20 Unique Employee Benefits for Any Budget

by Sarah Bedrick September 2nd, 2023

Everyone knows and expects the basics. Health savings accounts, paid time off, and medical insurance are table stakes for today's employers.

In this article, we'll show you 20 of our favorite employee perks and benefits (and quick examples of how to implement them).

Unique employee benefits go above and beyond.

Employee benefits are any perks given to employees in addition to their salary. Traditional benefits are the ones companies have offered for decades.

For example:

  • Medical, dental, and vision insurance
  • Retirement contributions
  • Paid time off (PTO)
  • Life, disability, and worker’s compensation insurance
  • Stock options

Unique employee benefits are fringe benefits you won't find at most companies. They support your employees' mental and physical health, work-life balance, personal/professional development, and responsibilities outside of work (e.g., school, family).

The business case for non-traditional employee benefits

Today's world is a lot different from the world we lived in 20 years ago. Traditional benefits are no longer enough for younger generations (who now make up the largest percentage of the US workforce).

While some unique benefits may seem insignificant or unnecessary on the surface, the reality is they're often a deciding factor for top talent. From both a recruitment and retention standpoint, it makes sense to invest in employee benefits that go above and beyond.

Besides the fact they make you look like an exemplary employer, here are a few reasons to consider going the extra mile:

  • Lower recruitment costs and turnover rates. It typically costs 6 to 9 months of an employee's salary to replace them (though some estimates put that figure at 2.5x). Competitive total comp packages keep employees around longer, which saves time and money.
  • Improved employee satisfaction and sense of purpose. Non-traditional benefits show employees you care about their goals, values, and life outside of work. This builds loyalty, boosts morale, and fosters a tighter-knit team.
  • Increased worker productivity. Employees who can focus on their other priorities are less likely to feel burnt out or overwhelmed by work.
  • Better company culture. A comprehensive benefits package that meets your employees' needs fosters a culture of health, inclusivity, and engagement.

Pro tip: Run a confidential employee benefits survey before adding anything to your program to verify your chosen benefits align with your team's needs and interests.

20 unique benefits your employees will love

Every team is different. Your benefits package should support your employees' diverse interests, goals, and values.

Based on current trends (and our own research), here are 20 of the best employee benefits to make your company stand out:

1. Health benefits for employees and contractors

Health benefits are common — for full-time employees, that is.

One-third of companies currently use contractors. By 2027, an estimated 86.5 million people (or 50.9% of the workforce) will be independent contractors. Many of those 1099 employees work 30+ hours for their company.

It wouldn't make sense to offer part-timers the same benefits as your full-time workforce, but it would make sense to invest in health savings accounts (HSAs), flexible spending accounts (FSAs), or lifestyle spending accounts (LSAs) for them.

If you work with international contractors, an LSA or healthcare stipend is a perfect addition to your international employee benefits package.

Example: Allow your full-time contractors to enroll in your health insurance plan, or offer health reimbursement arrangements for qualifying medical expenses.

2. Extensive mental health resources

Mental health is quite possibly the hottest topic today. According to Aflac's 2022 Employee Well-Being and Mental Health report, 59% of employees experience at least moderate levels of burnout from their jobs and 4 out of every 5 agree mental health coverage is equally important (if not more so) than physical health coverage.

But there's a huge gap in interest and employees' access to these perks. Just 61% say they have access to mental health care through their company.

There are several ways you can support your employees' mental health:

  • A health insurance plan that covers counseling services
  • Reimbursement for qualifying services
  • Virtual therapy
  • Meditation apps
  • Mental health workshops
  • Mental health days
  • Onsite mental health resources

Example: Work with a benefits vendor that offers telehealth consultations to support in-person and remote employees.

3. Health and wellness stipends

Employers support their employees' physical health in numerous ways. Gym reimbursement, onsite fitness classes, health screening — all these employer-sponsored wellness benefits are beneficial.

But what about the employee who works out at home? Or the one who prefers yoga over hitting the gym?

It's much easier to offer a health and wellness stipend. Employees can use it for whatever they feel supports their well-being, meaning they're more likely to actually use your wellness programs.

Example: Webflow uses Compt to give its employees a $200/month health and wellness stipend they can spend on whatever they choose, as long as it aligns with their needs and interests.

4. A spot bonus program

Nobody wants to work somewhere they aren't seen, heard, or appreciated. Out of 200,000 employees surveyed, 79% cited 'lack of appreciation' as a major reason for leaving their jobs.

