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The 3 employee benefits that have the biggest impact on team morale at work

Part of being a good leader is knowing which employee benefits to offer. According to 1,000 leaders in The Watercooler, these 3 make the biggest difference.

Four in five employees want more company benefits than a pay raise. That’s according to a 2015 survey conduced by Harris Poll.

Woof. It begs the question: Which employee benefits should you offer?

A Glassdoor study conducted in 2016 found that employees’ top-ranked company benefits were health care insurance (e.g., medical, dental), vacation/paid time off (37 percent), performance bonus (35 percent), paid sick days (32 percent), and 401(k) plan, retirement plan and/or pension (31 percent).

Today, however, benefits like health insurance and performance bonuses are seen as “givens” for more and more companies. One executive, who is a member of The Watercooler (our online leadership community), explained that having benefits like health insurance, bonuses and sick leave are more so “morale killers” if they’re not there — but not necessarily “morale boosters.”

So what are the “morale boosters” of employee benefits? Which ones truly help differentiate your company from others?

I recently posed this question to The Watercooler, our online community of almost 1,000 managers and leaders. According to them, here are the top three benefits their employees that make the biggest difference:

#1: Remote work

Remote work was by far the most frequently cited employee benefit that Watercooler members’ teams appreciated. An employee can go pick up her kids and take her to gymnastics, or head to a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day that’s typically difficult to schedule otherwise. This flexibility matters: Best-selling author Daniel Pink talks at length in his book Drive about the importance of autonomy for people to be happy. Giving folks the flexibility to work in an environment that is best suited to them — to avoid the commute, to work from the quiet of their home at their own standing desk — might just be the reason benefits are viewed more favorably than a pure pay raise.

#2: Support for family members

Many leaders agreed how supporting your team’s family members goes a long way. One leader in The Watercooler, mentioned how his company offers a “Travel Pizza” night that’s been a huge hit with his team. They reach out to the families of employees who are on the road, and deliver pizza for the night while their loved one is away. While a seemingly small gesture, it recognizes an employee’s contributions in a meaningful way. Similarly, another Watercooler member shared how when a long-time employee’s wife slipped a disc in her back and was in a lot of pain. So his company dropped a week’s worth of frozen meals in (homemade!), and the employee only found out about it when he got home in the evening to an ecstatic wife and a warm meal.

#3: Allowances for healthy living

A good number of Watercooler members discussed how benefits that promoted employees’ health and well-being were exceedingly popular (especially when employees can choose what those exact benefits are). One manager in The Watercooler gives their employees $200 per month to spend on anything that you can reasonably argue goes to your health and well-being. One of their employees used it to cover teacher training classes for yoga, another uses it for regular massages, while another uses it for painting classes. At the end of the day, employees who feel their whole life — not just their work life — is being supported by a company is being is less likely to take time off work, and even more willing to invest in helping their team make progress toward its goals. Support their health, and you support an employee’s ability to contribute to the team.

If you’re evaluating your own company’s benefits package, consider including one (or perhaps all!) of these three benefits mentioned here. More than a pay raise, it might make the difference you’re looking for.

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Written by Claire Lew

CEO of Canopy. My mission in life is to help people become happier at work. Say hi to me on Twitter at @clairejlew.