Practices

Why expand your benefits offering?

Need a business case for enhancing your benefits? Here are four stellar reasons to improve your benefits administration with robust programs: 

  • Drive productivity and engagement in your workforce: 59% of employees feel the benefits they receive improve their engagement at work. This directly impacts their productivity, meaning businesses will receive more bang for their buck. 
  • Nudge aside your competitors: Offering a comprehensive and competitive benefits package ensures your employer brand stands out from the crowd. 55% of job seekers report they’ve turned down benefits packages that didn’t meet their expectations, so this is your chance to attract and retain top talent with yours. 
  • Reduce costs in other areas: Employers offering robust benefits packages may experience lower healthcare costs and reduced turnover, leading to lower recruiting and training costs. 

Choose the best cost effective benefits for your employees

Ready to select the right combination of affordable employee benefits? Follow the below tips to find employee perks that won’t break the bank but will resonate with your workers: 

Benchmark your current benefits package 

Begin by understanding what you already offer to employees, how they participate in your benefits programs, and if there are any noticeable gaps. Perhaps a major competitor offers student loan assistance or higher quality health insurance than you? Notice where your package falls short and decide what you want to improve.  

Beam Content’s Co-Founder Brooklin Nash took to LinkedIn to describe his company’s current benefits package: 

“My company is tiny. $1m in revenue. A dozen clients. 5 people. But we offer: 

  • Paid parental leave. 
  • 401(k) matching. 
  • 3+ weeks off. 
  • Flex Fridays. 

This isn’t a brag. It’s a call to do better. If we can do it, your shiny startup with fresh funding can do it.” 

Want to compare your benefits to similar companies in your industry? Check out the Benepass Benchmarking Guide to explore detailed perks breakdowns. 

2023 Benepass Benefits Benchmarking Guide

Give your employees a voice

The best way to deliver low-cost perks is to ensure you’re not pouring dollars down the drain. If you’ve been guilty of trying to second-guess what your employees want and need from their benefits, why not ask them what they’d prefer? To gather this feedback: 

  • Conduct surveys or focus groups: Ask questions that reveal what your employees value most and least about their current benefits package. Use these insights to identify and improve any unpopular benefits.
  • Host one-on-one discussions: Talk to your employees about their benefits needs and goals. Do this individually to learn more about their circumstances and what they want from your benefits package.
  • Review the data: Are there any gaps between what employees use compared to what you offer? Conduct usage research and make changes accordingly. 

Offer a lifestyle spending account 

A lifestyle spending account is a benefits vehicle that enables employers to offer truly creative employee benefits while keeping a close eye on budget. Companies set up their LSA with a range of pillars such as wellness, professional development, family, etc. They fund the account regularly and employees choose how to spend their money on eligible categories. 

Roll out cost effective employee benefits with Benepass

Benepass is a flexible benefits platform designed to meet your organization’s and your employees’ needs. We understand how important budget is, which is why we offer the following customizable packages:

Book a free Benepass demo or contact sales@getbenepass.com to connect with a benefits specialist. 

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Rebecca Noori

Rebecca Noori is a freelance HR Tech and SaaS writer who is obsessed with our world of work. She writes about everything from employee benefits and performance management to upskilling and productivity tips. When she's not writing, you'll find her grappling with phonics homework and football kits, looking after her three kids.

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