A spot bonus is a one-time reward given to an employee for exceptional performance. They typically range from $50 to $5,000, depending on the magnitude of the accomplishment.

They differ from regular bonuses because they don't necessarily have to be related to job expectations or goals. You may give them out for going above and beyond, delivering high-quality work, or helping another team member in need.

Spot bonuses are exciting because they surprise your employees and show them you appreciate their hard work.

Example: Have employees nominate others for an 'MVP' award. Each month, hold a drawing at your town hall and award the winner a spot bonus.

5. Pet insurance

Two-thirds of US households have pets. The average emergency vet bill costs between $160 and $1,290. On the high end, that could put some of them in a tough position financially.

Pet insurance is a buffer against common and unexpected veterinary costs. As the employer, all you'll have to pay is a small monthly fee per pet owner.

Example: Vertafore provides its 2,500 employees with an insurance plan that reimburses 90% of the vet bill for exams, vaccinations, accidents, illnesses, and hereditary conditions.

6. Unlimited PTO

In this day and age, capping your PTO makes you less competitive. Fortune ran a poll in 2022 that revealed more than 50% of workers would take a job with lower pay that didn't put limits on vacation time.

Lots of companies have made unlimited PTO their standard policy. It gives employees the freedom to take whatever holidays, special occasions, or personal time they want. They don't have to worry about using their PTO before it runs out or needing 11 days instead of 10.

Example: In addition to forgoing the traditional 9-5 workday, Netflix (a pioneer of unlimited vacation time) simply encourages its employees to "take vacation" whenever they need.

7. Four-day workweek

The four-day workweek is more of a global trend than a domestic one. But employers large and small have started to test it out or roll it out companywide.

The premise is simple: Employees get the same salary and number of vacation days as before, but their workweek is condensed to Monday-Thursday.

That way, they have an extra day for travel, family time, or just rest and relaxation. According to a growing body of research, it also leads to increased productivity during those four days.

Example: Make your workdays 10 hours long to maintain the 40-hour workweek, or cut it down to 32 hours and keep your 8-hour workdays.

8. Asynchronous work

Asynchronous work means your employees aren't required to start at the same time each day. It's an ideal way to support global teams or remote workers across the country.

For software developers, data analysts, and other team members who don't necessarily need to collaborate in real-time, asynchronous work could also mean "work whenever you want as long as you get it done."

Example: Set your meetings in the late morning or early afternoon to make things easier for team members on the West Coast. Allow each team member to start at the same time (e.g., 8:00 a.m.), no matter where they're located.

9. Flexible workspaces

Whether your employees are traveling, moving to a new city without a nearby office, or just like a change of scenery every now and then, giving them somewhere outside their home or the office to work sometimes helps them be more productive.

Coworking spaces are the perfect example of this. A WeWork All Access membership, for instance, grants employees access to every location around the world.

Example: Encourage remote workers in nearby areas to meet once or twice per month to collaborate in person.

10. Home office reimbursements

Even if remote work isn't part of your policy, you probably have some employees who work from home occasionally. As many as 50% of employees work from home at least some of the time.

It's not easy to set up a home office, and in some cases, it can get expensive. That's why small businesses have started offering reimbursements for furniture, equipment, and other items their remote workers need to do their jobs properly.

Example: Webflow offers a remote work stipend remote employees can use for home office expenses. You can extend this to hybrid workers or set up a submission process for reimbursement.

11. Commuter benefits

One of the main advantages to remote work is it eliminates the time and money your employees would typically spend commuting to work.

Gas isn't cheap. Frankly, neither are cars. And, in most cities, public transport is somewhat inconvenient.

Employees who do have to come into the office deserve commuter benefits.

These include:

Example: Use Compt to set up a reimbursement program where employees can submit their commuting expenses at the end of each month.

12. Family stipends

You probably already offer paid parental leave and a few other benefits for new parents. Those don't apply to anyone already raising a family, expecting a child soon, or caring for an elder.

Family stipends cover some or all of the following categories:

  • Childcare
  • Adoption
  • Surrogacy
  • Elder care
  • Fertility
  • Bereavement
  • The ongoing costs of raising a child

Example: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bank of America offered its employees reimbursements of up to $100 per day in childcare costs.r

13. Employee assistance programs

An employee assistance program is a confidential and voluntary counseling service that helps employees with their personal or work-related concerns.

