Great perks and incentives packages can help attract top-notch talent, maintain employee morale and improve overall engagement and satisfaction with a company.

The coronavirus pandemic has made perks and benefits even more important, particularly in light of so many workers feeling burned out, stressed from working at home or feeling isolated due to closures and shelter-at-home orders.

Recently, retailer Staples surveyed 1,549 employees across the U.S. about their preferences for work perks, asking them to rate how various benefits affected their motivation and if they preferred perks over higher salaries ―and which benefits were most important to them when looking for work.

One of the major perks that employees have coveted in past surveys is the ability to work from home. Well, the coronavirus pandemic has suddenly thrust many workers into that position. But what other benefits and perks do workers look for in an employer?

Perks defined

Employee benefits and perks are a non-wage supplement to salaries and include, among other things:

  • Lifestyle/entertainment perks, such as Netflix/Spotify subscriptions, free coffee and snacks at work, or employee discounts. 
  • Continuing education perks, such as tuition reimbursement, student loan repayment, or financial support for receiving professional certifications.
  • Health and fitness benefits, such as gym membership reimbursements, on-site fitness facilities or nutrition classes.
  • Workplace flexibility perks, such as flexible hours, commuter benefits or the ability to work remotely on a regular basis.
  • Family-focused/childcare perks, such as daycare reimbursement or paid family leave.

What is the overall best way to improve employee morale?

  • Higher base salary (37% of respondents)
  • More workplace perks (22%)
  • Performance-based raises (21%)
  • Recognition from supervisors (9%)
  • Team-building initiatives (4%)
  • Requesting employee feedback (4%)
  • Spontaneous holidays (2%)

Must-have perks and benefits:

  • Flexible hours (40% of respondents)
  • Paid health insurance premiums (34%)
  • Paid family leave (29%)
  • Regular remote work (26%)
  • Financial assistance with professional certifications (26%)

Perks and benefits employees deem nice to have, but not essential:

  • Employee discounts (43% of respondents)
  • Free coffee and snacks (42%)
  • Streaming-TV subscriptions (42%)
  • Gym membership reimbursement (35%)
  • Onsite fitness classes (30%)
  • Company car, laptop or phone (30%)

The takeaway

If you are considering expanding your perks and benefits, to attract or retain staff or motivate workers, don’t forget the following before deciding:

  • Four out of five employees feel that workplace flexibility options are the most important employee perk category.
  • Perks that employees say are “must have” include flexible hours, paid insurance premiums, and paid family leave.
  • Because the Staples survey found that half of employees prefer higher salaries while the other half wants more perks, consider polling your workers before making a change.
  • 62% of employees would accept a lower salary in exchange for better workplace perks.

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