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19 Affordable Employee Benefits for Your Team

  • Employee Benefits
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 06/27/2024

An employee participates in a low cost employee benefit of bring-your-pet-to-work day

Table of Contents

As a small business owner, you may not think that you can offer your team top-level employee benefits such as hefty bonuses or rich retirement or health plans.

So, when you think of the top 5 types of employee benefits, traditional health insurance, paid time off, retirement benefits, vision and dental insurance, and prescription coverage may come to mind.

However, you can offer your team numerous affordable employee benefits. These cost-effective, creative packages can positively impact your team, boosting their productivity, engagement, job satisfaction, and loyalty. These affordable perks can also help you attract and retain top talent, especially in today's tight labor market.

19 Low-Cost Employee Benefits To Add to Your Benefits Package

Appreciating your employees doesn't require a significant investment. Creative employee benefits and personal recognition can increase your reputation in the labor market.

Here are 19 affordable employee benefits, along with the potential advantages and disadvantages of each, that you should consider when rewarding your employees.

1. Flexible Schedules

Flex schedules are a popular non-traditional benefit for employees and employers, especially in a post-pandemic workplace.

Allowing employees to shift hours forward or back from the core workday can help them avoid rush-hour commuting, alleviate family scheduling conflicts, and improve their work-life balance.

Although flex scheduling may be viewed as a relatively low-cost benefit, implementing a corporate-wide policy requires planning on the part of the employer while balancing this perk with numerous cost savings. Your HR department should be actively involved in the process to ensure organizational success.

Here's a quick look at the perceived advantages and disadvantages of flex time, which may help you decide whether this approach makes sense for your business.

Pros of flexible schedules:

  • Allows employees to work during the hours that best suit their schedules
  • Potentially helps businesses open earlier and stay open later
  • Attracts talent since employees often prioritize this specific benefit when seeking a new job
  • Offering flex time shows that management trusts workers to get the job done, no matter which hours are worked
  • May reduce turnover, absenteeism, and office overhead while boosting productivity and employee satisfaction

Cons of flexible schedules:

  • May create challenges when scheduling group meetings and other gatherings around varying schedules
  • May cause potential issues with reduced employee oversight

2. Telecommuting

Often going hand in hand with flexible schedules, employers may also offer specific telecommuting benefits to their team. While not every business can provide a telecommuting benefit, employers that permit employees to work from home occasionally or on a set schedule may experience higher employee productivity and retention. For example, a telecommuting policy may be part of an overall hybrid working model, allowing some or all employees to work from home for a certain number of days or hours per week.

Pros of telecommuting:

  • Gives employees the flexibility to work in a setting of their choosing
  • Frees up an employee's time customarily spent commuting to work, which may be significant
  • May be viewed as an environmentally friendly policy as it reduces gas expenses related to work commuting
  • Reduces workplace overhead, such as allowing for smaller office spaces and lower associated expenses of keeping your office space up and running

Cons of telecommuting:

  • May create concerns for employers around management and oversight of work, data security, and engendering consistent productivity

3. Movie, Theater, and Sporting Event Tickets

These may give employees and their family members access to free or discounted entertainment or cultural experiences. This is a great way to offer tailored perks, depending on your location and the interests of your employees.

Pros of offering events and experiences:

  • Offered at a low cost to employers
  • Boosts employee morale
  • Able to tailor perks per location or specifically to your local activities

Cons of offering events and experiences:

  • Not directly related to work and may have negligible impact
  • May cause competition among staff or departments when deciding who receives the tickets without an objective policy in place

4. Expanded Health Benefits

Flexible spending accounts, dental insurance, vision insurance, health savings accounts (HSAs), and employee assistance programs are all relatively low-cost add-ons to your standard group health insurance plan. According to Paychex HR Services Area Manager Joshua Carty, a flexible spending account (FSA) is "a nice tax-free advantage for business and employees and a great avenue for healthcare affordability. The business is not required to max out the benefit and could place a cap on how much an employee can elect."

Pros of expanded health benefits:

  • Encourages employee appreciation of these expanded wellness benefits, especially given the rising costs of healthcare

Cons of expanded health benefits:

  • Creates additional administration of multiple health benefit plans

5. Free Food

Honestly, who doesn't like free food? Treat your team to coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and snacks at any time of the day. For the health-conscious, consider including fresh fruit or allergy-friendly snacks. A group meal can promote camaraderie and team bonding. Occasionally provide lunch for your staff once a month, once every two weeks, or one day every week, depending on your budget.

