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What Types of Employee Benefits Work Best, and What Doesn’t?

28 March 2019 8 min read

Blossoming sunflower flower on the farm field

Employee benefits – they’re great for morale, and they’re crucial if you want to attract and retain the talent your business needs to succeed.

Unfortunately, not all employee benefits are created equally. Some might sound good in theory, but in practice, they may wind up hurting more than they help.

So in this post, we’ll take a look at some of the best employee benefits you can offer, as well as some of the worst.

Shall we get the worst ones out of the way first?



Employee Benefits – What Doesn’t Work?

Some of these benefits might look good on paper, but they may come with hidden downsides that make them little more than gimmicks. And if an employee finds that the perks of the job aren’t as perky as they thought, they might start to feel undervalued.

This is why you should think twice before offering any of the following…

1. Favoritism and Incentives

Let’s say you introduce an employee of the month scheme, with a generous reward for whoever claims the title. That could be a certificate, a small bonus, an Amazon voucher, or even just a firm handshake and a pat on the back.

In theory, this will encourage all employees to work harder. But in practice, this sort of scheme could backfire.

The employee of the month will feel special for a short period. But what about everyone else? What if there’s an employee who feels they’ve worked just as hard, only to be overlooked? Do you think they’ll resolve to work even harder next month, or do you think they’ll start to resent you and everything you stand for?

The alternative might be to ensure that everyone gets their turn to be an employee of the month. But this completely defeats the point. If everyone gets a trophy, what’s the point of trying?

2. Unlimited Leave

This one sounds too good to be true. Imagine being able to take off as much time as you like, as often as you like!

This is a key reason for the success of companies like Netflix. It’s surely the ultimate in flexible working! Anyone who works for a company that offers unlimited leave is bound to have a very healthy work/life balance, right?


Unfortunately, this is one of those things that seems too good to be true, because it is. When certain companies experimented with unlimited leave, they found that their employees ended up taking less leave overall.

André Spicer, professor of organizational behavior at the Cass Business School, explained this phenomenon: “The companies that offer this policy tend to be demanding and all-consuming workplaces, so taking time off can make employees feel guilty – particularly as it may show their boss and their colleagues that they are not fully committed.

“If you are up for a promotion against another colleague, it is unlikely you will book that two-week Himalayan trek. This means employees often end up taking less time off, not more.”

Spicer even hints that companies that offer this dream policy may have an ulterior motive. If employees are allowed to take as much time off as they need, then technically businesses do not need to account for holidays that they would have previously owed to employees.

The result is an overly competitive company culture of stress, anxiety, overwork, burnout, and resentment.

Probably best to stick to a more traditional absence management policy.

3. A Superficial Corporate Wellness Program

Wellbeing in the workplace is all about promoting the mental and physical health of your employees. Successful companies achieve this through championing a good work/life balance, and by putting various schemes in place to allow employees to exercise, eat well, meditate, and more. Take a look at how some of the world’s biggest businesses manage employee wellbeing here.

But without engagement, a corporate wellness program is just words on a page. It’s superficial bluster that might make your employees feel that you’re all talk and that you don’t value their health and wellbeing.

When it comes to wellbeing in the workplace, you need to practice what you preach. You need to clearly define and communicate your goals, and you need to make it both simple and desirable for employees to get involved.

Read our guide to the biggest barriers to employee wellbeing, and how to overcome them.

4. Fun and Games

A pool table in the break room! A pinball table in the corner! Taco Tuesdays, Ice Cream Wednesdays, and Dress Down Fridays!

Imagine going for a job interview and walking through a colorful office filled with fun and games. Imagine passing a fridge full of beer, and getting told during the interview about just how much fun it is to work here.

You’d want to sign up immediately, wouldn’t you?

Company’s like to brag about these fun things, as they can be great for recruitment. But while all of this fun stuff might make your business a more attractive place to work, they do not necessarily make your business a more enjoyable and rewarding place to work.

A major issue is that workplaces are diverse places, and not everybody necessarily enjoys the same thing. You can’t please everyone. While some employees might love nothing more than to unwind with a game of pool, others might prefer some quiet time or some fresh air.

Some of these supposed perks could even make some employees feel uncomfortable and even alienated. Take that fridge of beer, for example. Yes, many members of your team might look forward to kicking back with a brew at the end of a long week. But what about those who don’t drink? And what if someone in your team has a troubled history with alcohol? What some might see as perks, others might see as a signifier of a toxic and hostile working environment.

But the main issue with this sort of employee benefits is that they’re superficial. A PlayStation in the breakroom isn’t going to make anyone feel more engaged and fulfilled in their role. And if any employee identifies the office pool table as their favorite part of their job, it’s a sign that something’s not quite right.

Employees should feel valued in their role, and they should be able to take genuine pride in their work. Unless you take a holistic and strategic approach to wellbeing and engagement, all this fun and games will just act as a great big distraction.



What Types of Employee Benefits Work?

The best benefits are those that promote a good work/life balance while enabling employees to feel valued and fulfilled in the workplace.

Here are a few employee benefits that have proven to work well for businesses:

  1. Paid maternity and paternity leave
  2. Generous leave policies
  3. Paid time off to volunteer
  4. Travel allowance
  5. Flexi Working Patterns

A good employee benefit doesn’t have to be too flashy or elaborate. It could simply be a commitment to never let your employees’ jobs get in the way of their lives. Paid maternity and paternity leave is the big one here, but you can also make a huge difference just by making it easy for employees to take the time off they need when they need it.

This is where good absence management software can help. Our system allows any employee to view their leave allowance from any device, and to book leave and receive confirmation in a matter of minutes. If you make it easy for your employees to take leave, you’ll send a strong message that you value their time and you’re invested in their wellbeing.

Offering paid time off to volunteer is another increasingly popular employee benefit. It’s a policy used by companies like Google to help their employees “give back.” If you enable employees to make a positive contribution to a cause close to their heart, they’ll likely feel more fulfilled by their job as a whole.

Finally, travel allowances are a way of ensuring that employees can make the most of their leave. Expedia offers employees a travel allowance of up to £10,000 a year on top of their salaries. So employees don’t just get paid time off. They get paid to travel to the places they’ve always dreamed of seeing. No wonder Expedia has been described as “the happiest workplace in London.”

Work should never get in the way of life, and life can be enriching and rewarding if it’s filled with good people, good times, new places, and worthwhile activity. You might not realize it, but as an employer, you’re in a very good position to help your employees live their best lives.

Keep track of holidays and absences in your business with Edays. There are so many benefits to using Edays, request your free demo to learn more!

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Harry Customer Success Manager at edays
March 28, 2019

Harry is Head of Customer Success here at edays, helping organisations to get the very best out of their edays system. His experience in SaaS and HR brings valuable insight into how organisations can better manage their people, processes and productivity.