The salary you collect at work is only part of your overall compensation package; the benefits you receive through your employer are almost as important. When it comes to benefits, American workers typically look out for what we'll call the big three: health insurance, paid time off, and a 401(k) with an employer match. But your expectations don't need to end there.
These days, a growing number of companies are offering a variety of less common benefits to attract employees and keep them happy. Here are a few that could end up coming your way soon.
1. Free food
Though sticking a coffeemaker in the office has long been a standard practice, many companies are taking their food service offerings to a new level. Some maintain stocked pantries with energy bars and snacks galore. Others go so far as to cater meals for employees.
Of course, this works to employers' benefit, because if workers don't need to spend time leaving the building to grab lunch or an afternoon pick-me-up, they're apt to be more productive. But as an employee, all of that free food can amount to some major savings. That's because 66% of American workers spend nearly $2,000 a year to buy lunch, according to a Workonomix survey. Even if you're the brown-bagging type, there's something to be said for not having to throw together a sandwich when you're pressed for time and running out the door.
2. Pet insurance
Caring for animals doesn't come cheap, especially if your pet has health issues. Extra vet visits can easily run you $200 or more a pop, and if your furry friend needs an overnight hospital stay, you could easily be looking at over $1,000 a night. Thankfully, some companies are recognizing the need to ease the financial burden for pet owners by offering employees the option to purchase insurance.
Now unlike health insurance for humans, pet insurance generally isn't employer-subsidized. But you might pay less in premiums if you buy pet insurance through your employer as opposed to another source.
Do you really need pet insurance? It depends on your animal. For a healthy one, your premium costs may not be worth it. But if you have an older animal or one with a known condition, that insurance could end up saving you thousands.
3. Legal plans
We all run into situations where we could use the help of a lawyer, whether it's to finalize a home purchase contract or do some estate planning. The problem? Attorneys are expensive, costing $200 to over $500 an hour, on average. That's why company legal plans can be very useful, and if your employer offers one, it often pays to sign up.
Participating in a company legal plan generally means paying a fee or premium that gives you access to a network of lawyers who will help with routine legal matters (like real estate closings or wills and basic trusts). If you're planning to need these services, a legal plan could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in attorney fees.
4. Happy hour
Everybody loves happy hour, especially when it's free. But rather than go out and visit your local watering hole, if you're lucky, your employer might bring the drinks to you. More and more companies are hosting in-office happy hours, some on a weekly basis. Free beverages aside, these events are a great way to mingle with coworkers and build relationships with the people you don't tend to run into that often. And if you play your cards right, you might even score some much-needed face time with your boss.
5. Unlimited vacation days
Though only 1% of U.S. companies offer unlimited time off policies, it's a trend that's quickly gaining traction. The idea behind unlimited vacation is that employees who get their work done responsibly can have the freedom to take time off as they choose, without being restricted to a preset number of days. And while some people would rather have the structure of a defined limit, if you enjoy traveling, pursuing hobbies, or simply having an opportunity to recharge, then a limitless vacation policy could really work in your favor.
Though these benefits are far from the norm in the grand scheme of the U.S. workforce, it never hurts to suggest them to your employer if they aren't already in place. After all, the happier you and your fellow colleagues are with your benefits, the more motivated you're likely to be on the job. And when that happens, everybody wins.