Unique Employee Benefits: Perks Small Businesses Can Consider

  •  04/08/2021
  • By Andrea Collatz
  •  Employer

Crullers, Boston Cream, Chocolate-covered Long Johns. Sure, good employers bring in the occasional box of donuts for their employees, but great employers offer something even sweeter: a variety of perks and unique benefits that reward the people who keep your business running smoothly.

Like a box of doughy, frosting-covered treats, creative employee perks are a small but significant way to help boost morale and increase employee retention. After all, an open position or an employee who leaves the company can cost your company. To prevent the major financial losses that come with losing and replacing great employees, it is essential to keep your staff motivated and happy—beyond just dropping the occasional box of pastries in the break room.

According to AICPA, 80% of employees say they would keep a job with benefits rather than take one that offered more pay and no benefits. This makes thinking creatively about extras you can offer especially important. Unique employee befits can also give you an edge when you’re trying to recruit new employees. If your business offers creative employee benefits that enhance work-life balance, then highly qualified prospects may be more likely to apply.

And, when the perks below do attract great job candidates, it is important you’re prepared to move fast. Great job candidates have options and won’t wait around for an application process that drags on and on. Along with providing creative benefits, it’s essential to keep the hiring process moving with comprehensive employee screening through a service like ShareAble for Hires. Combined with creative perks, expedient, trustworthy screening can help reduce the risk of losing great job applicants to other businesses.

learn more about employment screening

Note: you should always check with your legal counsel to ensure you are in compliance with applicable laws. This blog is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice, nor is this blog represented to have complete or current information.

Why Should Employers Offer Employee Perks?

Offering innovative employee perks may help entice new hires and could help keep your business’s current top talent happy and engaged. According to Social Market Foundation, satisfied employees are said to be more motivated and productive. However, happiness isn’t just about how much an individual gets paid, although that certainly has an impact.

In today’s competitive business world, perks can be an integral aspect of employee fulfillment and overall well-being. Why? Because benefits help employees meet basic needs more easily, which allows them to focus on the work at hand, instead of worrying about how to pay for a check-up or new eyeglasses. In fact, according to Qualtrics, 64% of millennials report that benefits are extremely important or very important to employer loyalty.

Employee benefits help attract great employees infographic

Salary growth offers a temporary morale boost, but other perks may provide further value and convince great employees to stay. Not convinced? If you don’t currently offer employee benefits, then be mindful that up to 50% of employees say they would leave a job for a bigger or better benefits package (according to Global News Wire).

Would you be able to manage if half of your employees left for greener pastures? Probably not. Thankfully, as a small business owner, you may be in a position to offer unique employee benefits that are impossible for larger corporations, due to their strict structures. The following creative employee benefit ideas may help improve how your new hires engage with other coworkers, succeed in day-to-day tasks, and reduce workplace stress or frustration.

Employee Perks for Small Businesses

Employers should consider offering employee benefits that cover the key areas of satisfaction: family, wellness, recognition, culture, talent investment, and time off. Consider these categories and their respective perks to determine what may work for your small business.

Note: Weigh the benefits you’re considering against their respective costs and determine how they’d fit into your current business setup.

Employee Perks: Family Events

For many employees, family comes first. Show your employees that you value their family time with a variety of parental and familial policies.

Parents who have children 18 years of age and under are likely to feel pressure due to time constraints, according to a Gallup study. If your employees have young children who need more intensive supervision and care, then comprehensive family support perks can make a huge difference in the happiness of the mothers and fathers in your organization.

Employee perks – family support

Family support perks to consider:

  • On-site childcare: Providing an onsite daycare program helps improve work-life integration for busy parents who want to be near their family while staying productive. It can also make a huge difference in commuting time and help prevent tardiness.
  • Paternity and maternity leave: While maternity leave is usually expected, offering parental leave policies that can cover both parents may boost morale.
  • Support for nursing and new mothers: Offer places and breaks for breastfeeding mothers to nurse or pump milk. In addition to being a nice perk, this is also often a legal requirement.

Employee Perks: Wellness

Healthy employees are productive employees. Support your employees’ healthy pursuits and encourage them to take days off if they’re under the weather by providing adequate sick pay. In addition to standard sick time, consider offering:

Employee perks – Wellness

Above Average Medical, Dental, and Vision

While standard benefits cover the basics, it may be a good idea to consider adding better healthcare coverage to make treatments, regular doctor visits, and prescriptions more financially accessible.

  • Adequate sick pay: Consider offering employees more sick days so they can go to preventative appointments, not just appointments for current health Adequate sick days also encourage a sick employee to stay home rather than come into the office and spread their illness.
  • Better-than-average coverage: Allow your employees to take care of health issues and make staff members feel especially valued with great coverage. Knowing potential issues will be covered can be a huge relief to employees and help them stay more focused on work.
  • Coverage for family and spouse: Family coverage helps ease healthcare costs for those with dependents and also acts as an incentive for staff to stay with the company.

