It’s Not Only A Salary That Can Make An Employee Happy.

I have been working since I was 12 years old when I started doing a paper route. That means I have 24 years in the working world so far, and I have worked in several different fields in many different capacities, but one thing has always remained a constant; I want to be paid for my time and effort at work. For years, that was all that I concentrated on..How much do I get paid? How often do I get paid? When do I get a raise/promotion? However, my ideas about a “paycheck” have been slowly evolving to the point that it really is about much more than just the numbers that come after the $ sign. That’s half the reason I quit my corporate gig to strike out on my own! Will being my own boss be more rewarding? What else can an employer offer me in order to keep me happy? After all, I show up every day on time, do my job to the best of my ability, sometimes stay late, and basically make sure that I do everything I am paid to do, plus some. I realize that some employers think that as long as they pay you every other Friday that you will be one satisfied employee who loves coming in to work and who doesn’t need any additional incentives in order to stay on the job. My apologies to anyone that doesn’t need anything other than a paycheck to be happy, but a paycheck is only money and not a definition of my happiness…sometimes its the other perks that an employer can offer in addition that make it worthwhile to show up for work on time. Here is a list of things that I think an employer can offer which can make a difference for an employee and help keep their workforce happy.


We all have those days where we just need a morning off to take care of some personal business or an afternoon where we just want to go to the beach. And in my opinion, nothing can beat an office that offers flextime to its employees as I believe it can be a very positive experience for an employee to know that he or she is trusted enough to get their work done…on their time. How many of you would love to be able to wake up in the morning and decide, “You know what, I know its Tuesday, but I really don’t feel like working today. I will make up for it on Saturday morning instead, because I think its going to be raining anyway.” How great would that be? After all, Best Buy pulled it off.

Healthcare for your family

Of course, many companies offer health care to their employees, and some even pay for the entire amount. But what do you do if you have a spouse that either doesn’t work or doesn’t have a job with health care, or if you have children at home? Sometimes you can add them to your own plan, but from experience I know that it can cost a small fortune just to add a spouse. How much would you appreciate having paid health care for your entire family? How much better would you sleep at night? I realize health care is expensive for companies to pay for, but isn’t it worth it in the long term to have happy and healthy employees and their families?

Bus and subway passes

Living in Los Angeles, this would not have done me much good unless I worked in the same general area that my home is in. The city is just too big to effectively take public transportation to work. Back there, a bus ride to work would take about 2 hours and 3 different buses…not something I would really like to do unless I absolutely had to, even if my employer paid for a bus pass. But if you live in “real” cities, such as San Francisco, New York, Chicago or Boston, a bus pass that is paid for by your boss is worth a lot more than just the $75-$100 monthly cost. You would not have to buy as much gasoline, you would not have as much wear and tear on your car, you would be helping to clean the air by not driving and sitting in traffic, and you might just arrive at work a little more relaxed after not having to battle on the freeway…thus resulting in better productivity.

Tuition Reimbursement

If you have a job that you could really use more training for, wouldn’t it be great if your boss volunteered to pay for it? Your boss would get an employee with more skills, and you would be bettering yourself for any future employment opportunities. Personally, if my company had offered tuition reimbursement, I would have been taking any and all classes that were even SLIGHTLY related to my job, as long as someone else was paying for it. This to me is a no-brainer, as better trained employees are more valuable to your company!

Casual Dress

Now, this would not work in every industry..but it could work in most. If you are required to wear dress clothes (suits, uniforms that aren’t paid for, etc) to work, how much money do you spend on new clothes, the dry cleaner, alterations and mending, etc? It can add up to quite a tidy sum over the course of the year. I am not talking casual as in ripped t-shirts and shorts…just something more casual that could involve clothes that might already be in your closet that you wear out to a nice meal. Casual clothes are more comfortable, which results in happier and more relaxed employees. No, it would not work in a high profile industry, where you meet with clients or have to go to court. But most industries would survive if you could throw on a shirt and khakis instead of a suit and tie. (You should see what I wear to work, as I walk from the bedroom, to the kitchen for some coffee, to the office at the end of the hall. Talk about casual!)

