On-the-Fringe Perks

Picture this: You’ve applied for a job, gone through the interview process, and received an offer. You open your email and the company’s HR person has sent you the available benefits package. There are the usual suspects—health insurance, dental, 401(k). But these days, you might see something more unusual: concierge services, say, or free tattoos.

Yep, tattoos. Some employers are pulling out all the stops to find quality employees and keep them happy.

“We are currently in a job seekers’ market,” says Nicole Fallon, managing editor of Business News Daily, which covers small business and entrepreneurship. “Employers looking to attract and retain top talent know they need to offer more unique and ‘cool’ benefits to stand out.”

While “cool” benefits such as paying for tattoos might at first seem like a gimmick, they actually can serve a role in retaining talent. Things like retirement savings are, of course, incredibly important, but to younger employees, that payoff may feel too far off in the future. Employees also care about the daily culture of their workplace, and fun perks can add value to their work experience.

In addition, Fallon says, “Today’s employees want to work for a company where they feel valued and important, and they may view an employer’s benefits package as a direct indication of that company’s priorities and how much they care about their staff.”

Companies have responded with benefits that range from cool to controversial. Below you’ll find a roster of seven employee benefits that may surprise you.

Unlimited PTO

As unlimited paid time off, or PTO, becomes more common, so has the conversation surrounding it. While proponents point to the mental health and creative boost employees can get from traveling, relaxing, and/or spending more time with family, some note that employees tend not to take full advantage of the perk, since it’s not a “use it or lose it” setup and there’s no time pressure to take PTO days before they expire.

Taking Pets to Work

Having a valued companion accompany you to work regularly is the very definition of a perk for some folks. Offices that offer this benefit know that pets are potent stress relievers, and not having to run home to let Fido out helps employees work longer hours. But implement this benefit carefully, since there may be others in the office with phobias or allergies. Make sure to write up a well-researched policy and stick to it.

Flexible Work Hours

A flexible schedule can make balancing family life with work life much easier for employees. But, Fallon cautions, “Without some form of common office hours, it can be difficult to plan team events, company meetings, etc., and communicate in real-time, especially if managers and employees are on different schedules.”

On-Site Services

Perks like dry cleaning services, on-site gyms, massages, and concierges allow employees the convenience of being able to exercise at the office or not having to run errands during breaks. An on-site massage therapist can help relieve stress.

Egg Freezing

Tech companies traditionally have a tough time attracting and retaining top female talent. Offering to pay for egg freezing can help put working women’s minds at ease by allowing them to devote their 20s and 30s to a career while preserving their fertility. CNET reports that the popularity of egg-freezing benefits has led to “Let’s Chill” egg-freezing cocktail parties in San Francisco.

Baby Cash

Paid maternity leave—and more recently, paternity leave—has long been a staple of benefits packages. Companies like Facebook have recently upped the ante. The social media giant offers $4,000 cash to new parents who work for them, according to Time.com and other news outlets.

Beer, Tattoos, Guitar Lessons

Small and midsize companies have been getting creative, offering quirkier but less expensive benefits. The shift makes sense in the new paradigm, Fallon notes. “Since the advent of smartphones and constant connectivity, people have adopted a ‘work from anywhere at any time’ mentality,” she says. “Rather than setting a strict boundary between work and play, people are now viewing work as an integrated part of their lives that can pop up at any time—but there needs to be a balance.” Employers and employees can both play a part in helping create that balance.

Jonanna Widner lives in Portland, OR, where she writes about sports, music, travel, and fitness.

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