The 9 Best Employee Perks for 2021

by Sarah Bedrick

A smart business leader knows that salary alone is not enough to attract and retain top talent today.  

And as the lines between work life and personal life continue to blur and top talent becomes harder to find, employees are leveraging their power as individuals and requesting more from their employers. 

Employee perks are a big part of that request.

A recent industry study reported that 48% of employees weigh innovative employee perks and benefits in their decision to find their next job. Those numbers are nothing to scoff at.

If you're looking for research-backed perks that people truly want, we've got the perfect list for you.

Below are the best employee perks that you need to implement to solve for your employees:

  1. Flexibility programs around work location or hours
  2. Shorter work week
  3. Sabbatical
  4. Parental perks
  5. Mentorship programs
  6. Coaching services
  7. Employee perk stipends
  8. Wellness initiatives
  9. Student loan assistance

Oh, and just so we’re on the same page; we define employee perks as:

The ways to support employees beyond salary and benefits (e.g. insurance, retirement benefits like 401ks), including purchasable perks, programmatic and environmental perks. Purchasable perks include catered lunches, books, fitness stipends, pet insurance and student loan forgiveness. Programmatic perks are policy-driven advantages to working at a company such as being pet-friendly, Summer Fridays, or remote work. Environmental are the amenities you offer on-site, and even the office set-up to best support your team.

We want you to better solve for all of your employees. That’s why we’ve read every new "best employee perks" article, talked to benefits experts, and many employees to curate this detailed list of top employee perks for your employees.

1. Flexibility around work location or hours.

This perk directly aligns with the labor force move toward increased flexibility.

Recently a study found that 96% of professionals say they need flexibility, but only 47% have it. That’s a pretty significant when it comes to employee needs to do their best work. And allowing employees to own their own schedule comes with tremendous mental health benefits as well.

Offering more flexibility doesn’t have to be difficult. Create a program around the types of flexibility and then check in frequently to see how it's performing is a great start.

First, consider creating flexibility around work location:

  • Partially remote work: The company office is their primary headquarters, but they choose the best location for them based on the work they’re doing that week, day, or moment. This could include their favorite local coffee shop, the city’s public library, or their home desk. Since today’s type of work is considered to be more mentally complex than prior decades, it results in requiring more deep workcollaboration, and continual up-skilling.
  • Fully remote work: The opportunity to work not at the local headquarters, and work from their home, a coworking space in a different city, or even the road.

Now consider creating flexibility around work schedule and hours.

The professional world can learn something from hourly work, and that is to pick their own work schedules and hours. 

In the survey cited above, 26% of professionals said they had the ability to adapt their schedule as needed, whereas 80% of survey respondents said they wished for this level of flexibility.

Below are a few ideas related to work-hour flexibility below:

  • TimeShift: Enabling employees to shift their hours to be their most productive self. Instead of being in the office from 9-5, allow them to change their hours earlier to 7-3 or 11 to 7 to avoid rush-hour traffic, better accommodate their partner’s schedule, or align with the time where they produce their best work.
  • Micro-agility: Empowering employees to change their work hours slightly when necessary and make up the hours later, as to not have to take a limited vacation or sick time. Examples of this include giving employees the freedom to step away from the keyboard to run an errand, attend a doctor’s appointment, or pick up a sick child from school, and then make up that missed time later that evening or another day that week.
  • Part-time work: Letting people temporarily or permanently go part-time to better accommodate a new life situation such as being a parent, caring for their parents, or even wanting to continue their side business.

Ultimately, your focus should not be having “butts-in-seats” during specific hours but rather offering your employees the flexibility and opportunity of delivering their best work from their preferred setting during their preferred time.

2. Shorter work week

While we have been taught to “hustle” and acquire the “no pain” approach, adopting this mindset certainly is not the way to bring out the best in your employees.

It’s not much about working hard but about working smart. Studies have shown that if you keep your leadership team well-rested, and with a great work-life balance program, they will perform at higher levels, and on track for sustainable growth.

If you want to test this idea out, try starting out by experimenting with Summer Fridays (where all of your employees, both in-office and remote take Fridays off during Summer) or read about how this New Zealand firm successfully cut back their company to a four day work-week.

This is a perk especially loved by parents as they're able to spend more time with their children instead of sending them off to daycare or leaving them in the hands of a nanny for 40+ hours a week.

3. Sabbatical

Why is this one a hot employee perk? Paying for people to take a month off to explore life is an excellent way to support the whole human. 

A sabbatical rewards employees for hard work over an extended period of time (often three or five years) and gives them a likely much-needed break.

Your people are able to use this time however they see fit whether it means traveling, exploring new hobbies, spending time with family, or simply do nothing for a change.

