In today's small business work climate, work-life balance is a major attraction for top employee prospects. Employee benefits such as health insurance or flexible time can make all the difference. Your employee benefits should include a variety of options that help improve the lives of your workers and, as a result, the quality of your product.

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You may want to consider competitive health insurance for workers, counseling options, flextime, retirement plans, child care, discounted fitness activities, retail discounts, time off plans and more. Competitive benefits affect employee retention and employee loyalty, according to a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study of 58 top companies. And a survey by the American Psychological Association found that 61 percent of women and 59 percent of men cited benefits as the main reason they stay with an organization.

Health Insurance for Employees Affects More Than Just Health

With health care costs continually rising, it's no surprise that the most valued amenity an employer can provide to employees is generous health care benefits. A CNNMoney list of best companies to work for found that health benefits were the most important perk among employee benefits. In fact, 14 of the list's top 100 paid 100 percent of their employees' health benefits costs.

That's not an option for most smaller companies, especially considering that in 2012, the annual family insurance premium was $15,745-up 4 percent compared to 2011, 30 percent higher than in 2007, and a whopping 97 percent higher than 10 years ago, according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust.

Still, generous benefits an employer offers through a health plan that also includes dental insurance attracts top employees, and that translates into a host of pluses for an employer. The same Harvard Review study also found that the generous benefits contributed to:

  • Enhanced recruitment
  • Committed, engaged employees
  • Excellent retention
  • Deep organizational expertise
  • Safe workplace practices
  • Strong customer relationships

Flextime and Telecommuting Are Options for Small Businesses

The benefits an employer provides can vary greatly these days, from recreation rooms and free food at Google to massages and flexible work schedules at other companies. Small businesses can also enhance their workers' experience through flexible schedules, telecommuting, lunches and other social events. Thanks to technology, employers are now able to give employees more opportunities to work away from the office, including home offices, coffee shops and while traveling on business. Repeatedly, flextime and telecommuting are among the most cherished benefits that give a company high marks among recruiters, industry watchers, and, of course, current and prospective employees.

To attract high-caliber young employees, such flextime options are imperative.

'We're really in the middle of something like an industrial revolution,' University of Minnesota sociologist Phyllis Moen told NPR for a series on telecommuting. 'But it's a work time revolution.'

She says young workers 'no longer believe in the myth that working in rigid ways for long hours necessarily pays off. That's a real change.' Offering flextime can also help companies with older baby boomers they depend on continuing to work past their retirement age, she added.

Small businesses can also offer flextime and telecommuting options, but it's important to spell out expectations first in a telecommuting letter.

Onsite Amenities Boost Moral

What other benefits also rank high? Onsite childcare is arguably a close second to generous health care benefits. The CNNMoney report revealed that nearly 30 percent of the employers on its Best Companies list offered an onsite childcare center.

It's easy to see why this is a beloved benefit. Nearly 10 million children are enrolled in daycare nationwide, and paying for this costs 12 percent of the monthly income among families that earn $1,200 to $2,999 per month, according to the Census Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Here's another motivator for employer benefits to include onsite child care: Employers nationwide lose an estimated $3 billion annually for childcare related absences. Onsite childcare can alleviate those costs for employers.

Before offering onsite childcare, a company needs to do its homework. You should do a needs assessment and cost analysis, determine your space needs, and check out companies that can partner with you, advises Jackie Olafson, director of the Child Care Division of the Children's Home Society of Minnesota, which runs onsite daycare for employers.

Health Plans, Other Benefits Improve Work Place

Why do benefits matter? The evidence is overwhelming-employee benefits can set a company apart from the competition. Healthy, happy productive employees don't exist by accident. Employer benefits can make the difference between an outstanding company on the rise and a mediocre one that never moves forward.

Get started Start Your Employee Handbook Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

Get started Start Your Employee Handbook Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.