A woman sitting at a desk leans back in her chair and stretches her arms over her head with a smile. A laptop sits open on the desk in front of her and two large plants sit on the sill of a large window in the background.
Perks like flexible working hours, mental health days, and remote work options give your employees the autonomy to structure their working days in a way that works best for them. — Getty Images/fizkes

From retirement planning to flexible hours to wellness programs, employee benefits are a must-have for any business looking to remain competitive in today’s hiring landscape. However, new entrepreneurs and small business owners may be concerned about competing with larger, more established companies with respect to resources. Fortunately, there are many attractive perks startups can offer their workers without breaking the bank.

Inexpensive benefits small businesses can offer

Here are some examples of affordable employee benefits you can provide to your workers:

Flexible hours

Allowing your employees to work flexible hours costs nothing for your business, yet it’s an attractive perk many professionals seek today. By letting your workers create their own schedules that meet their individual needs and availabilities, you’ll likely cultivate a more productive company culture. Plus, your team will appreciate the improved work-life balance and autonomy you provide them.

More PTO

Depending on your state, your business may be required to offer a certain amount of accrued paid time off (often in the form of paid sick leave) for employees. PTO can be given in a lump sum for any purpose or separated into vacation, personal, volunteer, and sick days, depending on the employer.

Many companies cap their employees’ PTO at two weeks, which has been known as the standard for quite some time. However, more businesses are experimenting with unlimited PTO, trusting their employees won’t take advantage of the perk. By offering more PTO, you’ll show your employees you respect their time and acknowledge they have personal lives outside of work—a benefit that goes unmatched.

[Read more: How to Structure Employee Paid Time Off Policies]

Remote work options

With remote work on the rise today, you should consider allowing your employees to work from home at least part of the time. Allowing employees to work remotely, whether it's full-time or in a hybrid work model, can increase employee satisfaction and productivity, while also saving the company money on office utilities and supplies. This translates to more money spent on what’s important — like realizing the company’s vision and goals.

To keep your employees satisfied and productive, find ways to accommodate remote work while still maintaining your company culture. Many employers also supplement remote working with additional benefits that cover work-from-home costs such as a workspace, laptop, internet services, and more.

Professional development courses

Providing opportunities for professional development will not only benefit your employees but also your company as a whole. Give your employees access to free courses by signing up for online learning communities that you can share with your entire team. You might even consider giving them time each week to complete these classes on the clock rather than during their personal time. If it’s in your budget, low-cost training seminars can also empower and engage your employees in their work.

Keep in mind that offering mental health days separately from vacation days is important, as you don’t want your employees to feel like they’re being punished or using up their vacation time whenever they’re under the weather.

Wellness programs

Create your own employee wellness program that offers an array of free health initiatives, from financial counseling to wellness challenges your entire team can participate in. You can even offer in-office yoga or meditation classes, or free gym memberships for employees to use on their own time. Not only is this a great way to get everyone healthy and involved, but it’s also an affordable option that encourages your employees to take time for themselves.

[Read more: 7 Health and Wellness Benefits You Can Offer Part-Time Employees]

Mental health days

Mental health is just as important as physical health, and just like taking a sick day when you have a fever, employees should be able to take off when they’re feeling mentally unwell. Keep in mind that offering mental health days separately from vacation days is important, as you don’t want your employees to feel like they’re being punished or using up their vacation time whenever they’re under the weather.

How to afford benefits

When business owners consider providing employee benefits, many assume they’ll be spending more money than desired. However, with these tips, small business owners can easily afford employee benefits.

  • Set a budget. Knowing how much you’re able and willing to spend on employee benefits will ensure you’re only considering options within reason.
  • Split the cost with employees. Many business owners who can’t afford full employee benefits will split the cost with their employees, working out a deal that best suits both parties.
  • Outsource HR to PEOs. Outsourcing your HR efforts to a professional employer organization (PEO) can help you reduce the cost of employee benefits.
  • Choose higher-deductible plans. Higher-deductible plans require a large deductible up front with 100% coverage, which is perfect for businesses that can’t afford health insurance.
  • Offer non-financial perks. There are plenty of non-financial benefits you can offer your employees, from flexible working hours to professional development opportunities.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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