Airline travel as an employee benefit? A vacation budget plus paid time of?
These are just some of the benefits Rentec Direct president Nathan Miller offers his staff. "What we do is provide an airline budget that allows the employee-plus-immediate family to travel outside of the U.S. and see something new," Miller told me.
While Miller has researched and found the perfect benefits for his particular team, many small businesses struggle with bettering their own packages. In fact, 21 percent of 1,750 small business owners contacted in a 2016 Manta poll said that they felt pressure to improve their employee benefits package.
But, with a bit of creativity, even small companies can offer big benefits that allow their companies to provide a positive employee experience. Here's how nine small companies I contacted do just that:
Number of employees: 9. Headquarters: Brooklyn, NY
Benefit: Mandatory vacations each quarter
"I believe giving unlimited vacation doesn't mean employees will necessarily take it. Every quarter, I mandate [that] employees take time off because I believe employees have to get out of the office in order to stay happy and productive," said CEO Trey Ditto.
Ditto also has its MVP Award. Every year, one deserving employee gets a paid vacation of his or her choice as an added "thank you."
House of Travel
Number of employees: 21. Headquarters: Aventura, Fla.
Great health care
"We pay full insurance for all employees, their spouses and their children. Plus, we pay $2,500 towards their deductible over four quarters," said Jerry Lang, House Of Travel's president. "Even though this is our second largest expense -- approximately $220,000 per year -- we always felt it was the right thing to do."
Along with healthcare perks, the company believes in practicing what it preaches. Said Lang: "Since we are a travel agency, we encourage our employees to travel, and we pay all expenses for a new location. With all employees' trips combined, we've visited over 100 countries."
Number of employees: 25. Headquarters: Hoboken, NJ
Benefit: Extra time off for wedding planning
Ten years ago, Litzky PR had six brides on its staff in one year. En route, President and owner Michele Litzky realized how challenging it was for employees to plan their big days and focus on completing work. So, she took action: Now, brides and grooms-to-be at Litzky PR receive an extra five paid vacation days to help ease stressful planning.
"Planning a wedding can be a job in itself, so I understand that maintaining a solid work-life balance during that time period can be stressful," said Litzky. "Never again did I want to put my team's work or employee happiness in jeopardy -- especially since it's one of the most important times of their life."
Mystery Tackle Box
Number of employees: 27. Headquarters: Chicago
Benefit: Team and individual "outdoor days"
Celia Bernheim, head of people at Mystery Tackle Box, offers team members "Outdoor Days" -- a benefit tied directly to the company mission: rescuing people from the indoors.
"Each year, our employees can take three individual Outdoor Days to do anything they choose, as long as it is outdoors," said Bernheim. "You could go fishing, swimming, dog sledding -- you name it!"
North 6th Agency
Number of employees: 45. Headquarters: New York City
Benefit: "The Wheel of Perks"
At North 6th Agency, employees who reach CEO Matt Rizzetta's list of customer satisfaction goals get to spin what employees call "the Wheel of Perks" and win something grand. This past April, the agency went above and beyond and will accordingly receive a one-month sabbatical in 2018.
"As our company has gotten bigger, it was important to me to start developing perks that brought together the entire company and helped show our staff that we were all in this together," said Rizzetta.
Number of employees: 9. Headquarters: New Orleans
Benefit: Team lunches
While it's not uncommon for employers to flip the bill on business lunches, Online Optimism takes advantage of the great food in New Orleans and springs for an employee lunch at a new location each week.
"As a New Orleans business, we decided early on to enjoy, as a company, the best damn food city in the world," said founder and CEO Flynn Zaiger. So, since growing the company to two people -- and now well beyond that number, "We've celebrated every Friday by taking our whole staff out to a local restaurant," he said.
Number of employees: 30. Headquarters: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Benefit: A budget for fun, for remote employees
PaperStreet understands the importance of having fun in the office. However, the company recently realized that remote employees were feeling left out of company activities.
Sally Kane, content director of PaperStreet, said, "In February, we started offering remote employees a budget to do fun things. At the end of March, we paid for a dinner for four employees in our Pittsburgh office."
Number of employees: 20. Headquarters: Columbus, Ohio
Benefit: Monthly Starbucks allowance
Sometimes, it's the simple, but meaningful employee benefits that can brighten employees' days. Postali's leaders show employees it cares by offering a monthly Starbucks allowance.
"It's one less thing I have to think about as I start my day," said brand "awareness manager Amy Shropshire.. "Most mornings, I need a cup of coffee before I'm awake enough to make coffee; so having someone just hand me a cup on my way in saves my day,"
Wheelhouse Digital Marketing Group
Number of employees: 25. Headquarters: Seattle, WA.
Benefit: The "Joy Fund"
Wheelhouse Digital Marketing Group's "Joy Fund," a $50-a-month per-employee allowance, allows team members to spend the money to bring someone else happiness.
From books to concert tickets, employees have been creative with their gifts. Sometimes, they even bring their funds together for even bigger, more meaningful gifts.
"One of our team members was having a hard time in her personal life. She's a single mom with two sons and casually mentioned to a colleague that her house was a mess, but she had no time or energy to clean it," said Cindy Larson, operations manager at the organization. "The whole company pooled together to purchase a house-cleaning service for her. When we handed her the certificate, she cried."