Cool Employee Perks: 6 Ways Employers Are Upping the Ante

A group of employees meditating outdoors

Free coffee, a 401(k) match and a casual dress code aren't always enough these days. Employers are pulling out all the stops to make sure they attain — and retain — top talent. The employee perks they're offering range from simply fun (and affordable for the employer) to over-the-top. But what do they all have in common? These perks are helping companies recruit and maintain a talented workforce, and they're getting attention from job candidates and employees. Check out six cool incentives that are gaining traction:

1. On-site amenities

Fresh, healthy food, accessible around the clock. On-campus gyms. Massages and other spa services. Even relaxation lounges and nap rooms. At some organizations, if not for the cubicle clusters, the workplace might seem more like a mini-resort than an office building. Far from frivolous, these employee perks are meant to help reduce workplace stress and increase productivity.

2. Professional development opportunities

To help workers keep their skills up to par, many companies now offer at least some type of reimbursement for education and professional development opportunities. Many professionals consider the ability to acquire new skills important when evaluating a job opportunity. This is especially true in industries like technology where the pace of change is quick and constant.

3. Environmentally friendly incentives

You've heard of companies switching out paper towels with dryers in the bathroom, but have you heard about employers offering subsidies to purchase hybrid vehicles? Many companies are realizing the importance their staff place on environmental responsibility, and they're offering a larger number of environmentally savvy employee perks as a result. These include incentives for biking to work, carpool options and even socially responsible investment choices through the company-sponsored retirement savings program.

4. Travel advantages

Does your bucket list include travel to faraway places? Some businesses are making it possible to check those locales off your list by offering stipends and bonus weeks of vacation time. Others offer travel insurance and emergency assistance abroad. Some employers even provide paid time off for their workers to pursue volunteer opportunities in other countries.

5. Work-life balance extras

Businesses really want to hit home with their employee perks, and one of the most effective ways to make a difference for workers is by offering benefits that allow for better work-life balance. Many firms are boosting family leave benefits for new parents and individuals who are helping to take care of elderly parents. Telecommuting and flexible scheduling options enable staff members to attend their child's soccer game and still meet work responsibilities. Other work-life balance benefits that are becoming more common include everything from nursing rooms for new mothers to on-site child care to employee assistance programs that help employees better manage life changes.

6. Longevity rewards

Businesses are offering enhanced employee perks to workers who have hit significant service milestones to reward them for their loyalty to the firm. These benefits may include additional paid time off, the option to take a sabbatical or gifts such as electronics and jewelry. The benefits often get better the longer an individual stays with the organization.