The Wonderful Worth of “Weird” Benefits
By Marisa Jackels and Max Kringen
We’re not here to rattle off wisdom while puffing a stovepipe and leaning back in our chairs. Heck, if our company was a person, we’d be a toddler. What we want to do here is invite you into our journey. Whether you’re a fledgling entrepreneur with a team of one or a seasoned executive with a 50-year-old company — we’re here to humbly share, as we like to say, the “fears, hopes, and dreams” of who we are and all that we continue to learn. Thanks for joining us!
The Wonderful Worth Of “Weird” Benefits
Benefits can be a tricky topic for companies— especially in the early years. There are certain benefits that are traditionally expected of an organization: things like healthcare, retirement and paid vacation time, for instance. However, if you’re a smaller organization, benefits packages can often seem financially overwhelming or unaffordable. It’s often hard to know when it’s “worth it” or not.
David Meyer, business coach and author of Start Your Own Business, Grow Your Business, argues that providing a good benefits package is always worth it. He writes:
“While going without benefits may boost your bottom line in the short run, that penny-wise philosophy could strangle your business’s chances for long-term prosperity.”
He goes on to say that when employees are given benefits they value, they’re less likely to quit and are often more productive. In other words: It’s worth it to invest in your people.
This philosophy is one we have taken to heart at Tellwell. We believe that if you feel good outside of work, you bring that into your work. And while we may not be able to offer some of the benefits that larger companies might, we’ve found success in offering more unique benefits that cater to our team and our culture.
A company we see as a role model when it comes to culture and unique benefits is South Dakota-based agency Lemonly. In their article “Employee Benefits at Lemonly,” founder John T. Meyer writes,
“I think the push that we needed at Lemonly to really ignite the culture was to embrace transparency and share the good news of our culture.”
We agree. And it is in this spirit that we’re sharing a few of our own examples. We hope you’ll consider this in terms of your own organizations: What are some unique benefits that would be a fit for your team?
Many companies are integrating pet-friendly office policies. As a team of pet-lovers, we encourage our team to support our local adoption agencies and give new pets a home with a pet adoption benefit: we’ll reimburse up to $200 for pet adoption and supplies for a new furry family member.
Coffee keeps us running. Team up with a local coffee shop to keep your team going with their local fave!
Potlucks and treats are common to see in the break room; we used to have a box of donuts almost weekly! Instead, refocus on how you can make physical wellness a priority by encouraging each other to exercise and eat well. Try covering a gym membership benefit as a part of that initiative.
Everyone enjoys a happy hour cocktail or two! Providing Uber coverage is a fun, affordable way to show employees you care about them and ensure they always have a safe ride home.
Re-weeks + 3 weeks
More and more, employees are valuing flexible time off. And sometimes, a pre-established “break” can work wonders for boosting productivity. For Tellwell vacation time, we offer two built-in vacation weeks: the week between Christmas and New Year’s and the week of 4th of July. We used to call them “dead weeks,” but thanks to one of our partners at Choice Bank (thanks, Shelley Szudera!) we now call them our “Re-weeks” — a chance to refresh, relax and re-energize. In addition, employees are expected to take at least 3 additional weeks off each year.
Bubbles + grub
Your snacks and drinks are a great opportunity to cater to your team and show off company culture. At Tellwell, we keep a well-stocked fridge of La Croix, Spindrift, Diet Coke and other team favorites along with snack food like granola bars, chips and hummus, and of course… EGGO waffles. *cue Stranger Things theme* Take a poll and find out what your team likes! Sometimes something as small as a surprise delivery of treats can make a lasting impression for months.
A person’s overall health is composed of many facets: mental, physical, financial, spiritual, emotional. Real self-care should be a priority; not only bubble bath self-care, but the real, difficult, vulnerable type of care. That said, offering no-questions-asked counseling coverage and encouraging teammates to utilize local counseling services whenever they need can be a great asset to your benefits package.
What equipment is essential for your staff? Employees not only feel cared for when they’re equipment is covered; it can also be a great welcoming gift! We’re Apple nerds at Tellwell, so we hook you up with a shiny new Macbook Pro + 27 inch Apple Display so you can keep all the windows open. Make sure your team is equipped with the tools that will best set them up to succeed.
Encourage your team to exercise the brain! One of our favorites is Skillshare, an online database of courses that teach you a new skill through videos and assignments. Our teammates have used it for courses on copywriting, storyboarding, Mailchimp, After Effects, Photoshop and more.
We personally work with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota to offer a lovely medical benefits package. We pay half of a single plan. Our goal is to expand, but hey, we’re a startup! There are many local options — talk to other businesses and experts to find what works best for your business.
Can’t afford a 401K? Try matching a percentage toward a Simple IRA instead.
Winters are long here in Fargo, so take advantage of those summer days! Encourage teammates to take half days on Fridays to get a kick-start to their weekend at the lake or other summer adventures. Research shows that productivity levels aren’t affected, and in fact may even be boosted by a little summer weekend incentive.
These are the on-paper benefits, but don’t forget about other perks that can come in the day to day; here, it’s the time we took an extra-long afternoon to watch the Stranger Things premiere, or when we all went to the movies as a team to celebrate our company birthday. Or the surprise party bus for our Christmas party. Or the brewery tour we did… you get the idea.
Your benefits are a place for you to infuse your company culture and show your team you understand their needs. It doesn’t have to be the list of what everyone expects; you can get playful with it! And if you’re not yet able to offer what bigger companies offer, there are plenty of smaller, creative ways to show your team that you care. Embrace the “weird” benefits; they make you who you are.
You tell us. What are some of your favorite benefits that you receive or offer to employees? Got more questions about the ones mentioned here? We’re eager to hear your responses! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’d love to tell(well) you more!