I spent my toddler years in Army daycare, and look how I turned out!

Workplace Benefits and Other Cool Side Effects of Employment

You just got a job offer! Condragulations! Now it’s time to negotiate… for your life.

But before you start throwing numbers around, there’s something you should understand. Salary—the thing most think of when they are considering the terms of a new job—is but one item on a long list of negotiable items. And while it’s wicked important, your potential employer might not have as much room to adjust there as they do in other areas.

So aside from salary, you need to think about what you need to be happy and comfortable in a new job.

What is going to improve both your financial situation and your overall life? Because if an employer can’t budge on the salary, that doesn’t mean they don’t have something more to offer you in other areas.

So let’s talk benefits, shall we?

Workplace benefits, a partial list

Depending on the industry, your benefits package may vary wildly. Here are some things that might be included in an employee benefits package:

Time off

  • Vacation time. Sometimes they break it down into sick days and vacation days, but these are basically your Get Out of Jail Free cards. Skip a day of work and still get paid. And while we can’t stress enough the importance of taking a break once in a while, you can also use your vacation time to work on other income streams. So use wisely.
  • Disability leave. If you’re injured or ill, this allows you to take time off work to recover while still being paid, and without losing your job. Especially important for people who work physically risky jobs where they might have an accident.
  • Bereavement leave. If a family member passes away, this allows you to take paid time off to attend their memorial service without cutting into your regular vacation time. This benefit was particularly important for me at my last job, as I had to fly across the country with only twelve hours notice to lay my grandfather to rest.

Parenting help

  • Family leave. If you (or your partner) are pregnant and give birth, this allows you time off to recover from the physical toll of the pregnancy and bond with the baby. Sometimes paid, sometimes not, so pay attention to the fine print because fun fact: the United States is the only “industrialized” country in the world without mandated family leave so… #vote.
  • Childcare. Some employers offer on-site daycare for the children of their employees. It’s a sadly rare practice, but these kinds of benefits go a long way toward advancing gender equality in the workplace and making life easier for working parents. I spent my toddler years in Army daycare, and look how I turned out! (Ok that’s… maybe not a ringing endorsement for daycare… but still!)
  • Nursing suite. Along the same lines, some companies have a private room stocked with refrigerators for the purpose of giving nursing mothers a private space where they can pump and store breast milk during the work day. Again, this is a great way to increase retention of women and treat your employees like human beings.

Investing

  • Retirement accountUsually a 401(k) or a 403(b), both you and your employer contribute money to this account for your retirement. Before taxes. So if you don’t contribute to an employer-sponsored retirement account in some way, you’re losing money in three different ways.

  • Stock options. This can be a double-edged sword. Stock options can pay out very nicely if you get into a company before it’s publicly traded. But accepting stock options in lieu of a higher salary can be very, very risky. So do your research.

Flexibility

  • Flexible schedule. In this grand age of telecommuting, flexible scheduling is becoming more common. To avoid rush hour traffic at my last job, I asked to work a 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule instead of standard work hours. Another of my coworkers worked Tuesday through Saturday so she could attend classes at the state university on Monday. As long as you’re getting the job done and putting in the hours, flexibility is a perfectly reasonable benefit to negotiate.
  • Working remotely. Along the same lines, it’s easier than ever to work from home (or a library or coffee shop, for that matter) rather than going into an office every day. Even if it’s just for one day a week, it fucking helps. I work remotely full time now, and I can’t express just how much it has improved my life.
  • Company car. A friend of mine works a job that requires him to travel throughout the region. This would take a toll on his personal vehicle, so his company has provided him with a fleet vehicle. He can use it for anything he likes in addition to work-related travel, and he’ll have to give it up if he ever switches jobs, but for now he’s saving enormous sums not owning or maintaining his own car.

Insurance

  • Health insuranceThe big one. The best plans will have a low co-pay and include dental and vision insurance as well. If you work a full forty-hour week for your employer, you have to be offered health insurance. But this is ‘Murica, and not all health insurance plans are created equal. So read the fine print before deciding if your employer’s insurance plan will suit your needs.
  • Life insurance. You are a valuable asset to your company. And your family relies on your income. Employer-sponsored life insurance will ensure that your death doesn’t become a financial burden to your family in the event of your untimely demise.

