9 Overlooked and Undervalued Employee BenefitsNov 12, 2023
How thoroughly have you looked at your employee benefits package?
Standard employee benefits like healthcare, vacation time, and retirement benefits are usually
the primary focus when mulling over a benefits package.
But if you investigate a little further, you’ll likely find benefits that you’ve never even touched!
Whether you didn’t know you had them or you don’t fully understand them, overlooked and undervalued employee benefits can be incredibly advantageous.
Many of the juiciest underused benefits are completely free. And even if you do have to pay a small amount, they can save you a TON of money in the long run.
I want you to take full advantage of all the benefits you’re being offered. So today, I’m covering the most overlooked employee benefits that can add real value to your life and overall compensation package.
9 Overlooked Employee Benefits that You Should Use
If these benefits are in your compensation package and you’re not using them, now’s the time!
While not all benefits will be relevant to your life and circumstances, some of these undervalued benefits are universal.
Paid Time Off (PTO)
It’s a tale as old as time. Paid time off is a standard part of any compensation package. But do people actually use it? Nope. In fact, Bloomberg says that less than half of all US workers use all their vacation days.
People leave their paid time off on the table all the time, often losing it because it doesn’t roll over into a new year. They also bank it for a special occasion that never comes.
The result? Money left on the table, and lower productivity and effectiveness on the job.
This is especially bad for employees that technically have unlimited paid time off. In some cases, these professionals end up taking LESS time off than when they have a designated number of days.
My advice in this area is simple – use your vacation days!
And if you have unlimited PTO? Set a *minimum* target each quarter or year for yourself and your direct reports if you have them.
Check your benefits package and note how many paid days off you get a year and aim to meet them, even if you don’t need the time off. Everyone can use a few days to chill out and take time for yourself.
Oh, and if you work at a company that lumps vacation and sick time together - be reasonable about how much paid time you bank for illness. A good idea is to look at the average amount of sick time you’ve taken the last few years as a starting point.
Employee Assistance Plan (EAP)
An employee assistance program, or EAP, is essentially free therapy. And anyone who regularly sees a therapist will tell you – it's not cheap.
EAP plans, which are typically free, can provide you and your family with counseling from a registered therapist. They are often overlooked because their purpose isn’t always spelled out clearly. But essentially, EAPs provide mental health support for both work-related and personal conflicts, along with crisis counseling.
Some programs also offer elder care support for employee family members.
Some employees resist using EAPs because they don’t think they need counseling or are embarrassed to seek out help - especially from their work. If this speaks to your experience, I challenge you to rethink your position and give it a try the next time you need something your EAP covers.
Another overlooked group of employee benefits is wellness programs aimed at increasing employees’ physical and mental health.
A wellness program could include things like access to a gym or the opportunity to track activity or health markers such as blood pressure and cholesterol on a regular basis. Some wellness programs save you money on your health care insurance premiums. Others are a simple reimbursement of a covered service like your gym membership.
Often to get these perks, all you need to do is complete a health consultation or an extra blood test. It’s simple, doesn’t take a lot of time, and could end up saving you a lot of money in healthcare and memberships. I’ve had wellness consultations in the past that paid between $250 and $500 directly into my health savings account for just 30-45 minutes of my time.
Other health and wellness perks may include fitness classes, wellness exercises or retreats, and nutrition counseling.
Something you never consider before becoming an adult is how many times you're going to need a lawyer in your life.
Whether it be for a divorce, drawing up a will, child custody, contracts, estate settlement, or any number of life events, you’ll need a lawyer. And legal fees are definitely not cheap.
In some benefits packages, they offer free or largely discounted consults with company lawyers who can help you with any of your legal needs for as little as $20 per month and can help you with everything from reviewing lease agreements on a car or apartment to creating your first estate plan.
Even if you just need a 30-minute consult, this could cost you hundreds of dollars.
Though not everyone will need adoption assistance, this is an extremely high-value benefit that is offered in packages. And, it’s becoming more common.
If you’re planning on starting a family through adoption, a great benefits package could include tens of thousands of dollars in cost support for adoption. The best companies will pair their adoption assistance with paid adoption leave.
This benefit can be so valuable that it actually becomes a deciding factor in where to apply for jobs.
Beyond traditional retirement benefits, some employers offer a Roth 401k. You pay into this long-term tax savings plan with post-tax dollars, saving you from paying tax on the back end.
This is a great long-term benefit, allowing you to shelter a lot more earnings down the road.
Some employers will even offer matching contributions towards your Roth 401k, though some still prefer to put matched dollars into a Traditional 401k.
In the best scenarios, employers will let you choose between a Traditional pre-tax 401k and a Roth 401k, letting you mix and match how much you put into each plan.
When I was still in a corporate job, my financial advisor always wanted to know what my 401k options were and loved to have put some of my investments each paycheck into the Roth option.
Some employee benefits go unused because they’re not widely known or advertised. Commuter benefits definitely fall into this category.
If you commute to work, you may be eligible for pre-tax transportation deductions or transit subsidies.
Some companies will even pay for your commute through yearly transit passes, gas reimbursement, company cards, company cars, or parking passes.
One of the most valuable benefits we can have is time. Seriously.
Some employee benefits packages include an option for extended leave or a sabbatical, giving you paid time off for a variety of reasons.
For example: I used to work for Cerner Corporation (now owned by Oracle). For decades, Cerner offered a sabbatical every 6 years that allowed employees to spend part of their time off volunteering in the community, and the rest taking time to do whatever floated their boat.
Sadly, it looks like Oracle is discontinuing this program, but about 10% of companies have one, including such companies as Automattic, Charles Schwab, and 73 more listed here.
Whether you’re looking to travel, take personal time, or pursue a passion, you may be able to take this time while being supported financially by your employer.
Paid sabbaticals can lead to increased job satisfaction, employee well-being, and company loyalty.
FSAs and HSAs
Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA) are often available for employees to save untaxed earnings for health expenses. Withdrawals are also tax-free when you use funds for approved purchases.
A major difference between the two accounts is that FSA funds must be used the year you contribute to the account, and HSA funds can be rolled over.
I’ve made use of both kinds of funds whenever I was able. I got LASIK back in 2010 thanks to my FSA benefit when working at a tech company. And I’ve used my HSA on various medical expenses the last few years, even though I haven’t been able to contribute to it since 2020.
No matter your yearly health expenses, this has the power to save you a significant amount of money on taxes.
Final Thoughts from a No BS Career Coach on Employee Benefits Packages
Employee benefits are meant to be used – so use them!
It sounds simple enough, but so many of these overlooked benefits can be so valuable to our lives both personally and financially.
I hope this encourages you to take a closer look at your benefits package and do a little investigating. What undervalued benefit is just waiting to be used? Go find out!
If you’re ready to get some help planning your next career move, I’m here to help. To learn more, just send us a message telling us what you need!