Pros of free food at work:

  • Free food is one of the most popular and highly appreciated, affordable benefits for some teams

Cons of free food at work:

  • Could create an expectation rather than be viewed as a true "benefit" unless a unique, creative twist is added

6. Family Leave

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 27 percent of private sector employees have access to paid family leave.

Still, employers should examine their current leave policies to ensure they follow state and federal mandates, as this benefit is quickly evolving. Certain states, such as California and New York, have passed laws requiring paid family leave, and employers must ensure that their policies and practices are up to date.

Pros of family leave:

  • Shows employer support for work-life balance
  • Encourages employee retention

Cons of family leave:

  • May be difficult for small businesses to shoulder the cost of paying employees while on extended leave

7. Benefits for Part-Time Employees

Employers should consider offering part-time employees the same (or part of the same) benefits package as full-time employees. Depending on your employee population, you may be required to offer certain benefits, such as eligibility for your 401(k) plans or Affordable Care Act employee benefits, like your group health insurance. You may also consider extending affordable fringe benefits to part-time employees for consistency and to boost company-wide morale.

Pros of part-time employee benefits:

  • Offering benefits can help companies compete for part-time employees
  • May create a sense of unification among full- and part-time staff

Cons of part-time employee benefits:

  • Leads to increased costs for part-time benefits
  • Causes administrative complexity in maintaining full-time and part-time benefit plans

8. Commuting Assistance

Provide a monthly stipend to cover public transit passes to help your employees defray the costs of traveling to and from the office. Additionally, you can offer car commuters free or subsidized parking.

Pros of commuting assistance:

  • May be viewed as an environmentally friendly benefit

Cons of commuting assistance:

  • Employers may be unable to claim tax breaks for certain reimbursements due to tax law changes.

9. Career/Personal Development and Tuition Assistance

Offering paid career and personal development training during work hours is a great way to encourage lifelong learning. Investing in your employees' career development not only fosters loyalty but also empowers employees to learn new skills without having to give up their personal time. Furthermore, personal development training may help employees become self-aware and more resilient to workplace stress.

Offering tuition reimbursement or some form of tuition assistance is a valuable benefit. Assistance can help offset employees’ education expenses. Plus, it gives your employees the chance to acquire more skills and tools to better perform their job.

Employers can offer to pay a part of their employees' undergraduate or graduate tuition costs while they pursue education relevant to their jobs. A portion of the payment is tax-free to the employee and tax-deductible to the employer. You can also offer a student loan repayment option to support your employees’ financial and mental health.

Pros of tuition assistance:

  • Supports employees' career development while offsetting some of their financial burden

Cons of tuition assistance:

  • May not prove effective if employee turnover remains high

10. Additional Paid Time Off

Carty suggests allowing employees to earn paid days off for a job well done. This perk doesn't need to be awarded often but can be an excellent incentive for hard, dedicated work.

Note that some paid leave benefits are determined by state law. Implementing additional PTO as a merit-based perk may not be feasible based on the laws governing PTO in your state.

Pros of additional PTO:

  • May be viewed as a popular and relatively inexpensive benefit

Cons of additional PTO:

  • May require shifting work schedules to cover employees who use this benefit

11. Student Loan Assistance

This benefit is becoming more popular, especially among millennials and Gen Z. With a vast majority percent of today's higher-ed graduates entering the workforce with loans, employers can make a positive impact on their workforce by providing such assistance.

Additionally, thanks to SECURE Act 2.0, employers may contribute to their 401(k) plans, matching their employees' student loan payments.

Pros of student loan assistance:

  • Helps companies recruit and retain college graduates

Cons of student loan assistance:

  • May create budget challenges depending on how many employees take advantage of the program

12. Financial Wellness Benefits

Financial stress impacts your employees' health and mental wellness, negatively affecting attendance, productivity, and engagement at work.

Offering financial wellness benefits to your employees allows them to better understand budgeting, saving, and investing, helping to lessen stress and anxiety while boosting overall wellness.

Pros of financial wellness benefits:

  • Educates your team on how to make informed and effective decisions on their finances
  • Increases your team's skill level when managing their money
  • Helps your employees reduce debt and build financial security
  • Financial education complements your other offered employee benefits

Cons of financial wellness benefits:

  • May experience low program attendance, as some employees won't want to participate because of a perceived stigma around discussing money management at work

13. Career Pathing Services

This in-demand benefit offers employees the opportunity to work with an impartial counselor to help them map out the next stage of their careers. Career guidance can help workers decide which skills need further development and where to focus their efforts.