If this is something you decide to implement, consider encouraging your team to write about their time off on your internal wiki, or using a hashtag to highlight their adventures. When employees are given the option to take a sabbatical, it feels like a large investment to an employee (hey, I know as I got to take one before!), and one that will pay dividends in your employer brand.

4. Parental Perks

A big reason parental-related perks are becoming a top perk is that millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce.

More than one in three American labor workforce participants are millennials. The age range of millennials today is 23 to 38, with many of them are now becoming parents.


Powerful parental perks include Facebook’s $5,000 baby cash perk stipend for new parents, overnight shipping of breastmilk, daycare stipends, maternity concierge services, fertility treatments, university coaches and support for college admissions, and making your current office perks inclusive.

Here are even more ways to support parents when working from home.

5. Mentorship Programs

Mentorship opportunities and programs inside an organization are fundamentals in the eyes of millennials and Gen Zs alike.

In fact, a recent survey of 5,000 Gen Zs through Door of Cubs found that they believe mentorship is almost as important as health care. In their report, 37% of respondents noted that health care benefits were the most important benefit, closely followed by a mentorship program (33%).

MENTORSHIP perks for gen z

Additionally, a 2016 Deloitte Millennial survey found that millennials who intend to stay with their organization for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%), than not (32%).

These numbers shouldn't be surprising. People entering today's workforce have a more complex workforce than any generation before them. Entry-level roles today are forced to wrangle with deep data, code complex problems, and communicate more complicated programs via more channels. Work is more cognitive, non-routine and mentorship opportunities support these team members in being successful. 

There are other benefits too. As an Insperity article (linked below) points out:

"Mentoring can also be more effective than formal training, which is often built as a one-size-fits-all solution for any business. Unlike formal training courses, mentoring often results in much deeper, personalized conversations and feedback."

Ready to develop a company mentoring program? Here are some resources to get you started:

6. Coaching Services

Coaching has become one of the hotter perks for 2021. Similarly aligned with the reasons above mentioned in mentorship, they help team members to learn the skills they need to succeed in an ever-evolving workplace. 

Oftentimes people will question coaching as it is an expensive way to support employees but companies that offer leadership coaching for managers experience an 88% increase in productivity when combined with leadership training.

If you're interested in getting coaches for your team, consider the following companies:

7. Employee perk stipends

All of the purchasable perks you already offer your employees likely benefit a subset of your employees. But that’s just it, they only benefit some employees not everyone.

However, with Perk Stipends (also known as lifestyle spending accounts or perk allowances), a company doesn’t have to decide between supporting mental health, people with student debt, parents' needs, or pet lovers. With a stipend, an organization can support all of their needs for employees regardless of location, age, life stage, and more.

Employees love them because they're flexible and put them in control of their own benefits, and people leaders love them because they lighten their administrative load, track usage, are IRS compliant, and are also excellent for employer branding strategies.

example perk stipend

Get started with a perk stipend:

8. Wellness Initiatives

The main selling point of every good wellness program is that it has the power to lead to meaningful behavior change.

In the past several years, the meaning of "wellness" has transformed into something of much greater scope. People used to define wellness as gym memberships and the creation of on-site workout spaces. But now, wellness is used in a personalized way. It now represents a healthy diet and exercise program, significance on mental health, mindfulness, sleep, stress management, financial wellness, or cultural and leadership behaviors within the organization.

This employee perk can have a trickle-down-impact on your employees. As they feel better, they're likely to contribute more and better work.

This is especially important given our current times. As Andrew Shatte of meQuilibrium recently said in an HRExecutive piece,

Organizations are going to be judged on how we treat our people right now.” He continued, "It’s really important that [employers] right now have a coherent, holistic plan that’s designed to help their employees get through this uncertainty.

And health and wellness initiatives do not have to be constrained to on-site gyms or local fitness classes. The opportunity to allow your employees to personalize their meaning of wellness can be in the form of reimbursing a subscription to their favorite meditation app, or encouraging healthy eating by creating a Slack channel where people post their favorite recipes.

Wellness programs are also known to reduce health care costs, increase productivity, and help build and sustain high employee morale.

9. Student Loan Assistance

Some companies are all about this perk that they denominate it as “the hottest employee benefit”. To attract and retain recent graduates, smart companies are helping to reduce student loan debt for their talent.

To put things into perspective, over 44 million Americans have student loans, with the average debt hovering around $33,000.

One of the most desirable opportunities of adopting this employee perk is increased employee loyalty among your younger team members, usually the ones saddled with big student loan debt.

Those are the top perks for 2021. We'd love to hear from you. Reach out to us on Twitter or email us to let us know what perks you'd love or your team has found the most success with.

Compt is the #1 employee stipends platform that gives your people the freedom to choose the lifestyle perks that are best for them and their always evolving needs, even when remote. Interested in learning how Compt might benefit your company? Consult with our team or request a demo.

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