Free Coffee

An obvious choice. What could it possibly cost a company to provide free coffee to their employees? Not as much as they could be losing by having employees that take coffee breaks down the street a few times a day or by employees that are sleepy by 10am because they forgot to stop at the local shop on the way in. There is just something so rewarding about knowing that the coffee machine is RIGHT THERE and I can have some whenever I want.

A Simple Thank You

I have had jobs in the past where all I wanted was for someone to acknowledge the fact that I had done a good job…but I never got it. We were never told ANYTHING about our personal performance, we had to beg for raises and promotions, and no one had a clue if they were going to have a job each morning. This is not a way to spend 40+ hours a week, and its certainly not a way for a company to keep its employees happy. A simple thank you, a small bonus, a mention in a company newsletter, an extra day off on your vacation…these are very basic things that can go a long way to improving both the moral and productivity of employees.

How would you encourage your employees if you could? What would make your days at work more worthwhile? It really is quite simple to keep employees happy, its just a shame so few companies are willing to put in the thought to make it happen.

Photo by fluzo

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Comments (26)

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  1. I think a thank you is worth a thousand other words, perks, bonuses etc. I recently worked for a horrible company that mistreated its employees only to swing 180° and take us out to dinner at a 3 star chic restaurant, where the evening cost thousands of euros. Then back to the mistreatment the next day. A simple thank you would have gone a long way in making us feel happy in our jobs. As it is, this company, which is in a service industry that depends upon continuity, has almost 75% turnover amongst its staff. For the lack of the perception that saying thank you is important. (Not that I’m bitter about my experience working there!)

  2. Fit Wallet says:

    Agreed 100%. My work offers flex time (I work four 10 hour days and get a three-day weekend), casual dress, and in some cases, transportation and cellphone reimbursement. I also have a good supervisor who supports me and encourages my professional growth. I’m not crazy about my profession, and my salary is nothing to brag about, but those non-salary benefits DO make a big difference. For now, I’m staying put.

  3. Emily says:

    I really wish more employers offered flex time and health care. Americans work too long and too hard, and people need more flexibility, especially when they have families. I was just in Europe for two weeks and it was very eye-opening — there, they work to live. Here, we live to work. Or rather, businesses want us to, but people just get burnt out and sick. They have so many more vacation days there, and if they’re sick, they don’t have limited sick days. And on the health insurance issue, I know many people in America who have kept jobs they didn’t want just because they knew they couldn’t go without health insurance. It’s not like that in Europe, either, since it’s all government-run. America really needs to learn some workplace lessons from the Europeans.

  4. Slinky says:

    The fact that my current job made me the best offer is somewhat coincidental really. When I look for a job, the first thing I find out is what the people who work there are like and if it’s a more rigid or relaxed environment. I want to be well compensated, but I REALLY don’t want to be miserable 40 days out of my week.

    I had the choice between two companies who had pretty similar benefits and compensation. One was very formal (insurance and investment industries), where I would be required to wear dressy business casual. Everything was pretty formal. You could set your hours around their core hours. You could do some flex time, but it had to be approved by your team lead. Nice people, but it all seemed very conservative. They also couldn’t tell me what team I’d be working on until closer to my start date.

    The other company (which I went with) is technically business casual, but all the developers (ie me) wear casual dress. Flex time really is flex time. Everything is very laid back and casual. I never have to worry about being late, or leaving early for a doctor’s appointment. Very nice work/life balance. The travel perks are pure bonus.

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  6. I work for my in-laws, and could potentially be in their place someday, so I am careful to pay attention to the way they treat their employees. Some things they do: Treat everyone to lunch once a month to celebrate birthdays; Small gifts on all the holidays; Free coffee and tea; Donate to charity on behalf of employees. They do a lot of small personal things, such as allowing the use of company resources to help with a home computer problem, for example. In general, they make for a very fun place to work!

  7. Johannes says:

    @ Emily

    here in europe, people also live for work… there is no other way to feed a family.
    Some things are better here than in US, thats right. But europe isn´t the heaven of workers you told.


  8. hank says:

    Working From Home (WFH) is the single greatest thing I can think of. I”m in IT and can do 99.99% of my job over VPN at my house. I don’t “need” to be in the office to do it. My company is very flexible with that once you get to a certain level and that is one of the things that has continued to keep me at the corporate gig… …for now… πŸ™‚

  9. Pinyo says:

    I do all that, but some employees simply choose to be unhappy. πŸ™

  10. Double says:

    To be treated with dignity is very important – it is not a good situation to have a boss that is on a power trip because they happen to be in a position of authority.

