Job perks have progressed beyond the basic wages, vacations and pension contributions. Today, there is an increasing trend towards non-monetary compensation. Though employers may be offering these perks more commonly, they are still far from universal. Perks may seem like a big incentive for employees, though there are many reasons why perks are beneficial to employers as well. (For more, see Can't Get A Raise?Negotiate Your Benefits.)
IN PICTURES: A Bigger Salary Or Better Benefits?

Wellness Programs
Wellness programs may include gym memberships, on-site gym equipment or even incentives like payments into a "wellness account", where employees can put the money towards recreation equipment, spa treatments or even a holiday. The goal of these wellness programs is to offer employees a better balance between work and life, and to assist employees with making healthier choices. The major benefit for employers is that healthy employees are generally sick less often, and therefore take fewer illness days.

Many employers are becoming more attuned to the diverse backgrounds and family obligations of their employees. Some employers may provide on-site daycare for employees' children. This can be a major perk, as the cost of childcare can be quite expensive. But what's the benefit for the employer? The employee is able to reduce the number of stops they'll need to make on the way to and from work each day, thus reducing the number of times a worker will arrive late, or need to leave early in order to meet the pickup and drop off times at their daycare. On-site daycare programs have been shown to reduce absenteeism, and even reduce employee turnover that may come as a result of childcare conflicts.

As an alternative to on-site daycare, some employers may allow employees' flexible work schedules to allow for such things as appointments or transporting children to school. Some employers may even allow employees to telecommute so that employees may stay at home to care for young children or an elderly parent who may be living with them. Again, this allows employees to meet both their family and work commitments while reducing the amount of times that employees may be late or absent from work. (For more, check out 5 Ways To Save On Child Care Costs.)

Pet-Friendly Workplace
Some employers have created a pet-friendly workplace where employees can bring their dogs (or other pets) to work with them. Generally, this type of perk requires that the pet be approved for the workplace, and be able to stay calm throughout the workday to minimize disruptions. This perk generally creates a happier work environment with lower stress levels. Pets are thought to improve the mood around the office, and therefore, boost morale.


Gourmet Lunches
Providing workers with gourmet lunches, often prepared on-site by a chef or caterer, allows employees a cost-effective lunch choice that's often more nutritious than take-out from a fast food restaurant. The major benefit to employers is that workers are less likely to leave site on breaks, and therefore, less likely to return to their workstations late. Though this can be a costly perk for employers, it can lead to greater productivity.

Work Environment
Perks that improve the work environment can come in a wide range of forms. One organization that is particularly known for providing employees with unique perks to improve the work environment is Google (Nasdaq:GOOG). Google provides employees with bicycles and scooters to get around the workplace quickly, free meals and snacks, massage chairs, recreational equipment and employee groups based around various interests.

Other perks that are employers might offer include charitable donation matching, gifts to mark outstanding achievements or even team-building activities like scuba diving or adventure challenges. These types of perks provide employees with an opportunity to balance their work and personal life, with the idea that an employee with a balanced life is happier and more loyal. (For more awesome places to work, check our The Coolest Corporate Headquarters.)

Educational Incentives
Some employers may provide employees with tuition breaks, professional development allowances or even opportunities to go to school at the expense, or partial expense, of their employer. This perk may also come in the form of alternative work schedules to allow employees to attend classes. This perk allows employers to retain employees as they improve upon their skills, and provides an alternative to hiring and training new employees if the employee were to resign to return to school. (For more, see Should You Head Back To Business School?)

Why Employers Do It
Sure, perks may lead to increased productivity and a better balance between work and life for employees. But what else? These perks can provide employers an edge up on the competition. If a job applicant is choosing between two employers, one with job perks and the other without, the perks may just provide the employer with a competitive edge that will attract better candidates. These perks improve morale in the workplace, reduce turnover and tend to appeal to younger workers.

The Bottom Line
In these tougher economical times, it may seem that job perks could cost an employer a great deal of money, however, many of these perks have little or no cost, such as allowing employees to bring pets to work, or to follow a flexible work schedule. Employers may be able to negotiate good rates on some perks, such as providing employees with lunches or gym memberships, which may make them a less-costly alternative to an annual bonus. At the end of the day, cash is king and employees are motivated by money above all. But in this highly competitive and difficult economy, employment perks may be just what employees require to improve the workplace morale and prevent employees from seeking employment elsewhere. (To learn more, see Financial Careers: 6 Employment Perks And How To Get Them.)