Top 9 most important employee benefits (and why)

A quick summary:

Let’s be honest, there’s an endless list of employee benefits out there. It makes it hard to know what is the most valuable and effective to implement in your own organisation. 

But don't worry, we got you.

In this blog post, we'll delve into the top 9 most important employee benefits and explore the compelling reasons why they should be at the forefront of your HR strategy.

But first of all, let’s talk about the employee “benefits” that I’m not counting in our list.

The boring stuff

I’m packing all of these benefits together under the umbrella of “boring stuff”. Why? Because they are dull and should not be considered benefits.

This is stuff like:

  • Free office parking
  • Free fruit, tea and coffee in the office
  • Paid sick leave
  • 25 days holiday
  • Bereavement leave

If this looks like the list you have on your job postings, you have some work to do. These aren’t benefits. These are expected. In fact, some things here are just workplace requirements!

The point is, if you truly care about the wellbeing of your staff, you won’t be scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for things you can sugarcoat as “benefits” for job descriptions.

“Real” workplace benefits

So what counts as a real workplace benefit, and what are the best benefits for employees?

Well, we found that it’s hard to list these in order of importance since it tends to change so much depending on the industry. 

Therefore, we suggest you take this list with a grain of salt, and maybe consider if and how you can implement each one.

1. Health benefits: Looking after the body

It's no surprise that health benefits top the list. According to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 89% of employers rated health-related benefits as extremely important.

Traditionally, health benefits include health insurance and health packages covering certain ailments. However, research by Maestro Health™ found that over 35% of employees don’t understand or didn’t even know the existence of their employee health care plan.

That’s why employers are casting the net further, looking to support employees with simple benefits that support a healthy life day-to-day. 

This includes health insurance (which is still complicated and misunderstood by most employees but appears to be a must-have), gym memberships and nutritional advice/support.

The common challenge with these sorts of benefits however is often employee engagement. According to research by imin and DataHub, 1 in 4 gym memberships provided by employers were never used. It mirrors our own findings in our Autumn 2023 Employee Wellbeing Report, that 1 in 3 employees into fitness prefer fitness apps and digital experiences compared with in-person experiences like gym memberships. 

The important point to consider here is that while supporting the physical health of your employees should be a hugely important part of your workplace benefits, it’s worth understanding that different people want to support their health in different ways. You should ensure that your benefits offering is flexible enough to make it worthwhile to everyone - which is often the biggest challenge.

2. Mental health benefits: Looking after the mind

I considered packaging this up with the health benefits above, but I think that’s part of the problem with mental health support in the workplace - it’s often seen as just an add-on. 

The point is, mental health is now more important than ever and so, it deserves special attention when considering your employee benefits package.

In fact, according to the Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 6.8 people experience mental health problems in the workplace. And for people in full time employment, women are almost twice as likely as men to suffer with mental health at work. 

Let’s be honest, it’s been a rough few years. With the pandemic, wars, looming redundancies and the cost of living crisis all adding concern, it’s no surprise that mental health is affected. 

And we know that you’re worried about it too. Data by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that 66% of HR professionals were concerned about the impact of the “c-word” pandemic on employees’ mental health.

That’s why mental health support is so key in the workplace. Similarly to physical health, it’s important to provide support in different ways to ensure that employees are having their needs met in the ways that suit them. Some employees might not want to attend in-person therapy, while another may not get much use out of therapy through a mobile app. 

Everyone is different and so your benefits should be too.

3. Flexible Work Arrangements: Work-life harmony

Let’s get this straight. Flexible working doesn’t just mean working from home. In fact, flexible working is about the workplace being… flexible, depending on the circumstance.

If Martin needs to leave the office at 3pm to pick up the kids from school or Sarah needs to take an extra hour in the day to check on an elderly relative - allowing employees to work around their lives is supporting a true work-life balance. 

As someone who works remotely and certainly doesn’t miss the two hour commute back and forth each day, remote working is certainly part of flexible working but they aren’t one of the same.

Flexible working includes other things too, like the option to take a sabbatical, flexi-time, or ability to drop to part-time working. 

And flexible working is important too. The CIPD reported that over 4 million workers left jobs due to there not being enough workplace flexibility. So it’s no surprise that flexible working is so desirable for employees and job hunters alike. 

