When it comes to contract negotiation, the first thing that springs to mind is money. 

Salary negotiation is a key part of any contract discussion and is (most of the time) how we measure our worth as employees. 

But, for many, work is not all about money. So contracts shouldn’t be either.

Your contract represents both your commitment to your employer and your employer’s commitment to you. In sum, it’s a chance to define the terms of your job.

Rather than pushing your salary up as high as it can go, why not consider trading off some of that extra pay for real in-work benefits that may well make a far bigger difference to your quality of life.

Whether you’re negotiating with a new employer or talking to your boss following an annual review, consider adding some of these 5 perks to your benefits package in lieu of a pay rise.

1/ Holiday allowance

More time off is the most common of extra benefits expectations.

It doesn’t take much to start dreaming of how to turn your daily commute to the office into a trip to the beach.

But take care to ensure two important conditions are in place first:

  • Extra holiday allowance is paid
  • You will actually be able to take the extra time off

More holiday time than the statutory requirement is a popular perk but is often either wasted or overrated.

If the holiday allowance you already have is sufficient, there may be no point negotiating for more. This is especially the case if you have to be reminded every year to take your holiday days before they expire.

Let’s face it, tight deadlines will always be the priority. And if you’re extra time off isn’t even paid, you’ll probably prefer to work anyway.

If, however, you can negotiate paid leave that you’re guaranteed to make use of, bumping up your holiday allowance can take you a lot further than a minor increase in your monthly pay packet.

2/ Flexible work schedule

Most of us have become used to fitting our lives around our work, not our work around our lives.

That’s starting to change, as companies seek to improve productivity and boost creativity by giving their employees more freedom to influence their own work schedule.

If your employer has been slow to catch up with the changing times, you might do well to negotiate a more flexible (and friendly) work schedule in your contract.

Not a morning person? It might boost your job satisfaction (and efficiency) to start a little later and stay behind at the end of the day to make up the hours. 

Or perhaps you’d like to work to a different rhythm as and when it suits you. Your employer might be happy to assent if you can make a convincing case.

It’s becoming increasingly common for company policies to allow for a quota of days when employees can work from home. Provided you can be productive and focused on your work from the comfort of your own home, this could be something to negotiate for.

If working from home is going to prove too distracting, perhaps consider asking for more holiday days instead (check out the previous section).

3/ Support to study

A new contract should represent the start of a new chapter in your career. One way to ensure that is to think about your long-term professional development.

If you have a career plan sketched out – even a rough trajectory will do – you’ll have some idea of what it’s going to take to get there.

For many, studying is the most effective way to develop skills and open up new opportunities. As long as your proposed course of study supports your current job function, companies can be persuaded to cover tuition and support you during your education.

It’s hard to argue against an employee eager to become more qualified to do their job.

This might include attending:

  • Online courses or webinars
  • Conferences or research trips
  • Degree courses at college or university
  • Language classes (e.g. the local language or another the company uses)

Professional development benefits don’t just involve attending classes. Your employer may be willing to look into and support with a range of practical, or in-work, training opportunities, so long as you can sell it as a safe investment.

Having your employer back you up could be a crucial factor in deciding to develop your skills in the first place. Angling for this perk could be paying you dividends for the rest of your career.

4/ Cover for your commute

Many people don’t think twice about splashing the cash on their regular commute. Work is, after all, where you got your money from in the first place.

But a daily commute can often add up to a significant sum. If your employer is reluctant to increase your salary, they might be persuaded to specifically cover your commuting costs instead.

This may be in the form of paying for expensive season tickets for use on public transport networks, providing a company car, or simply covering fuel costs.

This may not feel like such a big investment for a company, but it certainly will to you.

With your ability to get to work guaranteed, employers can rest assured you’ll be more focused on your responsibilities.

This underrated benefit may be a no brainer for an employer looking to sweeten the deal in a contract negotiation.

5/ The tools to succeed

Investing in a better kit and a nicer working environment may be another small outlay for a company that goes a long way for the employee.

If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Mac user at a company where Windows is the norm, consider negotiating for your preferred computer (especially if this will actually help you work better).

Getting your hands on the best equipment is not the whole story though. Many of us are not doing all we can to make sure our working environments are healthy and stimulating.

Whether it’s an audit of the ergonomics of your office or increasing the availability of nutritional foods, you should consider negotiating for a benefits package that takes care of the quality of your experience in the workplace.

Regular exercise is the secret not just to physical wellbeing, but mental health too. Perhaps your employer is willing to take care of your gym membership, or yoga classes.

In general, you might consider asking for an improved (or dedicated):

  • Computer
  • Accessories such as a screen, keyboard, mouse, or headphones
  • Work phone
  • Ergonomic desk and/or chair

Companies are becoming increasingly aware that a happy and healthy workforce is ultimately a more productive one. Make sure your benefits package reflects that.