Personal Finance

6 Ways Companies Are Paying It Forward

When you’re at work, you put in the blood, sweat and tears to make sure you’re doing the job to the best of your availability. But, does your job show you the same dedication?

Happy worker bees make a workplace more productive, and plenty of employers are starting to show their appreciation by ramping up the perks. In fact, according to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, 34% of organizations increased their benefits for the last 12 months. While 72% said they did this for retention, 58% claimed trying to attract new talent as a reason and 54% were responding to employee feedback. Here are some real ways that companies are making changes. If your company is lacking, it might be time to request more — or consider making a move.

Here are some attention-grabbing employee benefits

Work from anywhere

Sure, there are companies that will let you work from home once a week if you put in a request. But at Burwood Group, an IT consulting and management company in Chicago with offices in California, Illinois and Minnesota, you have the flexibility to work from anywhere as long as you get the work done. Beth Cabrera, Burwood’s director of human resources, takes advantage of this perk often. Most recently, she worked from home during a winter storm because school was cancelled and her children, ages 7 and 9, were stuck in the house.

“At most other companies, parents would be freaking out,” Cabrera said. “For me, I had no worry in the world because I’d just work from home.” She did the same whenever her children had sports games or when she volunteered at their schools.

Visitors welcome

So you know how there are pet-friendly offices? At Illinois-based New Home Star, a real estate company, it’s a kid, pet and significant other-friendly place to work.

“Whether it’s a corporate outing or just another day at the office, significant others, kids and pets are welcome,” said Chris Laskowski, marketing manager for New Home Star. “Being a young, rapidly growing organization, it is easy to forget how important work-life balance is to employees. That is why we take extraordinary measures to ensure we don’t fall into that trap.”

While they don’t officially offer childcare, bringing kids to the office isn’t an issue, Laskowski says.

“Since it’s a relatively small office, it truly feels like a second family,” he says. “We all pitch in and engage with the kids. Most of the time, the kids play with other employees while they are here.”

Fully-funded paid vacations

Have you ever had vacation time but no money to pay for that vacation? It wouldn’t be a problem if you worked at Moz, a SEO (search engine optimization) software company in Seattle. Employees here receive three weeks of PTO (paid time off), and they receive $3,000 on top of their salary to spend specifically on airfare, gas, meals, hotels, dog-boarding or other vacation expenses, said Rebecca DeLozier Clements, vice president of human resources at Moz.

Work banned during vacays

According to a 2017 Glassdoor survey, 66% of Americans say they work on their vacations. They wouldn’t be doing this if they worked for FullContact. At this identity resolution and insights company, you will received $7,500 toward your PTO after working there for one year if you adhere to the following guidelines: you use that money to take an actual vacation; you don’t work on that vacation; and you completely disconnect from the digital world (that means no checking your work email).

“The idea for the policy came from my own personal experience,” said Bart Lorang, CEO and co-founder of FullContact. “I’ve seen people take advantage of the policy and come back recharged and focused.” The result? Happy, productive employees.

Paid sabbaticals

This is the dream, and it’s a perk that San Francisco-based software company Autodesk, Inc. offers to its 9,000 worldwide employees. The sabbatical policy varies by location, but for Autodesk offices in the U.S., all employees are eligible for a paid six-week sabbatical, every four years, in addition to their PTO time.

“This program is designed to give employees time away from work and return to work not only refreshed, but also excited about new ideas and ready to tackle new challenges,” said Jill McChesney, senior spokeswoman for Autodesk.

Help with student loans

The average student loan debt in the U.S. is now more than $32,000. And while companies are starting to see the benefits of helping their employees with their debt burden, in 2018, only 4% of companies in the country offer student loan repayment assistance, according to a survey on employee benefits from the Society for Human Resource Management.

Those benefits take many shapes, from lump-sum payments to complex initiatives. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a global accounting and consulting firm, launched its Student Loan Paydown program in 2016 and pays $100 a month toward an employee’s student loans for up to six years. Meanwhile, health technology company Abbott recently launched Freedom 2 Save, an initiative that offers employees who are dedicating 2% of their pay to student loans a 401(k) deposit “match” of 5%, even if the employee isn’t also contributing to their 401(k).

With more than 44 million people in the United States owing $1.5 trillion in student loans, (a whopping 65% of which are people under the age of 40) hopefully we’ll see these perks catch the eye of other major employers.

The bottom line

Of course, perks are only some of many different factors to consider when reflecting on your current position. But these are noteworthy examples of benefits to keep in mind when deciding if you want to make a career move.