I’ve been working for a long time and I’ve had quite a few jobs. My first job was as a cashier when I was 15 at the Henry Doorly Zoo. Along with my first job, I got my first employee benefit.
Yes. One employee benefit.
I kid. It was not one benefit, but more like, one major benefit: every summer that I worked, I got a $500 scholarship. 4 summers and $2000 later, I’d learned a lot about work, perks, and benefits–both monetary and non-monetary.
The way my mom life is set up
While working at the zoo definitely had its privileges (year round zoo pass anyone?) and those scholarships surely made my financially strapped mother happy, as a mom and provider in a full-time non-animal related career, I look for a bit more when it comes to benefits. I have child care, medical costs, tuition costs, and a gamut of other things to think about now, whereas in the past, those things didn’t matter. They didn’t exist for me. But now as an adult, who’s fully charged with providing for and caring for another human being, I have to think through a bit more and choose positions where the benefits actually…well, benefit me + my family.
So after a lot of pondering and quite a few shitty benefits jobs, I’ve come up with a few employee benefits that actually benefit me as a working, millennial mom. I mean, they’re like #baebenefits. They’re my favorites.
My favorite employee benefits as a millennial mom
1. Flexible work schedule This is a benefit that is non-negotiable at this part of my life. The way my life is set up, being chained to a desk all day or having someone dictate my every move just will not work for me. Although there are definitely downsides to having a super flexible schedule, I love the fact that I can go and come as I please and that *I* can balance my personal and professional lives as I see fit.
2. Tuition reimbursement This! If you are an overachiever or habitual learner like me, this is a no-brainer. School is freaking expensive and if your job is actually one that gives a shit about your development AND you plan to stay for a while, jump on this benefit! My only suggestion would be to be careful when making this decision because in many cases, if you don’t fulfill your requirement of staying with the company for X amount of years, they can make you pay them back. And that would suck.
3. Telecommunication Oh, how I miss being able to work from home! My first and only *true* work at home experience was two years ago and it was life-changing. There were some days that I didn’t even put on pants. As a millennial mom, I value the ability to work at home, especially now that my daughter is of the “sit down and hush up” age. Between conference calls, after bedtime, and in the wee hours of the morning, I could get my work done and still be an
awesome, semi-awesome decent mom.
4. Health and wellness plans and on-site gyms For my family, health insurance is a big issue and one of the main benefits I look at when deciding to accept or decline a job offer. In my last position, the health insurance was crappy to say the least and I didn’t last long. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that for families who are health conscious or who have health concerns. health benefits have to be top notch. I have a child with chronic severe asthma and who’s medications cost wayyy more than I can afford every month. So either pay me very generously so that I pay out of pocket or provide excellent health insurance so that we both can be #winning. This is another non-negotiable for me. Along the lines of health insurance, there are other great health-related benefits that the millennial mom in me likes. Gym membership, anyone? How about a wellness plan that saves me money on my monthly premium or better yet, rewards me financially for preventative care? I’ll take that on any day!
5. Mentoring programs Another major one here, guys. It hurts my soul the number of companies I see that offer their employees no direction with regard to professional development. If you really want to know if a company is progressive and one that can potentially grow with you, check into their internal programs for employees. Are there any affinity groups? Are there annual career planning sessions? Are you paired with a mentor? These are all necessary in “climbing the ladder” or “leaning in” in your career. It wasn’t until I had an ah-mazing supervisor that clearly saw my potential and wanted me to succeed, that I really understood the importance of these things. Yes, your career development is essentially on you, but it’s important to at least have an idea on whether or not a company can support you in that development.
6. Paid maternity and paternity leave Recently, my co-worker had a baby. Yay! Cue the lullabies and insomnia!! While we were all happy for her on the delivery of a healthy baby boy, we were all a little surprised to find out what that maternity leave was looking like….because basically, there was none. One of the largest employers in the state won’t give you time off to have a baby, then nurture said baby for an appropriate amount of time. I found that to be such bullshit and as a millennial mom who’s all up and through her child-bearing years, a complete turnoff. I mean, it’s not like I want to have a another baby right now or ever, but the option to do so without jeopardizing my livelihood would be nice.
7. EAP or Employee Assistance Program This is a perk that I’ve always had, but have never used. I just really, really like the idea of 1) not having to pay to speak to a professional about my problems/concerns/personal and professional issues, 2) being able to get an unbiased opinion on my problems/concerns/personal and professional issues, and 3) it’s a great way to take care of yourself. When you’re working in a field like mine, it’s difficult not to take that stuff home with you and even when you do, you can’t talk to anyone about it because of confidentiality. Ugh. It’s nice to have a listening ear, even if it’s only for a couple of sessions. And if more extensive work is required, they can still offer support and refer you on to someone else. So while the program definitely has its critics, I think it can be a great system if utilized properly.
8. Flexible and health spending accounts Whew! This one is a life saver, guys. I love it!! Not only do contributions reduce your taxable income, but they save you money in the long run. Just recently, I had to get some pretty expensive (for me–remember I’m cheap) dental work and did not want to come out of pocket for those few hundred dollars. My health spending account was there to rescue me and my bank account and I didn’t miss a financial beat. And with summer being right around the corner, how do you think I’m paying for child care? Flexible spending account? You get an “A.”
I know that sometimes it can feel like you don’t have a choice when it comes to benefits because they just come with the job and you get what you get, but that’s not necessarily true. Yes, it can take some legwork in the beginning and yes,it may mean turning down a “dream job” because the benefits suck, but if the employee benefits don’t actually benefit you and your family, is it really a dream job?
And if you’re an employer, please understand that the above things are not asking for too much AT ALL. It’s really just basic stuff. Having “parking” as a benefit or making employees pay to park is a really shitty thing to do. Seriously, are there alternatives to parking a vehicle that I’m not aware of? Please stop the shenanigans and provide actual, non-pseudo employee benefits. The world will thank you…or at least the moms will.