Pros of career pathing services:

  • Provides support to employees who are ready to further their careers
  • Boosts employee engagement, job satisfaction, and morale

Cons of career pathing services:

  • Employees may receive conflicting advice from a career coach regarding internal HR and a manager's suggestions regarding career progression

14. Employee Discounts on Employer Products

Employers may offer company products or services to employees at a heavily reduced discount, encouraging employees to become organizational cheerleaders.

Pros of employee discounts on employer products:

  • Encourages pride in company and work
  • Giving employees products with company labels may provide a marketing opportunity

Cons of employee discounts on employer products:

  • Discounted products can cut into profits

15. Bring-Your-Pet-to-Work Day

Who wouldn't want to bring Fido with them to the workplace? This won't work everywhere, but small businesses can often accommodate well-behaved (note, we did say well-behaved) colleagues in the office.

You may want to try this out for one day. If it's popular and goes well, consider making your office a pet-friendly work environment. Paychex HR Business Partner Victoria Whittaker notes that more companies are making Fridays year-round a day to bring dogs into the workplace (with a policy in place to protect the employer, employees, and their furry friends, of course).

Pros of Bring-Your-Pet-to-Work Day:

  • Boosts morale
  • Encourages employee camaraderie

Con of Bring-Your-Pet-to-Work Day:

  • Employers should consider health, safety, interpersonal, and cultural issues before allowing pets into the workplace. Pet allergies may present an issue. And, let's face it, not everyone is an animal fan. Polling your employees may be beneficial as well before letting your workplace go to the dogs.

16. Summer Hours

Keeping employees motivated and productive can be a concern during prime vacation season (and school's-out season for those employees with kids). Consider closing an hour or two early on Fridays during the summer months so everyone can take advantage of the extended sunlight.

Pros of summer hours:

  • Boosts morale for employees during a more relaxed time of year

Cons of summer hours:

  • Staffing gaps may arise, and some employees may need to work these hours due to deadlines or their role in the business

17. 401(k) Plan

Although a 401(k) plan may not seem like one of the most creative employee benefits, small business owners concerned about the costs associated with retirement benefits can find innovative ways to offer this high-value benefit for less.

When an employer fully understands the range of retirement account options, this can be considered a low-cost benefit. Employers do not have to offer a match to employees. The plan can, however, be a vehicle to allow employees to save for retirement tax-free.

Plus, if an employee saves money tax-free, the employer will not pay taxes on the amount saved, making the 401(k) plan a win-win for both the employer and employee.

Pros of 401(k) plans:

  • Allows small employers to remain competitive with the benefits of larger companies
  • Serves as an excellent recruitment and retention tool
  • Creates a low initial investment

Cons of 401(k) plans:

18. Wellness Benefits

Sponsoring wellness activities, such as fitness classes, lunchtime speakers on health topics, flu shots, online health assessments, mental health programs, health coaching services, and smoking cessation programs, can show employees that you care about their total well-being.

Alternatively, you can reimburse employees for all or part of health club memberships, yoga classes, bicycles, and related items.

Pros of wellness benefits:

  • Boosts employee attraction and retention, especially for younger employees who demand wellness benefits
  • Encourages employee interaction from all levels of the company

Cons of wellness benefits:

  • These programs may not succeed if employers do not communicate or market these perks correctly
  • Assessing these programs' success may be challenging
  • Competes or interferes with core business hours, causing competition with productive work time

19. Paid Volunteer Time

Offer to pay regular wages up to a certain number of hours to employees who devote time to community service.

Pros of paid volunteer time:

  • Increases employee pride in their work and loyalty to their employer
  • Serves as an active form of corporate social responsibility
  • Develops a positive relationship between your company and the community
  • Encourages employee interaction at all levels when working together on company-sponsored projects

Cons of paid volunteer time:

  • Creates challenges for small employers with potential lost work time and employee scheduling issues

Showing Employee Appreciation and Boosting Retention With Paychex

Appreciating your employees doesn't require a significant investment. Creative employee benefits packages combined with personal recognition can increase your reputation in the labor market while attracting and retaining top-tier talent. Even simple thank-you notes or gift cards for people who have helped the company succeed add a personal touch, notes Chris Jankus, Paychex HR Business Partner.

Your employees are your biggest asset. Offering benefits that indicate you value their work can inspire loyalty, retain talent, and boost your bottom line. Learn more about how benefits and perks play a critical role in retention.


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See how you can enhance your employee benefits package to attract and retain talent with the help of Paychex.

* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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