  11. Sam says:

    Seeing my work being used and being appreciated from a job well done is enought to make me happy at work.

    Fix My Personal Finance

  12. On-Ramps and Off-Ramps

    Its not only flextime work arrangements that are needed, but also on-ramping and off-ramping opportunities for parents trying to balance work and family. Parents need to be able to off-ramp and on-ramp, (meaning exiting and reentering the workforce) at the different stages of their career, based on the needs of their family at that time.

  13. Patrick says:

    My new job has a more flexible schedule and dress code, excellent tuition assistance (my other job had none), and they treat us better. Moving on was one of the best professional decisions I’ve ever made. Oh, I get paid better too. πŸ˜‰

  14. shadox says:

    I’d like to point out that many of the benefits you mentioned are the equivilent of money. Free coffee? That’s money, given to you in kind. Free transit passes, same thing. It’s also true for the medical coverage for the family (even though most plans do offer coverage for family – for a fee).

    There are benefits that cannot be easily translated into money – your flex time and recognition (“Thank you”) are two of them. Employers should definitely show as much appreciation of employees as possible and those verbal pats on the back are often highly valued by employees.

  15. David says:

    They are only the equivalent of money to the employee – they cost the employer a lot less because they can write them off. Thus, it’s easier for them to give those benefits than it is to hand you cash.

  16. […] It’s Not Only A Salary That Can Make An Employee Happy at My Two Dollars — Money is great, but there are many ways that employers can make their employees happy. […]

  17. […] writes that It’s not only a salary that can make an employee happy. I agree… I would like to work for a company that supports an afternoon nap […]

  18. Kevin H says:

    My top three from your post are… Flextime, Tuition Reimbursement, and Healthcare (in no particular order)

  19. david says:

    Healthcare is number #1 for so many people, it is so important!

  20. […] It’s Not Only A Salary That Can Make An Employee Happy […]

  21. marci says:

    I lucked out soooo much when I found this job!
    I have a small amount of flex-time, but more important, I can take off with just a phone call to say I am leaving when a grandchild calls and says, “Grammi, we are short a chaperone for the school trip – can you pleeeeeeease chaperone in one hour!” Nice to be able to say yes, and leave.

    Can leave to pick up a sick grandchild, can have the grandkids with me at work when it is necessary,
    can take time off for all their school events/programs. That to me is worth more than money!

    I have a company paid cell phone, and some company supplied gas when it’s available (we’re in recycling) any used, but still good tires that I need.
    Internet up all day, and ok to be on it, and free soda pop.
    Other benefits have been used, but good lumber, all the landscaping timbers for my garden,
    and lots of pots and containers for my garden, as well as no delivery cost on the company barkdust.

    Full company paid health insurance – I could add a spouse, should that become necessary.
    They pay for any classes needed to update my computer skills.
    And dress is very casual… jeans and t-shirts or sweatshirts with sneakers. πŸ™‚ Totally up to me.

    They best thing is that they are family friendly, and that they frequently say how much they appreciate my work, and how well it is done, and that they are glad they do not have to deal with all the details, etc. I also know that they would bend over backwards to help me if I needed to improve, and give employees every chance before letting them go. Very good family to work for.

    I’m extremely happy with this job – even tho I dropped $4/hr when I took it. But I’m not working for the $$, but for the paid health insurance, and the ability to take the time off for the grandkids when needed. (Their mom is a single mom, working full time also, and going to college full time…so she appreciates my being able to help out)

  22. […] he features. My Two Dollars has a nice rumination on some of the things (other than $$) that make an employee happy. An extremely interesting article appears at a site called Really Better Real Estate, where Realtor […]

  23. david says:

    Sounds great Marci!

  24. mymoneypf says:

    I completely agree, it’s not all about the salary. My company is currently looking at different ways to impliment flex time to their employees. This could include 4 day workweeks or telecommuting. The response has been very positive so far.

  25. […] It’s Not Only a Salary That Can Make an Employee Happy […]

  26. […] It’s Not Only A Salary That Can Make An Employee Happy […]