Education

  • Memberships and discountsSome employers have deals with museums, theaters, and other local organizations for discounted tickets. Others offer free gym memberships. You’d be a fool not to take advantage of these sweet perks!
  • Tuition reimbursement. Some employers will pay for you to get a degree, or help with the tuition. This is especially applicable if you work for a university, though some private companies will pay for their employees to get graduate degrees. The trick here is that if your employer is investing in your education, they expect you to stick around and use that education to benefit the company. So they might require you to stick around for a few years after getting your degree.

I know I’ve missed a few. I’m counting on you, citizens of Bitch Nation, to fill in the gaps in a comment below!

Why negotiate your benefits?

At my previous company, I reached the top of the ladder much faster than I expected. And while this had at least as much to do with the company’s needs as it did with my own inherent talents and swagger, it still left me with nowhere left to rise.

As we’ve discussed before though, career stagnation can have major consequences on your lifetime financial well being. So I had to find other ways to get ahead that didn’t involve a promotion or a title change.

Aside from asking for a raise every six months, I asked to work from home one day a week. Since I was commuting forty miles a day, cutting out my commute for even one day would increase the amount of time I had to work within a single work day and save me money on gas and car costs. As a result, I had more time and flexibility to spend on freelance projects that would bring in more money.

In effect, I’d found a way to increase my income without getting a significant raise at my day job. Score!

For more on negotiating and asking for a raise, feast your eyes on these classic BGR posts:

So determine what benefits would make your life easier, richer, better, and get out there and ask for them. As we’ve said before, the worst they can say is no, but they can’t say no unless you give them the chance to say yes.

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21 thoughts on “Workplace Benefits and Other Cool Side Effects of Employment

  1. My current job (private sector/commercial) has the best benefits anywhere I have ever worked after a career in non profit orgs and it is the freaking bomb. I am so thankful for them and it goes a long way on bad days! Honestly knowing what generous benefits they had was one of the top reasons why I applied here.

  2. My previous employer was a small company that insisted there were “NO RAISES” one year, so I asked for, and got(!) a subway/metro benefit. They paid for my monthly transportation costs and saved me over $100/month #win
    Still decided to move on evenutally, but it helped in the interim.

    1. On that note, another thing to make sure is that your company is actually offering you all the smaller benefits that you should be getting! For example, any NYC employer with more than 20 full time non-union employees is required by law to offer the option of pre-tax commuter benefits (so you don’t get taxed for any money you spend on public transit/parking). And yet, many companies still do not comply with this unless these violations are reported.

      I am sure there are many other regulations like this that are often ignored by companies nationwide, so everyone should try to educate themselves on what they are legally owed. Your city’s DCA office can be a great help, especially in a large metro area!

  3. I’m so thankful for the posts you linked at the bottom. I’m currently in the process of changing jobs. I negotiated a 15% raise AND a bevy of sick/vacation/holiday pay and pension for the first time in 3.5 years 🙂
    &, you changed my life! THANK YOU humble bitches for everything you’ve created here!

    1. I left the above comment on mobile, so the Piggy & Kitty emojis were used in that last line… not seeing them on desktop version of Chrome right now, though.

      1. FUCK YEAH YOU DID!!! This is awesome news. We’re so proud and humbled. Remember: YOU changed your life. We were simply your fabulous and foul-mouthed muses.

  4. Company car benefits seem rare in my neck of the woods (California, tech sector) but it’s common for companies to have a commuter benefit, often because local municipalities encourage it with discounts. Businesses with X number of employees may get a tax break or such if they offer free or reimbursed transit passes or an employee credit towards public transit. Something to look out for.

    One worth negotiating in some areas (again, I know CA tech) is sign-on stock options because companies have a lot of flexibility about granting them. Do your research first, of course, to see if it’ll be valuable, & IMO, it’s usually more so for public companies (they have a track record). Typical vesting periods are 4 years, so if you think you’ll stay that long, & the company is solid, this can be a relatively easy win.

