Businesses are always searching for the Holy Grail of benefits that will entice prospective employees to join the company and will keep current employees invested and happy. Beyond the basics of medical and dental insurance, companies offer additional health and wellness benefits to address physical, mental, financial, and social needs.
With companies looking to gain a competitive edge by offering new benefits, such as pet insurance, egg freezing, or unlimited vacation time, it’s a good opportunity to review some of the most common benefits and policies to see if any have become outdated or need to be enhanced. Below is a list of a few that should be revisited.
Benefits To Enhance
1. Paid Maternity Leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires that companies with 50 or more employees provide mothers of newborns or newly adopted children with 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year. Although some companies pay their employees during this time, it is not mandated by law. The U.S. is the only industrialized country that does not require businesses to provide paid leave. The FMLA does not include time off for fathers or recognize additional needs for time off, such as for elder parental care.
Provide paid time off for both parents and enhance the amount of time offered. Tech companies like Microsoft, Twitter, Amazon and Apple found four to six months of parental leave gave parents the ideal time of bonding, without making returning to work a challenge. Also, consider expanding the leave so employees can use it for other family needs.
2. Gym Memberships
Encouraging a healthy lifestyle is an excellent benefit; however, not everyone is cut out to be a gym rat.
Instead of providing membership at a specific gym, provide a stipend or credit to be used for a variety of wellness programs: a yoga studio, cycling class, running program, or park district swim lesson.
3. Flexible Work Schedules And Locations
Not everyone works best on a nine-to-five schedule, and not every job requires work at that time. In the same vein, work may not need to take place in a set environment. Aligning work hours and locations to employees’ needs can positively impact mental and physical health.
Consider starting or enhancing a flexible work arrangement. If there isn’t a business imperative for a specific structure, look at developing a pilot program for flexibility. Regardless of whether employees work remotely or side by side, find ways to connect employees and stem loneliness and isolation.
4. Unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO)
A recent study found that 72% of employees felt PTO was the most desired benefit. The concept of unlimited PTO can scare business leaders who worry that employees will take advantage of the benefit.
Before implementing this policy, assess the culture of your business. If it’s one that values flexibility, trust, respect, and motivation, unlimited PTO could work. However, if employees and managers distrust each other or if it’s an environment where work is judged by “face time,” the policy will not succeed.
5. Employee Feedback Comes Solely From Performance Reviews
When leaders use performance reviews as the only source for feedback, they miss opportunities to improve. First, performance reviews may be conducted only once or twice a year, reflecting issues that took place six to 12 months ago, instead of raising concerns that can be addressed in real-time. Second, because performance reviews are tied to an employee’s accomplishments and challenges—and often to their future compensation—employees may be reluctant to provide the candid feedback needed to spur improvements.
Performance reviews should continue, but businesses should find additional ways to solicit feedback, through conversations and more frequent surveys. This process is called continuous performance management.
Benefits To Drop
1. Strict Dress Code
As the business world becomes more casual, dressing more informally is the norm. Allowing employees to dress comfortably demonstrates trust and shifts the emphasis on the work product. One study found dressing casually at work helps employees be more productive. In the same study, 61% of job candidates said they would have a negative perception of any company that enforced a dress code.
While some jobs may still require a strict dress code, this should be the exception rather than the rule.
2. Restricting Social Media
In the era of Bring Your Own Device to work, employees are accustomed to constant access to social media. To limit this, even during work hours, can be detrimental. Employees may use social media as part of their jobs, but even if they are using it to play Candy Crush, their performance should be measured on productivity, not based on screen time.
3. Bereavement Policy
An official bereavement policy typically designates a certain amount of days an employee can take off for a death in the family. That only accounts for funeral arrangements but not the needs that may arise months later, whether for counseling, relocating a loved one, or just for being sad.
Instead of having a specific policy and schedule for grief, allow employees the time they need, whether that occurs in the first days of mourning or months later.
When it comes to expanding benefits, much depends on trust between businesses and employees. Enhancing these offerings also requires taking a careful look at individual policies. Instead of asking why benefits should be expanded, try asking why shouldn’t they be.