Six creative employee perks and benefits you can actually use

Attracting and retaining top talent can be tricky, especially in a job market where it’s getting tougher and tougher to find qualified candidates. Unique employee perks will set your company apart, but how far should you take it?

The majority of Wisconsin employers are unlikely to offer the types of incentives that Google and Silicon Valley tech companies provide. Unlimited vacation time, napping pods, an in-house spa and fresh sushi in the cafeteria, those things are a bit unrealistic.

However, there are plenty of ways you can go beyond casual Fridays and free coffee without getting too crazy. Here are six ideas Wisconsin human resources professionals can suggest and implement in the workplace that will improve the culture, boost morale and convince people they work somewhere amazing.

1. Free chair massages

Tension getting pretty thick around the office? You can’t put a price on stress relief. Bringing in someone to give chair massages on a regular basis will be something both desk workers and physical laborers appreciate.

Look for a massage therapy school in your area and you may find students who need to put in practice hours for classes or to get a license. Employers in the Green Bay/Fox Valley area can try Blue Sky Massage as well as Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. Central Wisconsin employers can contact Serenity Now School of Massage Services and other beauty schools as well as for-profit colleges in the state also have massage therapy students.

Once you set the date, most companies use sign-up sheets and employees have the choice of tipping the massage therapist.

Wondering if your employees are super stressed? Check out our infographic detailing signs of employee burnout [add microsite link when possible] so you can identify the signs and suspects before the situation gets worse.

2. Green Bay Packers tickets

Photo credit: Chuck Zacharias via Flickr Creative Commons

Many Wisconsin employers have access to season tickets to watch the Packers play at Lambeau Field. If you’re reserving that experience for clients and VIPs, you may want to reconsider.

Whether it’s in the skyboxes or the bleachers, a trip to Lambeau is a dream-come-true for any cheesehead. Why not save a couple Packers games and use the tickets as rewards and incentives for employees who really deserve it?

Of course, we all know about the infamous waiting list, and how hard Packers tickets are to obtain. So, if you don’t have passes to Lambeau, consider sending employees to watch the Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee Bucks or reward people with tickets to other Wisconsin events. Potential options include Summerfest, EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh and the Eaux Claires music festival in Western Wisconsin.

3. A dog-friendly workplace

Bringing pets into the office is a fun perk that will brighten up the workday and boost morale without costing the company a penny. In fact, it could even have some advantages.

One study on dogs in the workplace found the presence of furry friends helped increase productivity and the sense of loyalty among the majority of employees. Discover more benefits of dogs in the workplace on HR-Playbook and learn about six simple steps the human resources department can take to develop pet-friendly policies.

4. A cure for cabin fever

A Wisconsin winter can wear your employees down. We all know the feeling. It’s dark outside when you leave for work in the morning and the sun has already set when you head home. Not to mention, it gets so cold it makes your face hurt. Battle back against the winter blues with a little creativity.

Perhaps employees could use a mood boost with a luau-themed party in the dead of winter. Or, simply fire up a grill out in the snow and serve summer picnic food such as burgers, bratwurst, watermelon and potato salad.

The lack of sunlight and fresh air is what really gets people down. Scheduling a company trip to the sledding hill, a snowman building contest or some other wintry tradition will build camaraderie and energize people with a little time outdoors.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real mental health problem, and it’s estimated that 10 percent of people in Wisconsin suffer from it. You could keep several light therapy lamps on hand for employees to use when needed. These lamps imitate sunlight and may help balance chemicals in the brain that are impacted by lack of daylight exposure. Get more advice on accommodating SAD from

5. Special summer hours

Speaking of seasons in Wisconsin … the summer is so sweet, yet so short. Letting employees leave a little early on Fridays during June, July and August would be a generous and unforgettable benefit.

Heading home just an hour earlier means folks have the extra time they need to fire up the grill, cut the grass and water the garden or play in the backyard with the kids before dinner. It gives everyone a jumpstart on the weekend, and the truth is, many employees have checked out by then anyway. Research shows Friday is the least productive day of the week and productivity drops 20 percent in summer months.

6. A company game room

A game room at work may not seem like a logical fit. However, there are many companies with areas for employees to unwind and play while they’re taking a break and even when they’re on the clock.

Playing is excellent stress relief, promotes socialization and encourages creative ideas. You may find that co-workers will have discussions about their jobs over a game of ping-pong, billiards or foosball that lead to important breakthroughs and improvements. As people from different departments socialize, a cross-pollination of ideas occurs, which often means problems get solved during play.

Want to make your workplace more attractive to incoming Gen-Z employees and Millennials? You could have an area where people can unwind with short video game breaks. It’s not as shocking as it sounds. Newsweek recently reported on a study indicating video games at work can reduce stress. The study concludes …

“Playing a casual video game even briefly can restore individuals’ affective abilities, making it a suitable activity to restore mood in response to stress.”

A perk like that would make you the coolest employer in town, as long as everyone uses game time at work responsibly.

The benefits that matter most

While creative employee perks and non-traditional benefits are the icing on the cake, it’s the basic and traditional benefits of health insurance, adequate time off and helpful wellness initiatives that are most important to employees and prospective new hires.

The Harvard Business Review reports that better health, dental and vision coverage tops the list of what job seekers value most in a potential employer.

If your company is currently re-evaluating its health plan, ask your insurance agent about options from HR-Playbook’s sponsor, Security Health Plan of Wisconsin. Based in Marshfield, they provide competitive employer coverage in Central and Western Wisconsin as well as the Fox Valley region, including Green Bay and Appleton.

Security Health Plan takes pride in its approach to helping employers with wellness programs using helpful services such as health coaching, yet another employee perk that will be appreciated. Contact Security Health Plan today or call 1–800–622–7790 to learn more.

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