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Employee Benefits on a Small Business Budget

From flexibility in the workplace to growth opportunities, there are similarities across generations working in a multitude of industries when it comes to benefits desired by employees. An attractive benefits package is a great way to recruit and retain quality employees, and benefits can help set you apart as an employer-of-choice. It’s important to realize that benefits are not one-size-fits-all, but there are options available to fit any size company.


One of the most sought-after benefits in the workplace is healthcare. There are small-employer options, as well as large-employer options, but the task of deciphering all the pros, cons, stipulations, and possible penalizations can be daunting. If your budget allows, an insurance broker can help navigate the maze of health insurance.

Non-traditional healthcare options like association health plans are on the horizon as an option for a set of individuals to band together for the simple purpose of health insurance discounts. Concierge medicine, like Atlas MD here in Wichita, is another non-insurance option where patients can pay a monthly fee for medical care, if needed, as an alternative to insurance.

If you offer health insurance to your employees, a Healthcare Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is another benefit add-on to consider. An FSA is a pre-tax benefit account that employees can use to pay for eligible medical, dental, and vision care expenses that aren’t covered by a health insurance plan.1

Internal Benefit Options

  • Surveys: A great way to find out what’s important to your employees is to survey them. There are free options for electronic surveys, as well as traditional paper surveys. An important thing to remember with survey questions is to not offer options that aren’t truly logical or feasible, like turning the workplace basement into a gym when you’d never actually do that. It’s also recommended to use caution with open-ended questions, or at least include a disclaimer to employees that requests submitted in the survey should not be seen as guaranteed change requests, just suggestions.
  • Wellness Programs: Wellness in the workplace is being redefined as more than just encouraging employees to eat healthy and exercise. While those are still important elements to a healthy lifestyle, a holistic approach to wellness that also considers the effects of stress and mental health on employee performance and productivity is a benefit to current and potential employees.
    • Employee assistance programs (EAP) can help with stress reduction. There are services available designed for personal or family issues, including mental health, substance abuse, marital problems, parenting challenges, emotional issues as well as financial and legal concerns.2
    • An easy way to incorporate more (or start) workplace wellness activities is to encourage employees to take a walk to clear their mind. It’s a free way to help with creativity and focus. Doing some in-office stretching and taking breaks are other ways to boost mental clarity & productivity.
  • Food: Something as simple as free coffee can be seen as a workplace benefit. Food is a great way to celebrate project kick-offs or completions, and cooking contests and potlucks can bring employees together without overwhelming expense.
  • Development Opportunities: Many generations, not just millennials, are looking for opportunities to learn, grow, and lead. A great way to provide a growth opportunity is to pair a new associate with a seasoned associate for a mentorship. Supporting employee memberships in industry-specific organizations (human resources, marketing, etc.) is another way to support employee growth.
  • Time Off: Time off is the most popular benefit to employees. Some employers offer separate vacation and sick hours, while other employers offer paid time off (PTO) with vacation and sick hours all combined. Offering a “floating” holiday to use throughout the year, or giving employees a day off on (or around) their birthday can also be seen as a benefit. A use-it-or-lose-it policy towards vacation time can help prevent abuse of the system.
  • Flexible Workplace: From arranging childcare around work schedules to sending emails outside of work, both men & women face challenges when balancing work and home. Having flexibility at work can reduce stress that employees face when trying to make everything sync up. Giving employees control over taking breaks, allowing time off for personal needs, and letting employees use flex-time or comp-time to skip a lunch, start the day early, and/or work late are all example of flexible workplace options.
  • 401(k): Saving for retirement is another important benefit, and there are options and advice available for any size business. From 401(k)s to simple IRAs, retirement professionals will take the time to learn about your objectives and answer your questions to design a plan that’s right for your business.
  • Unique Business Opportunities: Sometimes the best benefits are from within. For example, if you’re a pet-friendly business, you could allow your employees to bring their dogs to work. Another example is that you could have employee discounts if you have items for sale or offer services.
    • A referral bonus program is a great way to entice employees to benefit from a reward while recruiting quality workers. Making sure that the actual physical working space is a pleasant place to be (clean, organized, temperature-controlled, etc.) is another unique benefit that you can offer.
    • Outside of work, establishing some team building and team bonding activities are great, but it’s recommended to have voluntary participation by employees, not required participation.

External Opportunities

  • Partnerships: Benefit packages can be boosted when partnerships are formed between businesses to trade services for employees. For example, a restaurant could partner with a massage therapy company so restaurant employees could get a free or discounted massage and the massage therapy employees could get a free or discounted meal at the restaurant.
  • Volunteering: In additional to growth opportunities, millennials want to feel connected with their communities. Employers can organize volunteer opportunities, offer PTO for time spent volunteering, or even arrange on-site opportunities like a food drive or blood drive.
  • Voluntary Benefits: Providing employees the option for additional benefits like vision and dental is another important benefit. Offering the convenience of payroll deduction to handle monthly premium payments is appreciated by employees. Other voluntary benefits include supplemental health insurances like cancer, hospitalization, serious illness, and accident insurance, as well as life insurance and pet insurance, just to name a few.

When it comes to the success of your business, your employees are your most important asset. Take care of your most valuable resource by making the most of employee benefits on a small business budget.


Any reference obtained from this article to a specific product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement by Emprise Bank of the product, process, service, or its producer or provider.