What are the most important employee benefits?

Benefits to help companies stand out from the rest.

Woman happily working at a desk with a child

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has been experiencing a labor shortage. These days, it's a job-seeker's market, and companies need to step up their game accordingly. The competition is especially fierce if you're trying to attract independent contractors, who perform services for your company on a work-for-hire basis. 

It takes more than a decent salary to attract top talent, whether you’re looking to hire in-house or convert an independent contractor to a full-time employee. Great benefits are also important and can help companies stand out from the competition. What benefits do employees value the most? Hint: It's not a free lunch. Read on to learn about some of the most important employee benefits.

Learn about compensation and benefits for global teams in our free total rewards guide!

Why are quality benefits such a big deal?

Why are employee benefits important? Offering benefits makes sense for both employers and employees. With a good benefits package, companies can attract and retain skilled workers. Meanwhile, employees can gain fulfillment and devote themselves to their work with confidence, knowing that their employers care about their well-being.

What benefits do employees value most?

The best perks for employees vary on a case-by-case basis. This list of common employee benefits covers some of the highlights.

Health insurance

When workers don't have to worry about how they'll cover medical expenses if they get ill, they can enjoy peace of mind. Health insurance shows you care about your workers. Plus, healthy workers are shown to perform better and be more productive.

Flexible working hours

People should be able to work when they want—just look to remote or hybrid work models for inspiration. If people don't need to collaborate simultaneously, try offering an asynchronous work model. If some overlap is needed, set a couple of hours when workers' schedules overlap and leave the rest up to them. These kinds of flexible schedule changes are shown to increase worker satisfaction by up to 62%!

Flexible leave

Flexible leave is another in-demand benefit. This allows individuals to take their time off whenever they choose. The time off doesn't have to be accrued or earned, compared to traditional policies that give employees a set number of paid hours off per pay period.

Learning and development

Nobody wants to feel "stuck" in their job. Employees value opportunities to grow, learn new skills, and hone their talents. Investing in their learning and development helps them advance. It also means you benefit from increasingly skilled workers.

Wellness support

Overall well-being is about more than meeting minimum health needs. The workforce is demanding better access to wellness support, like mental health programs and fitness initiatives. This trend has become especially prominent in the aftermath of the COVDI-19 pandemic, which got everyone concerned with health.  


Equity incentive plans offer employees shares of the company they work for, typically through stock options, bonds, or warrants. Stock options are the best-known and most popular option. Equity is especially attractive if your company can't offer large salaries due to tight budgets. You can save cash while attracting top talent with shares in the company, which will presumably grow in value over time.

Parental leave

Parental leave allows new moms and dads to bond with their little ones. For parents who are stressed about juggling work and childcare, this can be a big boon. Traditionally, the focus was on maternity leave, but those days are long gone. These days, workers and companies alike are recognizing that paternity leave is just as important and increasingly normalized.

Company-wide meetups and retreats

People love to feel like they're a part of something bigger. They want to know their work has meaning. Taking part in company-wide retreats and meetups helps workers feel like they belong. This is especially valuable for distributed teams and independent contractors, who often work remotely.

How do you know what benefits to offer in different countries?

Different countries have different requirements for offering employee benefits. For example, health insurance is mandatory in much of Europe and for companies of a certain size in the United States.

You can use Oyster’s benefits advisor to learn about country-specific statutes on employee benefits. Get insights from local employers and tips from local experts on how to best care for your team. This can help you create a global benefits strategy

Try out our Benefits advisor today.

What are some unique benefits to offer employees?

The above list covers more traditional benefits. However, there are many more unique perks for employees you can tap into to create a more engaging work environment. Here are some of our favorite unique employee benefits:

  • Juno points: People gather points and use them for anything from pottery classes to sheep yoga (yes, it's exactly like it sounds: remote yoga with sheep).
  • "Furternity" leave: Pet parents will appreciate the chance to stay home and snuggle with a new kitten or puppy.
  • Monthly subscriptions: Audible, Netflix, Spotify…there are services that a lot of people use but don't love paying for. Why not cover the costs for them?
  • Perkbox: With this program, you can send rewards to anyone, anywhere. Give employees perks and discounts worldwide, to everything from Uber to guided meditations.
  • Home office equipment: If your team is working from home, make sure they're comfortable with home office goods, like ergonomic chairs and keyboards.

If you're still struggling to figure out benefits for employees, trust Oyster to help.

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About Oyster

Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop, and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. Oyster lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches and expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world—with reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.

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