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7 employee benefits you can give to your staff at little or no cost

A question readers often ask Medical Office Manager is what benefits can they give staff that won’t break the budget.

In response, we researched the benefits medical offices and other types of businesses offer.

Some are unusual. Google, for example, provides free haircuts. A Japanese company even gives a one-day “heartache leave” each year to female employees who lose at love.

But on the practical side, these are the inexpensive and free perks and benefits managers say their employees value most.

Near the top of the list is time

Flexible paid time off. In one national job satisfaction survey, employees rated paid time off as their most valued benefit after health care. And it was a close second.

Employees don’t necessarily want more days off but flexibility in using their days.

What they like most is getting a block of days they can use as they want.

They also like being able to carry a few days over to the next year. There’s no guide on how many. Some large corporations are quite generous there. But most smaller offices don’t allow more than one or two carryovers, because they can’t do without the staffing.

People also like being able to take hours or half days off instead of full days. This lets them use a few hours for an appointment without losing a full day. Employers like it too, because they still get coverage for the day and don’t have to bring in a part-timer.

Flexible work hours. This too is a treasured benefit, because it lets people match their work hours to their personal hours.

And again, the office benefits because it can get more hours of staff coverage at the same cost.

The approach that’s easiest to manage and most useful is to stagger the hours so some staff come in an hour early, some work regular hours, and some come in an hour late.

That’s a good benefit for a staffer who has to drop children off at school early. It’s also attractive to a commuter who wants to miss the heavy traffic hours. And the office gets two free staffed hours, one in the morning and one at the end of the day.

Occasional telecommuting. On the financial side, telecommuting gives the employee gas savings, which is particularly attractive for somebody who has a long commute. But mostly, the attraction is that the extra time at home creates a better work-life balance.

Not every position lends itself to telecommuting. And for a medical office, it requires extra attention to patient confidentiality.

There’s also the drawback that the manager has to put requirements on and also oversee the quality and amount of work the staffer is expected to produce from home.

But where it is a viable option, most employers say telecommuting increases productivity. Part of the reason is that the employee doesn’t have to deal with the constant interruptions that occur in an office. But equal to that is the fact that people don’t want to lose their telecommuting privileges and so make an extra effort to give their employers good work from home.

Most employers allow no more than one day a week of telecommuting.

Education is a two-way benefit

Speakers. Some companies invite educational speakers to staff meetings.

Sometimes the speakers provide job education. For a medical office, that can be topics such as record management or HIPAA compliance. There can also be clinical topics. Some managers routinely have a nurse or one of the doctors explain some procedure the office performs or a diagnosis it treats often.

Some employers go further and bring in speakers who address topics of personal interest – a broker talking about how to invest or a nutritionist addressing weight loss or a psychologist talking about ways to relieve stress. Many professionals – especially those just starting out – give presentations at no charge as a way to promote themselves.

Education from another office. Send one or more staffers to visit another office that is successful in record management or a new computer program or scheduling or patient education.

The staff at the other office explain what they are doing and the benefits they see from it, and the visitors come back and make a presentation on what they have learned and how the office can set up a similar program.

Some managers make it a one-time event. Others routinely exchange programs with several offices.

Professional association memberships. Managers in all types of professional offices promote staff membership in and certification from professional associations.

It’s a good benefit because it allows staff to advance in their jobs and also build their resumes. And the office gets a better educated, better qualified, and more professional staff.

It’s also possible to use the certifications for marketing purposes; mention them in mailings and on the website.

There are professional associations for all types of clinical staff as well as for administrative staff from medical transcription to coding to billing to general office work.

Recognition is mostly free

Peer recognition. A psychologist recommends letting staff vote every month or every quarter on the person they believe has done the most outstanding job in some area.

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