    Under memberships & discounts, check for group cell phone plans if you work for a really big company. 5 years ago, I worked for a Very Large Well-Known Company that had a faaaabulous cell phone discount deal, & I still have a lower cell phone bill than anyone I know, even with unlimited data on the latest iPhone! I recently called to see if my new employer (also a Very Large Well-Known Company) had a comparable discount, & the phone company said my earlier discount was better, so keep it 😀

    1. This is excellent advice! Public transit reimbursement or discounts would’ve been helpful to me in the past… And I’ve never heard of the cell phone plan! I’m wondering why more companies don’t do this, especially when they require their employees to use their cell phones for business purposes.

  5. Academics (ie, professors) often seek to negotiate positions for their spouses. Both times my partner and I have gotten jobs (me one and him one) we have negotiated for spousal hires above all else–in our line of work this is a pretty standard thing (but still exceedingly difficult to get) to ask for since professors tend to be married to other professors (and mobility is difficult in our line of work). So although we didn’t get to ask for higher salaries individually, getting two jobs instead of one = pretty significant financial (and life) improvement for us as a family unit.

    1. Huh I had no idea this was a thing, but it makes a lot of sense. If there’s only one college in your town and you have a two-professor household, it could definitely be an issue if you don’t both get hired. I wonder if this could work in a non-academic setting too–might be worth looking into, but I have a feeling most HR people would have no idea how to respond to a request like that.

      1. You got it – that’s exactly why this is a *thing* in academia (though often elusive, let me be clear – many universities do not do this, to their peril, in my opinion: the truth is that the majority of academic women are partnered with other academics, whether women or men, and so refusal to give spousal accommodations often goes together with a lack of gender diversity in the university).

        I don’t know how HR in other sectors would respond to such a request, but it might be worth asking. In these cases in academia the partner still has to go through an interview process, so it’s not just “hey hire my partner” – so if there was, for example, a need to relocate for a position I might be able to see a person asking for their partner to be interviewed and maybe the company would consider it as an incentive to get the job candidate to move there (and stay there – once our partners are hired, we tend to be pretty loyal to a university, which is also good for the university/department).

  6. Libraries tend to not have a ton of room to negotiate price or benefits (at least public ones) but one area they can support is professional development. I ask for a commitment of x conference fees and/or travel help for conferences and also money for professional development courses. These are things that help me do my current job but also might help me land a better one later on.

    1. The value of professional development is really hard to express… until you’re trying to get ahead in your industry and all those conference fees are adding up. Then it’s priceless. I’m thrilled to hear libraries value their employees this way!

  7. Disability leave and short term disability insurance are not always the same thing! Make sure you know exactly which the company is offering and what that entails, especially if you are not in one of the five states with state short term disability insurance (CA, HI, NJ, NY, and RI). If you ARE in one of those states, then it’s always good to supplement what your taxes have already paid for!

    1. Very true! We’ve just added the ADA and other information to our resources page, which should help readers get more accurate info on this stuff than we (a coupla abled bitches) can provide.

  8. I used to feel bad every time it came to the negotiation phase of getting a job. One day it just clicked and I realized it’s a two-way street; I’m giving them a lot of myself, and I should expect to receive pay AND benefits for forking over 10+ hours of my life for them every five days.

    Benefits can make or break companies and their workers. I’ve been working remotely over a year and it’s a true game changer for day-to-day happiness and my work productivity. Remote is the future!

    1. I love this way of looking at it. Your mind, body, talent, and time are all valuable benefits to a company. You should be compensated for all that value!
      Also fuck yes working remotely. The last four months have been my happiest working months ever.

  9. Woop, love this post!

    I would looove for my employer to offer an education stipend – a personal budget for all employees to use as they like on conferences/trade shows/events/classes/workshops, etc.

    A vacation stipend would also be lovely We changed our policy to be more dog-friendly when our employees asked for it. It definitely helps them out, and makes the office a happier place when their pups are here.

    1. I live in a state where dogs are simply a fact of life and most workplaces (except for the super straight-laced) are dog-welcoming. I never thought of it as a benefit before, but I’m definitely happier with a dog around while I work!

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