“Creative” work perks are a contentious topic.
But 10 years from now, free snacks and ping pong tables will be old hat. With any luck, the perks that replace them will be way more valuable.
MONEY asked a bunch of career coaches and workplace “futurists” for insights on the benefits we’ll be talking about in 2028. Here’s their (encouragingly ping pong-free) list.
A Cheaper Commute
“Several companies will own a fleet,” he says. “It’s going to be a sought-after perk that takes away the frustration of driving, [something] that bothers millions of commuters every day.”
Whether Elon Musk gets his way or not, the companies of the future will likely invest in some sort of car share programs, relieving workers of the stresses of car ownership, says Dana Case, Director of Operations at MyCorporation.com.
“By 2028, most employees will have ditched the expenses that come with having a car of their own for rideshares. Employers, especially at major corporations, will adjust accordingly, creating all expenses paid car share programs to get their team to and from the office.”
Universal Student Loan Reimbursement
Only 4% of employers offer student loan repayment today, according to a 2017 study from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). But that’s about to change, according to Dr. Kat Cohen, career coach and founder of the college admissions counseling company IvyWise.
A survey from the nonprofit American Student Assistance, also published last year, shows that nearly 90% of young workers with student loans would commit to a job for five years if the company helped pay off their tuition debt, she notes. In an era of record employee turnover, “the prevalence of this perk is likely to rise,” Cohen says.
The New “Wellness”
As “self care” becomes more of a priority, companies will encourage workers to bake a little more “me time” into their work weeks, says Sarah Brophy, Design Director at IA Interior Architects, which has designed workspaces for companies like American Airlines and Match.com.
“Providing amenities in the workplace that give employees back their free time out of the office are taking hold,” she says. “We have several clients who are providing on site barber shops and nail salons to facilitate more quality time for endeavors we love when the work day is over.”
“Wellness,” another buzzword for activities like yoga and meditation that promote emotional and physical health, has long been a corporate talking point. But doing sun salutations in a conference room isn’t everyone’s bag, and employers are finally catching on, says Denise O’Malley, the head of a corporate wellness program consultancy.
“In a recent survey for a construction company, we discovered 100% of the employees enjoy camping,” she says. “Our recommendation [was] to bring in a nutritionist to talk about ‘Eating Healthy in the Great Outdoors.’
“Employees like to choose the perks and benefits that they want … they just want their employers to pay for it.”
Better “Green Spaces”
Companies that invest in outdoor areas for people to meet with their teams, eat lunch, and mingle after work, tend to have a more productive workforce, research shows.
In the future, these spaces will evolve to accommodate for high-speed WI-Fi, power outlets, and weather-friendly co-working spaces, predicts Ben Donsky, Vice President of Biederman Redevelopment Ventures Corporation, which specializes in outdoor design for commercial, residential, and public spaces.
“Instead of passive gardens or sterile landscapes, you’ll see outdoor areas that act as true extensions of offices,” he says. “Winter use in colder climates might look like a small group of coworkers conducting a team meeting around a fire pit. Companies that figure out how to use these spaces year-round will help stimulate creative thinking among employees no matter the season.”
Stronger Savings (If You’re Good!)
Doug Dahl, an employee benefits attorney in Nashville, Tenn., predicts retirement savings plans will incorporate incentive programs that reward good financial behavior (i.e., paying your credit card on time) with extra profit sharing or 401(k) contributions.
These features haven’t caught on yet — there’s currently a federal rule that prohibits “conditioning” the receipt of profit sharing. But Dahl says that could change. “Mindsets are shifting, and there is even a ruling pending at the IRS that would allow employer contributions to be conditioned upon employees’ making student loan payments,” he says. “These ideas could significantly change incentives and motivations for retirement savings.”
A Different Kind of Day Care
“The ‘secondary’ work for a growing number of employees is that of caring for aging parents,” says Rick Lauber, author of The Successful Caregiver’s Guide.
Some companies have started offering free programs, work accommodations, and time off provisions for workers caring for an elderly parent. Soon, Lauber predicts, more companies will follow suit.
“It can be very costly and time-extensive to hire and train new staff, Lauber says. “Paid caregiving leave … benefits the working caregiver as well as the company.”
Executive coach Debra Benton takes it a step further. In the future, she predicts, businesses will offer “literal daycare centers for seniors.” Like daycare for children, these programs will help keep aging parents occupied and teach them new skills. Unlike day care centers, they’ll benefit a generation of “millennials who’ve lived at home till age 34 pay back their parents support,” she says.
Better Community Engagement
Companies love to boast about their philanthropic arms, but the charity work and volunteer programs most subscribe to can be micromanaged affairs with little employee participation.
In the future, though, employee-sponsored community, civic, and political engagement, will take off, says Avery Blank, a workplace consultant who’s worked for companies like Campbells and Forbes.
“Roadblocks to running for office and campaigning include not having a stream of money to support yourself or health insurance,” she says. “[New company perks] will allow employees to have a reduced schedule so that they can make money and have time to run a campaign. It will be another dimension of ‘work-life balance.’”