Four out of 5 employees polled want benefits or perks more than a pay raise.  But we all know that all benefits are not created equal.  So, what do employees really want?

For most companies, each year brings the dreaded open enrollment season. HR managers stress about offering the best medical, dental, vision combo package while the finance team tries to figure out how much it’s all going to cost. Employees wonder if their costs will go up or if their coverage will change. This is all well and normal for the standard medical, dental, vision coverages that most employees have come to expect and most employers offer.

But the question lingers…. what else do employees really value for benefits? And how do companies, especially small companies, compete without breaking the budget?

In a time of the Affordable Care Act and health insurance coverage becoming more widely expected in the professional sector, employers are having to work to differentiate themselves by offering other benefits. Gone are the days where simply offering the basics was enough. Even 401(k) matches, disability and life insurance programs are pretty common place.

So, what do employees really want?

They want flexibility. And they want to be able to determine when, how and where they work.

Harvard Business Review recently shared their annual survey of The Most Desirable Employee Benefits.  Second, third, and fourth  on the list were flexibility, flexibility, and flexibility.

The surprising thing though, is that while work flexibility is a pretty easy- and often a low cost- thing to provide, a lot of companies avoid offering it. Why? Because it’s not how they have always done things. Because someone once had a bad experience.  Or maybe the boss has heard too many funny urban legends about people working while not wearing pants or literally sleeping on the job. Here’s the thing though, if you don’t offer flexibility and find a way to make it work, other companies will, and your employees will leave.

When a company says no to flexible working, they might as well put up a sign that says “we don’t trust our employees to do the right thing.” Now, you may not feel that way, but that’s the way it feels to your employees. So, how can a company make a plan that works? How do you figure out if flexible working is even an option?

Talk to your employees, review which jobs and functions need to be performed in the office and which ones can be done from elsewhere. Review if it really matters that your developer pulls an all-nighter because that’s when they think best and then sleeps in the next day. Figure out ways to pull teams together and have that be super productive time instead of just obligated time. Are there tech tools you can implement to make remote work and flexible work easier? And of course, there are just some roles that are not a good fit for remote work. Like say, maybe the front desk administrator who assists customers in person? Yeah, probably not the best role to work remote.

By working to find ways to provide employees with more flexibility, you’re saying, “I trust you.” This is a big thing. When employees feel trusted and valued, they are more engaged and perform better work.

Flexible work is also one of the most inexpensive benefits an employer can offer, yet yields some of the biggest returns. Give a parent the flexibility to go to their child’s afternoon tennis practices or coach the team, and that parent will share how great their company is. That same parent is also likely to put in additional hours after the budding tennis star is in bed and feel compelled to ensure they submit quality work. Have employees with interesting side gigs, hobbies and interests? Flexible work can give them more time to pursue those activities and return more engaged, more energized employees.

Let’s face it, there is no work-life balance. There is one life and for most of us, it includes work. So when companies work to realize that they can provide a better work experience for their employees and still reach their goals, this is a simple make sense decision.


ManUP today for success tomorrow…

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