One of the first things (after the pay!) many job seekers consider when deciding whether or not to accept a job offer is what the benefits package looks like.
Each job benefit and perk rarely appeals to every single employee. Some place a high value on parental leave or paid sick time, while others prefer perks like unlimited vacation time or a shot at a six-figure promotion.
No matter what kind of benefits package you're looking for, it's important to read between the lines of the perks a company has to offer — they can tell you a lot about an employer.
Let's look at the hidden meanings behind five job benefits some of today's workers enjoy.
It's not easy for companies to offer paid parental and maternity leave to workers.
When a new mom or dad takes time off, managers must spread their work among other employees or train a temporary worker to take over. Employers often also absorb the cost of paying double the wages and benefits to cover two employees instead of one.
Companies that go the extra mile to accommodate new parents to such a degree demonstrate a deep commitment to a healthy work-life balance.
And that's not all.
"Paid parental leave policy is one of the most powerful statements [companies] can make to break down workplace gender inequality and support working parents and their families," says Change.org's president Jennifer Dulski.
Smart employers know many workers enjoy being part of a workplace community that feels like family.
"The dinner table can act as a unifier, a place of community," writes The Atlantic's Cody C. Delistraty. "Sharing a meal is an excuse to catch up and talk, one of the few times where people are happy to put aside their work and take time out of the day."
Companies that stock their kitchens or break rooms with drinks and snacks telegraph that they care about the social well-being of their employees, not just their productivity. By providing a gathering space filled with food, companies encourage workers to get to know one another on a personal level in a way that feels familiar, not forced.
Stocked kitchens help companies show "a personal investment and that need to make sure that they're happy here and they have everything they need to do a good job," said Danielle Mahoney, director of human resources for software company Appeagle.
Flex time and the ability to work from home one or more days a week are among the most sought-after benefits in the workforce today.
Companies that allow workers to work remotely and have flexible work hours show they trust employees to be self-directed and productive without direct supervision. Giving workers autonomous control of their workday demonstrates a company has faith in its workers and a culture that expects the best from its employees.
When businesses are open to alternative schedules and off-site work environments, it shows they aren't mired down in antiquated ideas of what today's workplace should look like.
Despite becoming increasingly commonplace, workplace diversity programs fail when companies aren't sincerely committed to their success.
Businesses that offer domestic and same-sex partner benefits to their employees signal a strong commitment to diversity and inclusivity in the workplace.
"Employers are realizing that the more inclusive and diverse their workforce is, the better performers they are going to be," says labor and employment attorney Samuel M. Schwartz-Fenwick.
"When employees feel comfortable in being themselves they bring creativity to work, they bring their ideas, they bring their ability to question…it just leads to a healthier workforce."
Some companies like to think way, way way outside the box to come up with unusual or offbeat benefits.
Businesses that offer unconventional benefits are often warm and welcoming to workers who are a little offbeat themselves. If a 9-to-5 desk job isn't your jam, these types of companies might fit the bill.
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