The shortage of skilled professionals has become a serious problem across all industries: A recent survey by the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber paints a picture of the situation. According to the survey, the shortage of skilled workers in Austria has reached a new high since the 1950s: 87 percent of the companies surveyed are affected by the lack of skilled workers on the labor market, 73 percent of them very or rather severely. For no less than 63 percent of the companies, this has already resulted in a loss of sales. The situation is particularly serious for startups, for which a loss of performance and the associated financial losses can have dramatic consequences.

“This development is not only harmful for the individual companies and their economic power, but also for the existing employees, who have to compensate for the lack of personnel resources with higher work intensity and overtime,” Christoph Monschein, General Manager at Edenred Austria, points out. A vicious circle, in which the dissatisfaction of the employees constantly increases. A survey of the career portal shows: Almost every second employee is not at all satisfied or rather dissatisfied in their job. As a result, a record number of employees are quitting or seriously considering it. According to the survey, 65 percent are willing to change jobs.

The question is how to break this vicious circle.

Fringe Benefits – The somewhat different salary increase

Christoph is convinced that it is important to offer employees real added value in addition to their salary. Various benefits can help. “The salary is only one part of the picture. What really counts is an attractive overall package that ideally includes meaningful work, an appreciative corporate culture, flexible working hours and home office options, meal allowances and other benefits as needed,” Christoph explains.

Startups in particular have the opportunity to increase their attractiveness as an employer. Because: “Young companies that are just starting up are often not in a position to pay high salaries,” Christoph knows. However, the salary can be significantly upgraded with sought-after fringe benefits. ” The slightly different salary increase, so to speak,” grins Christoph. If selected correctly, startups and their employees also benefit from attractive tax allowances.

How successfull employee retention works

But let’s take a step back. What are fringe benefits and what role do they play in view of the current challenges on the labor market?

Fringe benefits are additional benefits to the gross salary provided by the employer and can be of a financial, material or social nature. They include

  • Flexible working conditions such as flexitime, home office options or the 4-day week
  • Attractive work equipment such as work cell phones and laptops, additional monitors, ergonomic chairs and height-adjustable desks
  • Promoting the mobility of employees, for example by means of (electric) company and pool cars and/or company bicycles and scooters, use of car-sharing services, rail benefit cards or the popular public transport ticket
  • Promoting potential through training and further education and educational leave
  • Flexible working conditions such as flexitime, home office options or the 4-day week
  • Health promotion through company doctors, sports, massages, vaccination campaigns, insurances
  • Employee catering, for example with fruit baskets, snacks, free drinks, a canteen or meal allowances


Fringe benefits play an important role in the recruiting process, among other things. Because: “Top employees can no longer be lured by salary alone,” says Christoph. According to the survey conducted by the Chamber of Commerce, 80 percent of the companies surveyed also face increasing expenses for recruiting staff due to the shortage of skilled workers. “But this doesn’t have to be the case if you take the right measures in good time, build a strong employer brand and develop into an attractive employer,” Christoph is convinced.

However, fringe benefits also serve to maintain the well-being of existing employees and are therefore also an effective tool for long-term employee retention. After all, they can increase job satisfaction and the image of the employer.

But what goes down best with (future) employees?

Benefits that impress

Surveys show that an allowance for lunch is one of the most popular benefits. Regular, shared lunch breaks are highly valued and, not least, promote team spirit and cooperation. In addition, they have been proven to have a positive impact on health, well-being and performance. “Especially for startups, which usually don’t have a canteen or similar catering options, digital meal vouchers are a very attractive solution,” says Christoph.

Employers in Austria have the option of subsidizing their employees’ lunches with up to eight euros per head and per working day – and tax-free. This adds up to a maximum of 1,760 euros per year. “A very attractive alternative compared to a salary increase,” Christoph is convinced. Because by granting a lunch subsidy, non-wage labor costs can be saved. What’s more, especially in times of high inflation, a lunch allowance is not only a valuable relief for employees, but also promotes healthier eating habits, according to studies.

Edenred One as the easiest way to get a tax-free lunch allowance

To handle the lunch subsidy quickly and easily, Edenred has designed the ordering portal Edenred One especially for SMEs and startups. “This saves companies a great deal of administrative effort every month,” explains Christoph. “All that is necessary is a one-time registration and ordering of the digital meal vouchers.” There is no minimum order quantity. Per employee, all that needs to be done at the beginning is to specify the desired amount for the monthly recharge, which can also be changed at any time. Edenred takes care of the rest. The credit is automatically loaded onto the cards each month and can then be redeemed by employees at acceptance partners throughout Austria.

“The tax savings already pay off with just one employee,” says Christoph, which is also shown in the following calculation example:The calculation example illustrates the savings potential of providing a meal allowance to an employee compared to a salary increase.

In addition to the meal allowance, the most sought-after benefits include the general conditions of the job – above all the corporate culture, the range of tasks and the behavior of the managers. Flexible working hours, home office options and support with childcare are also important for a good work-life balance. Further training opportunities for individual development and even bringing dogs into the office are also popular non-monetary benefits.

However: “The focus should always be on the well-being of my employee,” Christoph concludes. “Employees notice quickly and precisely where an authentic corporate culture is lived and where it is not. Dissatisfaction on the part of employees should never be compensated for with fringe benefits,” Christoph points out. It’s the overall package that counts. “With an attractive overall package, you can attract the best minds – and keep them.

Featured image: Fringe benefits – along with an appreciative company culture and an underlying purpose – are a valuable tool in recruiting and far beyond© Edenred


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