Beyond Salary: Unexpected Benefits That Can Improve Your Work & Life
When a friend took an assignment in Hong Kong, her company paid for her and her partner’s airfare and moving expenses from New York. The company also helped her find an apartment and even gave her a rental allowance. But the overseas perks didn’t stop there. She also got a year of Cantonese and Mandarin language classes, cultural introduction classes, and a storage unit for items that wouldn’t fit in Hong Kong’s famously tiny apartments. The company also paid for a tax specialist to help bridge the two country’s systems. She also got a cash lump sum to help with surprise moving expenses.
The truth is though, she actually had no idea her company offered these perks to staff taking on overseas assignments. Most of these are not things you would normally ask about when you are hired, or even when you are considering an overseas assignment. The first thing you would probably ask yourself is “Do I really want to move to Hong Kong?” While she loved the overseas assignment, having bonus benefits like these made our friend’s experience personally and professionally exceptional.
When considering work options, we might normally ask about pay, medical plans, retirement plans, vacations, and stock options, but what else should we be asking about?
Many companies have club memberships that aren’t exactly advertised to every employee, so it’s worth asking, just in case. Some common partnerships include:
- Access to industry-specific clubs and training programs
- Gym memberships or discounts
- Private clubs and lounges
- Museum access
- Entry to amusement parks and zoos.
Gym memberships are very common. Some companies even have programs that will actually pay you to improve your fitness.
Be sure to ask about any industry clubs or training programs available to you. There are countless groups for accountants, bankers, human resources specialists, and more. Of course, there are also broad-reaching groups that specialize in e.g., women in the workplace—like the International Association of Women (IAW). Organizations like IAW offer fantastic networking and skills-sharing opportunities.
On-site childcare, breastfeeding/breast-pumping stations, adoption assistance, fertility treatment services, all of these are sadly still rare as employee benefits but they aren’t unheard of. Both Netflix and Amazon recently made news for offering extended paid parental leave.
Pets are famously welcome at many easy-going Silicon Valley companies. Although Pet care might not seem like much, not rushing home from work to walk the dog goes a long way to keeping employees happy and engaged.
Tech, Fun, and Sleep
Many companies have tickets to concerts, the theater, and sporting events that go unused by their marketing department and wind up being handed around the office. Still more actually have these available to employees for free or at a reduced price. We know of a few companies in Oregon’s ski country that used to offer a limited number of lift tickets. Employees could sign up for the weekend they wanted and then ski for free.
Discounts on cellphones and laptops are also becoming more common, especially since most employers no longer offer company-paid phones and plans.
We know two people who were almost fired years ago for sleeping on the job, but today companies like AOL and others are actually implementing napping rooms so employees can recharge when needed.
Many of the common perks from the past have now all but disappeared, but not all. Executive dining rooms still exist, but boozy bar carts are an almost mythical anachronism these days. Company cars have also all but disappeared, having been replaced by mileage reimbursement for using your own car. Many companies though still offer a travel expense per diem.
We knew a manager of opera stars who used to get an extensive clothing allowance. He was the best dressed man in London, Paris, and New York—and a very nice guy to boot. But it couldn’t last. When the company went belly-up, he was left with a lovely closet but no paycheck to cover the rent. A sad tale if ever there was one.
There are a lot of wild perks we’ve heard about over the years: from on-site massage therapists and private chefs to unlimited vacation time. What’s a common or even uncommon benefit you’ve experienced? What would you consider offering an employee? We’d love to hear.