9 Great Employee Perks Every Philly Business Owner Should Know

How small businesses can keep up with powerhouses like Netflix, Apple and Google.

(Tyler Olson/Shutterstock)

(Tyler Olson/Shutterstock)

Recently, Netflix announced that it was providing up to a year of unlimited paid time off for new parents. Unlimited! This, of course raises two issues:

  1. We are all streaming way too many movies if Netflix can afford to do this.
  2. How in the hell can my business compete with companies offering these kinds of perks?

There are many benefits of working for a smaller company. OK, so you’re not able to pay $25 an hour for employees to do volunteer work (Apple), you can’t offer onsite kindergarten (Campbell Soup) and there’s just no extra room in your office for an indoor rock-climbing wall (Chesapeake Energy). Your company doesn’t have its own private busses to take employees back and forth to work (Google) and you can’t afford to pay your employees $5,000 just to…now get this…quit (Zappos). Pity.

You’re a little smaller than all that. And like me, you can only afford to pay so much. But on the bright side, a small business has more flexibility, a greater sense of team, and the ability to take on more challenges. Not only that, but there are some perks that businesses of any size can offer that employees will love. And if you’re a Philadelphia-area business, there are some great, relatively inexpensive treats you can consider that will make your employees love you even more. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Help with the commute. SEPTA is a partner of Wage Works, a program that offers commuter benefits by allowing you to pay transit and parking expenses with pre-tax dollars. Your company lowers its payroll taxes and employees take home extra money each month. Funds are moved to an employee’s account before taxes are deducted, which reduces their overall tax burden. The company claims that employees can save an average of 30 percent from their commuting costs with this program. For your bike-riding fans, Indego has corporate programs so that your employees can join the ever-growing ranks of novice, non-helmet-wearing crazy people who have never ridden a bike before but somehow think it’s OK to start learning on Market Street during rush hour. Cool.

2. Join a credit union. Credit unions are different than banks. Banks are evil organizations that have caused all of our financial woes and anyone who works for a bank is going straight to hell. OK, that’s a little harsh – I need to stop surfing those left-wing websites. Credit unions, on the other hand are not-for-profit entities whose goal is to pass through their profits to their members. This comes in the form of added member benefits such as low fees and low rates. Check out SB1 Federal Credit Union in Philly — like most, they offer corporate programs with services from checking to loans for your employees and all generally at lower fees than a traditional bank.

3. Give your people goodies. AnyPerk is a member service with hundreds of discount programs that your employees can enjoy wherever they are. For a low monthly fee, your employees can take advantage of savings from national providers like Sprint, TurboTax and Jiffy Lube as well as local programs from CitiPass Philly, Philadelphia Sports Clubs and City Running Tours. AnyPerk is growing in popularity and continues to add more and more discounts at Philly-area establishments.

4. Sponsor a team. I think it’s safe to say that your average beer-league company softball team would give the Phillies a challenge this year. Sports provides an opportunity for your employees to have fun, build relationships (hopefully while not pulling any hamstrings.) Philly Sport and Social is a great place to find a local league for your company to sponsor and your employees to enjoy.

5. Get fit. Philadelphia is the 14th fattest and the 10th most unhealthiest city in the United States. C’mon people…let’s move and improve! There are plenty of gyms in the area, like Philly’s Sweat Fitness that have great corporate wellness programs for your employees. And there are many regional YMCAs that also offer corporate membership programs so that your people can keep themselves in good shape.

6. Get artsy. The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation offer corporate programs and for only $75,000 you can be a diamond sponsor. Hold on, let me get my checkbook. OK, so that’s never going to happen. But there are other, less-expensive programs that can be tailored to your budget and give your employees a chance to visit these amazing museums at a discount.

7. Pay to volunteer. So maybe you don’t want to shell out $25 per hour for your people to volunteer like Apple does, but you can still offer some paid time off instead without breaking the bank. Or even unpaid, extended time off if an employee wants to devote a significant amount of time to a worthy cause. There are tons of great Philly area organizations looking for help on Volunteer Match and showing your support for the community is not a bad way to give a little something back.

8. Join the chamber. No matter which county your business is located, there’s a Chamber of Commerce near you. And they all offer programs and discounts to local merchants who participate. The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce has discounts to lots of great Center City businesses and restaurants — as well group health and insurance plans that may be better than your own.

9. Finally, chill out and listen to some tunes. The awesome World Café Live in University City has a corporate “access” program where, for a mere annual fee of $2,500 you can treat your employees to VIP tickets, food and beverage credits, parking passes and even access to certain artists that perform there.

Gene Marks is a guest columnist for BizPhilly. He’s written for publications like the New York Times, Forbes and the Huffington Post. Follow him on Twitter. All opinions expressed in this column are his own.

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