Corporate Perks: 6 Unexpected Benefits for a Happier, Healthier Workforce

Photo Credit: Pexels

By Jennifer Bewley

READ MORE: Paid leave, Sabbatical, Company culture, Workplace, Health, Linkedin, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Compass Group USA, Deutsch

Life happens during work hours. Work happens during life hours. Forward-thinking companies accept that fact and have started to design corporate benefits to minimize the time personal activities take at work, as well as promote employees having a healthy life and less stress outside of their job.

From the small to the grandiose, companies can find great returns when they treat their employees well and offer corporate perks.

Free College Admissions Counseling

College experts are being hired by companies to help professionals and parents navigate the college admissions, financial aid, and educational savings processes. "You have to do these activities during working hours, because colleges don't work after five o'clock," said Elizabeth Venturini of College Career Results. Employees get help from an expert, and they can stay focused on their jobs.” Bonus? Less teenage drama.

One such company offering this perk program is LinkedIn. The company’s outside specialists help families compile a targeted college list based on student preferences and academic record, provide one-on-one counseling customized to a family’s needs, and each student can submit up to 15 college applications and essays for review.

Paid Sabbatical

No longer just the purview of academics, a paid sabbatical is gaining popularity with other companies and organizations, including charity: water. How does it work? After five consecutive years of full-time work, the group encourages its team to take between four and six weeks of paid leave. Introduced in 2016, its team members have chosen to use their sabbaticals to train to become a yoga teacher at a retreat in Bali, take their first international solo trip in Europe, and return to the community in Togo, West Africa, where they served in the Peace Corps.

Lauren Letta, charity:water’s chief operating officer explained, “Knowing that it is much less common for people to stay at the same job for more than a couple of years these days, we introduced the sabbatical policy as a way to celebrate people's dedication to the organization and their commitment to our mission. We also recognize that we work in a fast-paced, sometimes high-pressure environment, and we wanted to make sure that people had time to step away from their day-to-day work, to take a break, and to explore other passions. As much as we hope that the sabbatical will increase our retention, that is not the primary goal. The primary goal is to reward our employees and show them that we appreciate their dedication. When people return from sabbatical, the only requirement is that they share what they did with their time with the rest of the organization. The purpose of this is to inspire others to take their sabbaticals and to learn from one another.” It’s not a one-time deal at charity: water: five years after your first sabbatical, you can go again.

Healthcare Concierge

Trying to navigate the excessively complex U.S. health system is endlessly frustrating and a giant time suck for employees. Enter a healthcare concierge, a personalized service that helps employees do everything healthcare, including finding cost-effective providers, scheduling doctors’ appointments, battling for reimbursement, and correcting dreaded billing mistakes. One of Nebraska Furniture Mart’s employees summed it up this way: “I feel like I’m a rich person who has assistants to help me.”

The Midwestern home furnishings retailer has been using Compass Professional Health Services since 2012 to help its employees become good consumers of healthcare, particularly in light of high deductible health plans said Tiffaney Kuper, benefits manager with Nebraska Furniture Mart. “An M.R.I. in Omaha at a location very near to our business is $600. That same M.R.I. in West Omaha at a hospital is $4,500. To me, that’s the biggest shock factor and reason why I love Compass,” explained Kuper.

That’s not the only reason, Kuper, a busy mom, finds it helpful to allow Compass to find providers and make appointments. “Recently, my daughter was complaining of having trouble seeing the board at school. She had an eye exam nine months prior, so I had already exhausted my insurance options. Since I was paying out of pocket, Compass helped me locate a low-cost option to get an exam. My daughter did end up needing glasses. I'm glad they were able to find me something affordable, so I could get it taken care of right away.” Assistant indeed.

Wellness Remake

With healthcare costs on an endless march higher, companies started to question what they were getting in return for their wellness spending. Instead of scrapping programs all together, most companies have opted to start small, rethink, or redesign their offerings.

For creative powerhouse, Deutsch, an advertising, design and digital agency that works with companies like Target and Volkswagen, it started with weekly meditation sessions, expanded to include yoga, a wellness loyalty program, clean happy hours (think cold-pressed juices, coconut water and booster shots), and even details like doTERRA oil diffusers and removing germy, smelling sponges in their kitchen.

Val DiFebo, Deutsch’s CEO, explained the focus on scent. “Science has shown that essential oils are a multi-tasker in the workplace; they can have an impact on reducing workplace stress and creating alertness and combatting colds and sniffles, and act as an air freshener. We’re also taking a page from Walt Disney World, one of the greatest marketers of all time, and their incorporation of scents throughout the park. There’s a feeling of positive energy, and employees and clients notice it.” It’s the details, people.

Pawternity Leave

Progressive companies are expanding the definition of family to include our four-legged friends, including offering “pawternity leave” or time off to help your animals settle into their new life.

Laura Peppino, head of talent acquisition at mParticle, told the Wall Street Journal, “We offer maternity and paternity leave, and a pet is another member of the family. We don’t discriminate just because they aren’t human.” Pet parents rejoice!

A Perk that Elaine Benes Would Love

When the leadership team of Profiles, a Baltimore-based PR agency, started brainstorming new 2018 perk programs, two rose to the top: work from home days and a paid day off in celebration of their birthday, said Amy Burke Friedman, the company's President.

“Our team works hard, so it is important to the leadership team that the company culture provide opportunities to relax and have fun,” noted Burke Friedman “I know I’m personally excited to have the day off to focus on myself—I can finally use the spa gift certificate I got on my last birthday!” No more forced office celebrations, and your day can be yours—a gesture that companies of all size can make for their teams.

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Jennifer Bewley is the founder of Uncuffed, which provides detailed research into prospective employers. Jennifer has an unhealthy love of financial data and speaking her mind and she uses each to help candidates choose the company they work for wisely.

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