Gym Memberships and Wellness Programs

Wellness programs and gym memberships are a great way to encourage your employees to practice self-care and take preventative measures to bolster their overall well-being.

Health and wellness perks to consider:

  • Promote self-care: Make it easier for employees to prioritize their health by offering sick days that include the option for a mental health day (or multiple). By explicitly giving permission to use sick days as a mental health day, you may be able to help employees who feel burned out and acknowledge that everyone needs a break sometimes.
  • Offer a gym membership: A gym membership encourages employees to work out without worrying about how to cover the cost of exercise. In addition, it can facilitate group exercise and maybe even add a little healthy competition. You may be able to negotiate a company discount through a gym, even if you can’t pay for a full membership for each employee.
  • Standing desk and ergonomic business accessories: Sitting all day is bad for your health. Enhance your work environment by investing in standing desks and ergonomic business accessories. Great office ergonomics can keep your staff more comfortable and productive.

Offering wellness perks acts as a preventative measure against employee absences, as well. Making it easier for employees to take care of themselves, can mean healthier employees, and potentially fewer sick days taken.

Employee Perks: Recognition

Everyone likes to be recognized, but according to Deloitte, almost half of U.S. workers reported they haven’t been recognized at work in over six months. Feeling unappreciated can be a major hit to morale and cause otherwise great employees to leave. Consider recognizing top performers in the following ways.

Employee perks - recognition

Awards for Top Performers

Do you have an employee who consistently goes above and beyond? Reward them with an Employee-of-the-Month placard and a monetary reward. Even something as simple as a reserved parking spot could make them feel valued.

Welcome Package for New Hires

Make new employees feel welcome with a small gift basket, a note with the best nearby restaurants, and maybe even an assigned lunch buddy to help them get situated. Being the “new guy” can be tough, especially in a close-knit environment that often characterizes a small business’s work culture.

Employee Perks: Time-Off

Time off is essential for your employees. Rest and time away from work can help employees refresh, which allows your team to take on work with new enthusiasm once they are back in the office.

Employee Perks - Time Off

Extra Holiday Time

An extra day or two per year can make all the difference in employee satisfaction. For example, if you give employees New Year’s Day off, consider giving them New Year’s Eve off as well.

Birthday PTO

This is a thoughtful but unexpected perk that gives employees a day off for themselves. If an employee’s birthday falls on a weekend or holiday, offer them an extra day of PTO so they can still take advantage of the perk.

Unique Work Schedules

Creatively managing time and providing flexible work options can boost morale and make employees think twice before applying somewhere else. You might consider:

  • 9/80 work schedule: This work setup is characterized by a two-workweek schedule of eight 9-hour days, one 8-hour day, and one day off.
  • 4/10 work schedule: This work setup requires employees to work four 10-hour days, in exchange for getting every Friday off.

Both a 4/10 and 9/80 work schedule give employees the chance to complete personal tasks, go to doctor’s appointments, and meet familial obligations without interrupting their workflow.

Employee Perks: Talent Investment

Your employees should serve as assets to your company. Why not make them even more valuable by expanding their skillsets?

Employee perks – talent investment

Tuition Reimbursement or Student Loan Help

Starbucks famously offers online degree tuition reimbursement for any employee who works at the company for more than 30 hours a week. Besides reimbursing tuition outright, you may also want to consider helping out employees with student loans.

Conference Reimbursement

Don’t just encourage employees to attend a conference—reward them for it. By reimbursing employees for conference tickets or seminars that expand their knowledge base and skill set, you can foster learning opportunities that are a win-win for both the individual and the organization.

Employee Perks: Culture

Your employees spend 40-plus hours with their coworkers—are they getting along? According to Deloitte, up to 79% of organizations believe fostering a sense of belonging in the workforce is important for business success. Here are a few ways to help improve company culture:

Employee Perks - Culture

Team Outings and Happy Hours

Getting your team members out of the normal office environment to socialize can help foster happiness in the workplace. Once-a-week happy hours, for example, may encourage close work friendships to blossom, which can then increase employee satisfaction.

  • Happy Hours: “Work hard, play hard” is a saying for a reason. Allow your employees to let loose after hours, but encourage responsible imbibing.
  • Team outings: You can use a fun team outing as a reward or incentive for hitting certain sales goals. Opt for positive team-building events that help your employees foster strong bonds.
  • Holiday parties: Consider throwing an inclusive holiday party as an end-of-year recognition for hard work.

If you do host work outings or Happy Hours, then make it a point to let your employees go on their own sometimes or only stay for one drink. Allowing your employees time to talk—and even vent—when the boss is not around is an important part of workplace bonding and can help reduce stress.