4. Professional development opportunities

Often, your highest performing employees are the most focussed on career growth. And if you aren’t providing career development opportunities then they are likely to be a flight risk. Being that these high performers are likely among the most difficult to replace, it’s a valid concern for employers.

According to research by Axios, 80% of employees planning to leave their current job are concerned about their career growth. 

The point is, personal development, career growth opportunities and learning and development are all important factors that can help you attract and retain the very best talent. 

In fact, in Linkedin’s Workplace Learning Report, they found that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.

5. Paid time off: Rest and recharge

One common benefit is additional paid leave throughout the year. This usually includes a free day off on your birthday, or an extra day's holiday for each year of service.

And these are widely considered good benefits. Not only do employees feel respected and valued, but it also ties into an understanding of work-life balance. In short - the key to that is proving that you’re aware that your employees have a life outside of work too. 

Some employers are taking this a step further, offering additional paid time off like a “duvet day” to take in the year when life’s getting you down or a “mental health day” to take some time to focus on yourself. 

Whichever benefits you find most valuable, it’s clear that employees, primarily Millennials and Gen Z, have much more of a desire to be respected as an individual rather than a workplace asset. 

6. Enhance parental leave: Supporting life’s milestones

Starting a family is a huge milestone in anyone’s life. And now more than ever the responsibility of being a parent is more often equally shared. 

Yet still maternity and paternity leave times can be so drastically different. Companies that want to support their employees through starting a family are offering enhanced leave and pay for both men and women - often improving based on length of service.

For employees looking to start a family in the future, enhanced parental leave (along with flexible working) is a key factor in their decision to stay or leave their current employer.

In fact, according to an Ernst and Young study, more than 80% of employers that offered paid parental leave reported a positive impact on employee morale, while more than 70% reported an increase in productivity.

With over 25 million people in the UK “less than satisfied” with their current paternity and 16 million people  dissatisfied with maternity pay, it goes to show how important it is for companies to value important milestones in their employees' lives.

7. Commuter benefits: Navigating the daily grind

With over 90% of companies planning to cut remote working and bring employees back into the office 5 days a week, it seems that for many, remote working is coming to an end.

However, with many employees saving costs and time from commuting into the office while working remotely, there’s a greater focus on employers providing commuter benefits to make the transition easier. 

Train, fuel and parking costs are all examples of fees employers are willing to pay to make the switch back to office working (As someone who used to pay over £10 a day to park at an office, I can certainly relate!).

While it’s a small touch to support employees and not necessarily a surprising addition, it’s often a big deal for employers looking to bring the workforce back into the office full time.

8. Bonuses

Reward and recognition is unsurprisingly something that employees enjoy. For many industries bonuses are an expected part of the job, while for others it can be a well-earned reward based on performance.

I don’t think that this is a surprising point on this list. Employees like to feel respected and appreciated at work and bonuses have always been one the ways for employers to show this.

9. Total employee wellbeing

“Wellbeing” has been a growing buzzword in HR over the past decade as more and more employees seek employment that supports their lives in and out of work.

At Heka, we often talk about the concept of “Total Wellbeing” - supporting employees in all the ways that they need in order to live happier and healthier lives. And it’s something that many HR teams are focussing on in order to boost candidate attraction, employee retention and overall job satisfaction. 

This is a combination of all of the things in this list (and more) coming together to provide wellbeing support - no matter the individual's circumstances. 

We believe that the secret here is to give your employees the choice of what benefits matter to them. The truth is, no employee benefit is better than another - instead they are all beneficial in different ways to different people.

The traditional problem with this is often “it’s too expensive”. And this is a valid point. But there are solutions out there (*cough *cough, Heka) that makes it easy and affordable. In fact, it’s the reason why Heka exists in the first place.

How to know what benefits your employees want

As I said, everything in this list should be considered since it’s unrealistic to expect that all employees at all employers across all industries want the same things. 

So how do you find out exactly what your employees want?

The easiest solution is to simply… ask them! We always suggest running an internal employee survey to find out what benefits are most important to them. 

The next thing you can do is give your employees the choice. And that’s exactly the foundation of Heka. You give your employees a budget to spend each month and they can choose from over 5,000 wellbeing experiences on the Heka marketplace. 

Sound good? Book a demo to see Heka in action.

More articles just for you

Get free wellbeing updates from Heka 🙌

Enjoy exclusive invites & useful resources, for free!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.