Employee benefits like 401k matches, health insurance, paid time off, and annual bonuses are considered normal in corporate America. However, these boilerplate perks are no longer enough to attract and retain the best talent. Companies that want to stand out have to get creative. Unusual employee benefits are one way employers can beat out their competition to ensure that their workforce is happy and committed.
Employee Expectations are High
Millennials, the largest generation in the labor workforce, are driving trends that prioritize happiness, satisfaction, and company culture. Unlike their parents, they don’t plan to spend their entire careers in one job.
Instead, Millennials are shaping the workforce by prioritizing work-life balance and personal growth. They seek out jobs that align with their values and are eager to change companies if they see opportunities for growth and advancement.
A recent Employee Benefits study by MetLife showed that 73% of employees believe employers are responsible for addressing their employees’ health and well-being. After all, most people spend more time at work than they do with their families! The average person will spend 90,000 hours, or ⅓ of their lifetime, at work.
Unusual Employee Benefits Improve Retention
Turnover is tough on companies, so they have devised creative benefit programs to help attract and retain a strong workforce.
Reasons for Offering Unusual Employee Benefits
- Stand out from the competition
- Attract the best talent
- Improve employee retention
- Show commitment to a specific value or mission
1. Google – Going Above and Beyond with Generous Death Benefits
We’re not surprised that Google made this list. The tech giant has long been a leader in innovative employee culture building. Things like: on-site healthcare, free food, shuttle services, Education leave, fantastic holiday parties, vacation perks, bring your pet to work permissions, and more are old-hat for the brand.
Their death benefits are no exception. While it’s not unusual for a company to pay a lump sum benefit to a deceased employee’s family, Google goes above and beyond by offering the family of deceased employees 50 percent of the decedent’s salary for ten years after their death.
While it’s not an unusual employee benefit anyone would be excited to use, it does offer peace of mind to folks who want to ensure their families are looked after.
2. Salesforce – Paid Time Off for Volunteering
Salesforce is on our radar as a culture leader because of its work to achieve pay equity and philanthropic efforts. Under the progressive leader of Marc Benioff, CEO, the company has dedicated over $8 million to correct compensation differences by gender, race, and ethnicity across the company.
Since the company was founded in 1999, the Hawaiian philosophy of “Ohana” has been an integral part of the company culture. In their own words, the company aspires to “collaborate, take care of one another, have fun together, and work to leave the world a better place.”
Salesforce is eager for its employees to contribute to their communities and offers paid time off for volunteering. Each year, employees are offered six paid days off for volunteer work of their choice. They also donate $1,000 every year to a cause of the employee’s choice.
Spotify joins rank with a variety of other tech companies by offering innovative fertility benefits. The company covers the cost of egg-free and fertility assistance for interested employees.
Although the challenges and costs associated with fertility treatments are becoming more widely known, it is healthcare that is usually not covered by traditional insurance plans. Spotify’s commitment to helping employees access these treatments is progressive and unique.
The coverage is unlimited; however, employees are asked to demonstrate proof that they need the treatment. That may make the coverage less accessible to non-heterosexual couples.
Pinterest also offers free, unlimited fertility treatment with no restrictions. Learn more about companies that provide fertility benefits.
4. Freeborn – Luggage Party, All Expenses Paid Vacation
Chicago Law Firm Freeborn & Peters LLP, employees are offered a chance for a free, spontaneous vacation. They host an annual “luggage party” where employees come to work with a packed bag, and four lucky drawing winners are whisked away to the airport in a limo for an all-expense paid weekend getaway.
5. BrewDog – “Paw”turnity Leave
BrewDog, a Scottish brewer with U.S. operations in Canal Winchester, Ohio, gives employees a week of paid time off when they adopt a dog. The benefit has a one-time use limitation. It’s called “paw”turnity or “fur”turninty leave, and it’s becoming more common, especially among startups and small or midsize businesses.
In a recent interview with the Seattle Times, the company’s supply chain manager, Miranda Dietz, talked about why this policy is a good fit for their company culture.
“The regular family isn’t everyone’s thing. We have to make sure we’re nurturing people’s families, whether that’s furry families or human families. This is just a really cool way to make sure we’re taking care of our people.”
With a name like BrewDog, we’re guessing that furry family members are a priority for its founders.
6. Patagonia – Exclusive Surfs Up Breaks
Famous activewear brand, Patagonia, has an unusual employee benefit that is all about getting outside and enjoying the sun and surf. The company headquarters are right on the beachfront in Ventura, California, so employees are encouraged to get out and surf on their lunch breaks.
“We have a policy that when the surf comes up, you drop work, and you go surfing.” says founder Yvon Chouinard.
The policy isn’t a benefit that translates well to Patagonia’s Reno office or 70 retail locations worldwide, so it’s safe to say this is a perk for a select group of Patagonia employees.
7. Zappos – Employee Parades and Office Fun
Zappos, a major online retailer of shoes and accessories, treats staff members to employee “parades” and special prizes.
Zappos will often choose a random employee to surprise with a “parade” and special gift. Members of the Zappos team dress up in elaborate costumes like capes and tutus and put on a parade in honor of the lucky team member. The company prides itself on a core value called: Create a Little Fun & Weirdness.
“Unlike other big companies, Zappos finds value in being fun and a little weird — it’s what makes us, well … us! Rather than being all corporate and boring like the other guys, we instead inject fun and humor into our daily work and surroundings. Over the years, this has come in the form of over-the-top Nerf gun battles, themed new hire parades, and even Tutu Tuesdays.” –Zappos Core Values
But that’s not all Zappos does for its team. The retailer also offers an on-site wellness service, pet insurance, pre-paid legal help, monthly team outings, nap rooms, free food and more.
8. Innocent – 3D Perks for Model Employees
Innocent, a beverage brand that is a part of the Coca-Cola Company, has pushed the mold with their unusual employee benefit. Innocent celebrates employees who have been with the brand for 15 years by printing a displaying a 3D model of their head in the office.
Yes, really, they actually do that. The brand mentioned the unusual practice in a tweet, saying, “some people have said it’s a creepy tradition. Others have said it doesn’t make sense. In both cases, they’re spot on.”
Happy Employees Do Better Work
Unusual employee benefits may seem over the top or unnecessary, but if they make employees happier and more relaxed at work, the payoff is worth it. Studies show that happy employees are more productive and do better work. They also have higher sales and perform better in customer-facing roles, which is excellent for both the employee and their company.
Happy Employees are:
- More productive and creative
- Less likely to quit
- Work better with others
- Better at dealing with challenges
Offering benefits beyond the basics can help employees feel valued and appreciated. Likewise, promoting a fun and whimsical work environment puts employees at ease and allows them to feel comfortable and at home in the workplace.
Want to feel more appreciated at work? Learn more about how to ask for a raise.