Matt Hoying

July 11, 2023

Out-of-the-Box Benefits: Culture-enhancing perks that go beyond the office and period of employment

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A previous version of this article was written by Matt Hoying and published by ZweigGroup, an engineering industry publisher.

We’ve all heard of the extraordinary, creative perks and benefits offered by some of the big tech companies or the hottest new startup: free lunches, unlimited paid time off, onsite childcare, game rooms, nap rooms, and the list goes on. While these are certainly exciting benefits, they don’t make sense for all companies, whether it be a matter of space, finances, workforce, or production. That doesn’t mean, however, that some creative benefits can’t be added to your organization that can fit any budget, space, or culture—especially when the benefits occur outside of the walls of the office. 

As a civil engineering, landscape architecture, and surveying firm of 70 people, we at Choice One Engineering have implemented some benefits that both retain and attract employees and contribute to our purpose: to provide fulfilling lives for a lifetime. 

Our employees repeatedly cite some of our out-of-the-box systems and benefits as some of their favorite reasons for finding satisfaction in their work and personal lives. Below are some of the more uncommon benefits, from smallest investment to largest investment, that can help you start thinking of ways to provide benefits to your employees that go beyond free coffee and a ping-pong table.

Included with each benefit is an approximate investment per employee.


Quad Lunches

This initiative combines free lunch, culture enhancement, and individual appreciation. Each month, those who participate in quad lunches are randomly grouped with three other employees and are instructed to go out to lunch together; this is paid for by the company. Not only do employees get uninterrupted time to build relationships (often with folks they don’t typically work closely with), but they are shown appreciation with free lunch and time to support other local small businesses near our offices.

Investment: $15/employee per month.


Cell Phone Plan

Providing a cell phone for employees is nothing new, but Choice One does it with an intention andChoice One Phone Case for blog purpose that may not relate to many other organizations. First, employees get to keep their personal number and get to choose their phone type and carrier. Employees can use the phone for any and all personal uses in addition to company use. The only requirements are that the voicemail greeting includes a reference to Choice One, and the employee’s protective case is the provided Choice One branded case. Not only do employees get unlimited data and quality phones, but clients, friends, and family notice the branding and ask questions, leading to great conversations about working for and with Choice One.

Investment: $460/employee per year.


Company Trips

Every two years the company invites all employees and significant others on a trip to a drivable metropolitan area for a three-day, expenses-paid adventure. Along with a day of paid time off for the long weekend, employees are treated to all meals, transportation, lodging, and organized tours/activities. While this trip does not include specific team-building activities, it gives employees a chance to mingle with their coworkers outside of the office, meet significant others, and develop relationships that go beyond their day-to-day work lives. Indeed, even a three-hour traffic jam on the most recent trip to Pittsburgh provided extra opportunities for employees to interact on the charter buses and build lasting memories (…thank goodness for the bathroom onboard!). This perk may not, on the surface, fit every company’s budget, but we would argue that the relationships and shared company legends that develop from the trips are worth the investment. Employees deepen their relationships, families become involved and intertwined with each other and the company culture, and the shared experience provides endless advantages in trust and camaraderie. In fact, Choice One employees look forward to the trip every two years and try to schedule big life events (even the birth of a child!) around them.

Investment: $650/person or approximately $1,300/employee every two years.


Anniversary Trips

Rather than a plaque or fancy watch, Choice One thanks its employees for their loyalty through the gift of experience. For every five years of service, each employee is rewarded with extra paid time off and a bonus that must be used for travel. Every additional five years earns more PTO and a bigger budget, and the only stipulation is that the employee provide a photo from the trip and a brief description of how they spent their time. Employees have traveled abroad, visited national landmarks, or taken their family for a weekend at a nearby indoor waterpark. The experiences are then posted on an oversized map near the copier for all to see and appreciate. Recognizing everyone’s continued dedication to our company and seeing proof of employees enjoying some time with family or friends improves everyone’s morale and keeps individuals dreaming of their next destination, compliments of the company.

Investment: 5-year anniversary/employee—16 hours PTO and $1,500; each additional 5 years includes 8 more hours and an additional $500.

Choice One Anniversary Map for blog


Increased company 401k contribution

The general standard for a company’s 401k contribution to an individual’s account is 4% for their contribution of 5%. We increased this to 5.5% for their contribution of 8% for several reasons. First, it is a direct way to impact an employee’s compensation and future in appreciation of their commitment to our company. Second, it helps many employees save more for the future when perhaps they would not do so on their own. Our company purpose is to “provide fulfilling lives for a lifetime,” and what better way to provide for our employees’ futures after they leave Choice One than by providing means for a fulfilling retirement that can include financial stability?

Investment: $1,000/employee, average, per year.

While traditional benefits cover must-haves like healthcare and time away from work, the out-of-the-box benefits presented here have developed culture and relationships inside and outside the walls of the office. Providing benefits like these allows us to invest in our people in a way our culture supports and our people appreciate. 

At the end of the day, these investments amount in total to approximately $2,800/employee per year. Said another way: way less than it cost to go through turnover-induced offboarding, recruiting, and onboarding. Therefore, these added benefits make sense for our company from a financial standpoint as well as a cultural one. Consider what benefits you could introduce to your company that align with your own culture and resources, and that can have lasting ripple effects.  

Want to offer employee development opportunities as an additional benefit? Learn more about the Small Giants Leadership Academy!

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About Matt Hoying

Matt Hoying is President of Choice One Engineering, a civil engineering, landscape architecture, and surveying firm in western Ohio. Choice One was also named a Forbes Small Giants Company in 2019. Matt has been a speaker on the Small Giants Summit stage, and has shared his wisdom as a facilitator in the Leadership Academy program for the past five years. When he’s not working, Matt enjoys spending time with his wife and kids.