You probably thought you’d heard it all when it comes to wacky work perks. (Hello, nap rooms.) That is, until companies like Boxed Wholesale and Practichem upped the ante with even more platinum offerings, like contributing $20,000 toward your wedding expenses and furnishing Tesla leases.
Unfortunately, those headline-grabbing perks aren’t the norm, says Marjori Bergman, founder of Ignite Global Consulting. But that’s okay—because those “boring” benefits that are probably in your compensation package, from health insurance to tuition assistance, are extremely valuable, too.
We looked at data from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM)’s 2015 employee benefits report (based on a survey of more than 450 HR professionals) and tallied up how much you could save by taking advantage of seven common work perks.
These days, nearly all companies offer some form of health insurance. In fact, the Affordable Care Act penalizes employers with 50-plus employees that don’t offer affordable coverage.
Bergman says most companies cover 50 percent of an employee’s premiums, though it varies. But no matter how much they cover, it’s usually smart to sign up. Not only is employer-negotiated group coverage typically more comprehensive than individual plans, but it’s cheaper, too.
“Even if you’re paying half, you are still saving around $1,000 to $3,000 per year, rather than getting similar coverage on your own,” Bergman says, given that the average ObamaCare premium, before subsidies, adds up to almost $5,000 a year.
If you work for a mid- or large-sized company, chances are good that your employer sponsors a traditional 401(k) or similar defined-contribution savings plan. According to the SHRM survey, 90 percent do—and 73 percent match some of your contributions. Bergman says a common match is 50 cents for every dollar you save, up to a set maximum of 3 to 6 percent of your salary.
If this perk is available to you, enroll…RIGHT NOW. (We mean it—it’s free money!) And make sure to contribute at least enough to recoup the full bonus. For example, if you save 6 percent of your $40,000 salary each year, you’ll put away $2,400—and your employer will kick in another $1,200.
Sixty percent of companies furnish a business cell phone or smartphone that can also be used as your personal device. Considering the average smartphone bill is about $111 a month, this perk is worth more than $1,300 per year.
Not psyched about your company “owning” your phone? Just under half of employers provide a discount or subsidy for employee-owned devices. Bergman says this usually equates to 20 percent off your bill—or a savings of about $22 per month.
Before you book tickets to the latest Cirque du Soleil show or a one-day pass to the Magic Kingdom, find out if your company’s negotiated a deal on your behalf. Currently, about 30 percent help their employees pay less for entertainment—oftentimes by partnering with a service like Plum Benefits, which offers heavily discounted hotel rates (up to 60 percent off) and tickets (up to 50 percent off), as well as preferred seating at big events.
Roughly half of companies want you to work off your stress: A subsidy or reimbursement for fitness center memberships is offered by over 32 percent, while 21 percent let you sweat it out at an on-site gym whenever you want. If the latter is available at your company, you can ditch your off-site gym membership or boutique class pass—savings of $50 to $100 month, Bergman estimates.
While unlimited paid vacation programs (currently only available at 2 percent of companies) are getting a lot of buzz these days, “the general response is that [this policy] has not increased the amount of time folks have taken off,” Bergman says.
More common are benefits that encourage more work/life balance—something all workers, especially younger ones, have been clamoring for, says Loree Griffith, talent department principal at Mercer, a global consulting firm. That includes everything from compressed work weeks to work-from-home options—which, in addition to improving your well-being, can also save you serious money when you consider how much the average worker spends on commuting costs ($1,120) and on-the-go lunch and coffee ($832) each year.
As for parental leave, unfortunately, only 21 percent of companies offer paid maternity leave and 17 percent offer paid paternity leave. So it’s smart to look into short-term disability insurance, offered by 74 percent of companies, which could replace part of your income for six to eight weeks.
Just over half of organizations offer undergraduate and graduate educational assistance or reimbursement, which can pad employees’ pockets by approximately $5,000, according to other SHRM research. Even more common are paid professional development opportunities—such as free entry to conferences, seminars and online courses—which are offered by 84 percent of employers. (It’s worth checking because your employer may not advertise it.)
While not as lucrative as tuition assistance in the short term, development opportunities can have long-term value: learning new skills and networking at professional events can translate into new job opportunities and a higher salary.