A job offer might have you seeing dollar signs, but salary isn’t the only way to decide to take the job. Employee benefits could help you make sure you’ll love working there.
When you’re searching for a new job, don’t let dollar signs cloud your vision.
Beyond salary, a company’s benefits package is not only a chance to gain valuable perks. It can also be your first introduction to the company culture.
Just like different people have their particular sets of life goals and priorities, company cultures vary widely. You’ll find family-centered businesses that offer paid time off and generous telecommuting options, teamwork-oriented companies that schedule amazing outings to encourage employees to bond, and employers that help workers “lean in” by offering professional development training. There’s no “perfect” set of employee benefits to look for in a job, but with savvy research and a little soul-searching, you can outline the best work/life fit for you.
“Look at what your goals are and how you want to live within the parameters of your working life,” advises Jenny Veach Harding, VP of People at WeddingWire. She also warns job seekers not to tune-out after orientation day. “There are always new programs and new opportunities,” she says. If you’re deleting HR emails unread, you could miss out on your chance to enroll.
Here are 12 benefit opportunities to research before your next job negotiation. (Click here to tweet this list.) Some of them might be perks you’ve never thought about before!
1. Retirement plans.
Not all 401(k) plans are equal, as demonstrated by Bloomberg’s ranking of the top 240. Look for companies that let you enroll right away and match your contribution for at least the first 5 percent of your paycheck — and ideally with an additional partial match as you invest more.
2. Tricked-out health care.
Health-minded companies may pay for your gym membership or offer a deluxe fitness center of their own. Cisco Systems’ San Jose office features a fitness center, massage therapy, Weight Watchers programs, and cooking classes for employees.
3. Generous vacation policy.
Only earning two weeks of paid time off per year? “Traditional vacation programs just don’t seem very fair,” says Harding. WeddingWire doesn’t have an official cap on vacation, trusting employees to work with department leaders and colleagues to make sure their work gets done.
More companies are deciding it’s a smart move to let employees determine their own vacation schedules, with about one percent of companies in the U.S. offering unlimited paid time off.
Working from home is a great perk. Netflix will let you do it as often as you want, according to its “freedom and responsibility” culture. If you’re more productive in pajamas, look for companies that let you work out of a home office a few days a week.
5. Public transportation or carpooling funds.
People who still need to put in face-time at the office may be able to save some cash with company-sponsored transportation. Ask if your company will pitch in toward you using a carpool system, public transport, or biking to work.
6. Education sponsorship.
Hershey and Starbucks will pay your college tuition. Other employers may offer a flat annual fund for education, or reimburse you for classes specifically related to your job.
7. Family benefits.
The U.S. is the only industrialized country without mandated paid maternity leave. Fortunately, some companies, like Campbell’s and Facebook, offer parents paid weeks — or even months — off to care for a new baby. Mattel keeps it going through childhood by offering time off for parents to volunteer at their kid’s school. Other family-friendly benefits to look for are child care, adoption leave, and health care that covers family-related expenses like prenatal classes or doula services.
8. Skills training.
Climb the corporate ladder faster by building professional skills on the job. Engineering company Texas Instruments Incorporated provides specialized classes for workers. You’re most likely to find this benefit in STEM fields. Even for artsy types, it’s worth asking what professional development programs are in place to help employees grow their careers.
9. Time or money for your passions.
Good companies understand that life isn’t all work. Better ones help you follow your passions. Timberland offers up to 40 paid volunteer hours. WeddingWire’s Treat Yo’Self program gives employees $250 per year to learn a new skill or improve their physical fitness.
“It’s such a wide-open but thoughtful benefit,” says Harding, noting that employees have used the money for classes, gardening tools, and more. “It encourages people to think about how they want to grow.”
10. Company fun.
You likely spend more waking time at work than anywhere else. Shouldn’t you have some fun while you’re there? Google and Smucker’s think so. Office yoga classes and company movie or ball game nights encourage employees to bond.
11. Errand running.
Don’t haul another load of dirty laundry to your parents’ house. Take it to work instead — seriously. Company concierges can help manage just about any errand, like grocery shopping and oil changes at SC Johnson and laundry service at JibJab. If you’re planning to lean in hard in your career, finding a company that will help you stay on top of home chores is a smart move.
12. LGBTQ equality.
Even in 2015, some benefits aren’t a guarantee across the board for employees. But many companies are stepping up their efforts to give LGBTQ employees equal access to benefits like maternity/paternity leave — even in states where gay marriage isn’t recognized. GE and 3M are two equality-minded companies. A more comprehensive listing is available at the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.
Looking for something not on this list? Harding says it never hurts to open a conversation.
“We talk to employees about benefits we’re thinking of rolling out,” she says, noting that WeddingWire bases program decisions partly on employee feedback. Harding’s heard of an employee at another company who requested an on-site tattoo artist! That idea didn’t fly, but if you know a better way to improve your work culture, bring it up with your boss or HR manager. You may find yourself a step closer to your dream workplace.
Jessica Sillers writes about business strategy, personal finance, and travel (her favorite reward for working hard and sticking to her budget). Find her at www.dcfreelancewriter.com.