Pet-Friendly Office

Fido isn’t just fun to have around for visiting customers; a four-legged friend also may help employees achieve an improved focus while decreasing stress. Having an office dog is a cost-effective wellness benefit and can be used as a hiring tool when you’re ready to bring on more talent.

Beyond simply helping reduce stress, dogs in the office also facilitate group bonding. Dogs encourage individuals who don’t normally socialize with each other to connect over their furry work pal.

Snacks and Food Options

Subscription snack boxes or weekly free lunches can do a lot more than sate your employees’ appetites.

Snacks may help promote a social atmosphere because they encourage group meals and bonding. Plus, it’s one less expense for employees to worry about. Even if you can’t pay for regular, catered lunches for your entire staff, even providing a birthday lunch or occasional treat can be helpful.

Flex Schedules and Work from Home

The classic 9 to 5 structure is not for everyone, but many businesses run on that structure. However, if your small business is able to offer a flex schedule or work from home benefit, you may be able to retain top performers who prefer flexibility.

If your company has set business hours, you can offer a flex schedule with a caveat: employees must be near a computer until the business day is over and have their work email notifications turned on.

Benefits of flex schedules and work-from-home days:

  • Builds trust: Employees perceive more autonomous control over schedule and work environment when they are trusted to work from home without supervision
  • Promotes work-life balance: Flex schedules or remote days allow for employee flexibility to meet family and outside obligations. For example, an employee could take a yoga class at lunch, be at home for a package that needs a signature, do a load of laundry, or attend a parent-teacher conference.
  • Saves on commuting time and fuel costs: Remote days can mean that employees avoid the stress of traffic to and from work while saving on fuel costs. This can help them feel fresher and more ready to work.
  • Saves employers on utility costs: Allowing employees to work from home means you may be able to avoid renting a physical office. You may also save on utility costs by offering certain work-from-home days.
  • A flex schedule may help avoid burnout: Not everyone feels productive, creative, or motivated at the same time during the day. A flexible schedule allows employees to work when they feel their best. Some hires may be more productive in the morning versus in the evening. It also allows employees to work in multiple blocks with breaks in between if that better reflects their ideal workflow.
  • Decreases external employee costs: A flexible schedule may reduce the financial burden of daycare and reduces stress.
  • Increase in employee morale: Working remotely means your employees can work how they work best, whether that means at home in their pajamas, at a coffee shop, or while blasting heavy metal music. These customized working conditions mean happier, more productive employees.
  • Reduce truancy and tardiness: Instead of missing work for a 9 a.m. doctor’s appointment, an employee could arrive later and stay later if they are allowed flexible working time.

However, while remote work and flex time is a smart way to reward great employees, it is not for everyone. Some job candidates might be looking to take advantage of generous flexible work policies and end up costing you thousands in lost time. It is essential to find trustworthy new hires with a proven history of providing excellent work and consistent results.

Attract and Retain Great Employees with Shareable for Hires

While offering unique employee benefits is a great way to attract new talent and keep existing employees productive, employers must also do their best to bring in highly qualified candidates in the first place by creating a robust screening policy. After all, all your great perks will be wasted on an employee who fibbed on their resume, has a relevant criminal history, or—even worse—eats all of the breakroom treats before anyone else has even had a chance to see them.

Screen Your Applicant Today Shareable Graphic

Don’t let sub-par employees take advantage of your great benefits; know who you’re really hiring with comprehensive employment background checks through ShareAble for Hires. Created specifically for small businesses, ShareAble for Hires makes it easy to vet job candidates and get detailed, easy-to-read reports within minutes

Confirm that your candidate is who they say they are with identity verification. Running a candidate’s personal information can help prevent employee fraud and identity theft—crimes that could devastate your small business. With an in-depth criminal history check, your job candidate’s information is compared to national and state-wide criminal databases to see if there are any matches. Knowing that your candidate has been a responsible person in the past can make you more confident that they can be trusted with perks like flex time and remote work.

With ShareAble for hires, you can even run an in-depth credit report, which is especially important if you are hiring for a position that works directly with money or has financial oversight. Backed by TransUnion, an established credit bureau for more than 40 years, ShareAble for Hires provide trustworthy reports in minutes without impacting a job applicant’s credit score. Customized screening packages and pay-as-you-go pricing mean you only pay for the reports you need, when you need them, which means more savings that you can put towards things like communal snacks.

Whether you’re providing daycare or donuts, creative employee perks are only as successful as the employees you bring on board. For vetting quality candidates, use ShareAble for Hires; comprehensive tenant screening could be the difference between securing your first choice or getting stuck with the last, stale glazed that no one else wanted.

Know you applicant

Senior Marketing Analyst, TransUnion ShareAble

Andrea Collatz

She focuses on topics that empower small business owners through data, insights and industry best practices.


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