EAPs provide confidential, short-term counseling for stress, grief, marital/family issues, and substance abuse disorder (among other things). Many also offer legal advice on taxes, mortgages, wills, etc., and financial services like budgeting and debt management.

Example: If an employee has a significant financial burden or substance abuse problem, they could confidentially connect with your EAP service provider for advice or resources at no cost.

14. Student loan repayment and tuition reimbursement

According to the most recent data from the Education Data Initiative:

  • The typical borrower has $37,338 in federal student loan debt.
  • Private debt averages $54,921.
  • 74.8% of undergrads accept federal loans.
  • The typical student takes out more than $30,000 to pay for school.

For those who don't have $30,000+ to drop on a four-year degree, student loan repayment assistance will be the top benefit they'll consider. If you want to source top talent right out of college or grad school, you need to offer it.

Tuition reimbursement is another option if you want to upskill your existing team or attract professionals in a particular field.

Example: Offer up to $5,250 in tuition reimbursement or student loan repayment plans for each employee tax-free each year

15. Learning and development budgets

Learning and development benefits are particularly common in tech and healthcare roles, but many employees in other industries also want to stay current on their skills. 76% of Millennials agree it's essential to a strong company culture.

This could include:

  • On-site training
  • Online courses
  • Conferences and seminars
  • reimbursements for professional certifications

Example: Each quarter, sponsor conference admission or training day attendance for employees who are interested in expanding their skill sets.

16. Employee referral bonuses

An employee referral program is both a way to retain employees and find new ones who fit your team well.

Referrals account for as much as 50% of all new hires. And, while sourcing a new candidate can cost tens of thousands of dollars, they reduce your cost-per-hire to under $1,000.

Employee turnover is another factor to consider. Referred candidates already have someone they know (and like) working for your company. That means there's a greater chance they'll onboard quickly and stay with you long-term.

Example: Let your team know when you're hiring, then offer them $2,500 for submitted employees who accept the job offer and stay with the company for 3 months.

17. Workplace giving programs

Not all employee rewards programs need to be for personal gain. Many employees want to participate in their communities, and enabling them to support a good cause will improve their engagement at work.

Workplace giving programs let your team donate money to causes they care about, while you provide matching contributions and tax deductions.

Some employers sponsor charitable giving annually or quarterly. Others have an ongoing program anyone can participate in whenever they like.

Example: Use a big holiday (e.g., Christmas) as an excuse to gamify your charitable giving program. Let the team know they can donate to their favorite charities, and you'll match their gift.

18. Inclusive employee benefits

In many ways, inclusive benefits are like regular benefits. They just have accessibility for the whole team in mind.

For example:

  • Instead of offering just maternal leave, offer paid paternal and maternal leave to support same-sex couples and male parents.
  • Select a healthcare provider that covers domestic partners to include LGBTQ+ families and employees who choose not to get married.
  • Instead of giving time off just for Christmas, offer flexible paid holidays for employees who don't observe Christian holidays.

Example: Include paid leave for adoptive parents in your health insurance plan and/or family support policy.

19. Financial planning services

When it comes to financial wellness benefits, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. But you should offer more than just a 401(k) match.

Financial planning services give employees access to qualified professionals who can help them plan for the future.

They could include:

  • One-on-one advice sessions with financial planners
  • Retirement calculators and budgeting tools
  • Financial education courses on debt management, investing, etc.
  • Automatic savings plans

Example: Use a third-party provider to offer financial planning services and a retirement calculator. Make sure all employees can access these tools at no cost.

20. Profit sharing

Especially if you're part of a startup or growth-stage company that can't afford to provide everything under the sun, profit sharing is the perfect way to give your employees a stake in the success.

Employers set up profit sharing in one of a few ways:

  • A flat percentage of profits
  • A fixed amount for each employee
  • A bonus based on a company's performance metrics (e.g., sales growth)

Example: Set up an annual bonus plan that pays employees 5% of the company’s net profit when they meet certain targets.

Offer creative employee benefits with Compt.

Unique benefits make your employees feel valued and help you stand above the competition. But we'll be the first to admit it: they're confusing.

Even if you offer just a few, you'll run into expense management, tax compliance, and flat-out disorganization if you don't use software to handle everything.

Compt is an all-in-one employee perks platform that makes it easy to offer unique employee benefits and manage them effortlessly.

Plus, it integrates with your payroll and HR software (plus tools like Slack), making your program simple, scalable, and easy to implement.

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