By Alison DeNisco

TechRepublic, July 27, 2017 —

With competition for tech talent at an all-time high, many companies offer perks to attract and retain employees. Here are the benefits that employees really want.

Image: iStockphoto/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

As the war for tech talent rages on, companies continue to turn to workplace perks to attract and retain employees.

“It’s kind of an arms race in terms of developers and other technical staff,” said Carter Lowe, enterprise technical recruiter at Mondo.  “Outside of salary, companies are always trying to see what they can do to get a leg up.”

Google and other tech giants started this trend in the 1990s, offering perks that differentiated the office experience from past enterprises. Now, free snack bars, yoga classes, and nap rooms are the norm at many tech companies.

Ultimately, “it comes down to what is the work and what is the pay,” Lowe said. “But between two comparable positions, the perks help.”

And the intangible benefits are often the most important, said Jason Cohen, CTO and founder of WP Engine.

“The best tech talent can always walk across the street and earn 15% more with free lunches and happy hours. So you have to build an environment with a transparent, supportive culture where people want to stay,” Cohen said.

“The best perk you can offer is an atmosphere where talents are put to use, career growth is top of mind, employees are free to be their true self and have ownership over something specific that matters to the company.”

Here are the top 10 workplace perks that will help attract tech talent.

1. Flexible schedules

Flexible schedules are a top priority for many employees, ranking just behind competitive pay and benefits, according to a study from EY. Workplace flexibility was also the no. 1 factor tech professionals described as being a part of their dream job, according to a June survey from CompTIA.

“Employers must offer flex schedules and the ability to work remotely in order to remain competitive,” said Alena Reva, vice president of HR at Kaspersky Lab North America. “If these options don’t exist, candidates will immediately chose another company as their preferred workplace.”

Since mental energy and productivity can ebb and flow throughout the day, adjusting work time to match an individual’s needs can make for increased productivity, according to Tim Platt, vice president of IT business services at Virtual Operations.

2. Remote work

When Stack Overflow asked developers what they valued most when considering a new job, 53% said remote work options were a top priority.

While working from home requires a certain amount of trust in employees, it demonstrates that they value the work/life balance of employees, said Josh Millet, founder and CEO of pre-employment testing company Criteria Corp. “This is extremely important to employees in this industry because tech companies and startups are known to work around the clock due to product deadlines, fixing unforeseen bugs in the product, and the pressure to launch product ASAP from backers and advisors,” Millet said.

Since much of technical work is done on an individual level, working from home can offer a quiet place to focus, Platt said.

3. Wellness and self-care allowances

Allowances for a gym membership or self-care items like manicures are a big sell, Lowe said. “Companies want everybody to be healthy—you get better work out of people, and it’s better for them,” Lowe said.

“Technology companies should offer wellness packages that include on-site gyms, in-office yoga or similar stress relieving classes, complimentary nutritious snacks, interactive activity challenges and regular wellness seminars focusing on healthy living and stress management,” Reva said. “Wellness has become a shared interest among various generations and is proven to help with workplace productivity and overall wellbeing.”

4. Casual dress code

It may sound small, but a casual dress code can signal a more laid back office culture. “On more than one occasion, I have had a new hire tell me they had several offers, but our casual dress code was a major factor in going with us,” said David Kosmayer, founder of Bookmark Website Builder. “Employees get to wear comfortable clothes to the office.”

5. Student loan repayment

Student loan repayment or tuition benefits are a major perk for recent college graduates, particularly those who might not be able to take a chance working at a tech startup while paying back loans. For example, analytics firm Heap offers $1,200 per year in tuition fee debt. “It’s a meaningful benefit, makes a significant difference and shows my employer cares about my wellbeing and future,” said software engineer Alex Frieder.

6. A choice of technology

Employees value having a voice in what technology they use in the workplace, Platt said. “Being part of the decision-making process and having leeway and flexibility regarding what is used for projects is key,” Platt said. “This can also extend to personal learning projects and research and development done on company time.”

7. Expenses-paid vacations

Some companies not only encourage vacation, but help pay for it, said Vip Sandhir, CEO and founder of HR tech provider HighGround. For example, SEO software company Moz reimburses employees up to $3,000 for family vacation expenses.

8. Transportation allowance

“When companies offer transportation allowance, it shows employees that employers care about how they get to and from work and want to make it affordable and convenient for them,” said Sarah Lahav, CEO of SysAid Technologies.

9. Daily errands

Offering services such as laundry and car washing can relieve employee stress and create better work/life balance, Lahav said. “Dropping your car keys and getting a clean car back or bringing in your laundry and getting it back washed and folded is a great way to show employees you care about making their life easier,” she added.

10. Professional development opportunities

Though this is more of an intangible benefit, employees want opportunities to learn new skills and move up, studies show. In a survey of developers, Stack Overflow found that these tech professionals prioritize opportunities for professional development over any other factor by a large margin.

“Developers prioritize career advancement,” said David Fullerton, chief technology officer of Stack Overflow. “They look for ways to advance up the ranks, but also seek out ways their company can help them keep their skills sharp in a rapidly changing industry.”

When asked to create a wishlist of things that would improve their job, more resources for training and professional development and more career advancement opportunities topped the list for IT workers, according to a CompTIA survey.