Emotional Salary is the non-financial or emotional gains we obtain from working that motivate us, change our perception of work and lead to personal and professional development.

Take our Emotional Salary Barometer™

How Emotional Salary Differs to Employee Benefits

Often, times when we are talking to existing or future clients about Emotional Salary for their organisation, one of the main areas of confusion is how Emotional Salary is different to the employee benefits they may already be offering in their company.

In this article, we will look at the main differences between the two so that you can understand how to better serve your employees using BOTH employee benefits and Emotional Salary strategies, if applicable.


First, let’s define each of these two concepts:

Employee Benefits are typically benefits that employees receive in addition to their standard salaries such as health or dental insurance, pension, maternity leave or even restaurant vouchers.

Emotional Salary comprises the non-financial gains we obtain from working that motivate us, change our perception of work, and lead to personal and professional development. These gains as such are not emotions but they have a huge impact on our emotions and in our emotional engagement to and towards our work. Once we are aware of them and learn how to manage them in an intentional way we will completely shift our perception of work.


Now, let’s examine each of the different areas between Employee Benefits and Emotional Salary so that you can understand what your employees value most and use this knowledge to further drive motivation and fulfilment in the workplace.

1. Emotional Salary factors are intangible elements that are valuable to your employees in the workplace such as their sense of belonging at work or the level of autonomy that they have in their role.

Employee benefits, on the other hand, are typically more tangible aspects that they receive (such as restaurant vouchers) or have paid for on their behalf (such as health insurance,  stock options, or bonuses).


2. Emotional Salary is an incredibly subjective concept that will be different for each individual. For some, the most important aspect of working may be the opportunity to socialise and make friends at work, whilst for others, this may not be important at all, and having the opportunity to become an expert in their chosen field or maximise their creativity will be what they value most. Exploring what’s most important for each individual allows you and them to maximize their potential and get the most from the time they spend working.

Employee benefits are generally created and shared amongst everyone in the workplace, without too much, or any, personalisation.


3. Emotional Salary is something that grows with you as you work and focus on it. It is something that requires your awareness and attention on a daily, or at the very least, a weekly basis and requires nurturing. You don’t need a lot of time or resources to nurture it, just the awareness and intentional focus on the factors involved allows you to transform your work.

Employee benefits are typically fixed in nature meaning that they are generally the same offering regardless of any changes to an employee’s personal or professional situation.


4. Your Emotional Salary is very susceptible to the changes in your life and will be constantly affected and vary depending on your circumstances. It is not something that can usually be described in a job description. It relates more to the intangible and emotional values and benefits that you can experience when working somewhere. As this experience may be different for each individual at that company and is highly dependent on their own expectations, perspectives, values, and experiences, we need to recognize and cherish these differences. Doing so will enable us to create a system where all stakeholders are able to capitalise on their work experience, develop co-responsibilities and thrive, even in uncertain or challenging times.

However, employee benefits usually experience little change, even when you move jobs. For example, employee benefits are generally the same across different companies and you can often see what is offered in the job description.


Infographic Emotional Salary vs Employee Benefits


5. An employee is very involved in the development of their own Emotional Salary and they have their own active role to play in the way it grows and evolves, whereas employee benefits are unilaterally granted and employees have more of a passive role in their receipt and use.

For example, if an employee receives dental insurance benefits, they don’t have to do anything after agreeing to receive the benefit, however, if they want to increase their Emotional Salary, it is something they will have to potentially discuss with their manager and design a formal or informal strategy for.


6. Employees themselves, as well as the organisation and its leaders, are all responsible for the development and growth of an employees’ Emotional Salary. There is a shared responsibility here whereas it is the organisation that holds the responsibility for managing employee benefits in a unilateral way.

That being said, we should take it upon ourselves to decide to improve our own Emotional Salary in the workplace and focus on improving it in an intentional way, we cannot and should not rely on a colleague or manager to do it for us.


7. Emotional Salary factors, if consistently worked on, can contribute to the success of not only the employee but also the organisation. Employee benefits are intended as a salary supplement to motivate employees and keep them happy. While the Emotional Salary concept also looks to ensure the success of the employees, it can also contribute to organisational success as well by helping to analyse particular challenges and develop strategies to face those challenges in a systematic way.

For example, if employees have more opportunities to be creative in their role, that will have a direct result on the organisation’s ability to come up with innovative solutions which can directly impact its success. 


8. Using Emotional Salary as a workplace fulfilment measurement tool can result in endless possibilities to personalise the work experience for the individual and ensure that they are consistently working at their best for their own benefit and that of the organisation.

When talking about employee benefits, it is only the cost that can be measured so it is more difficult to measure success in this way.


9. Emotional Salary is designed to facilitate the creation of cultures where collaboration, active listening and open communication are essential elements, but a lack of awareness about what Emotional Salary is and its true benefits can lead to a lack of appreciation and a “taken for granted” attitude.

Employee benefits are very easy for employees to lose appreciation for over time as they don’t tend to change and have the potential to feel monotonous or repetitive for long-serving employees in the company. They should be constantly re-examined and updated to suit new environments and employee expectations or needs.


10. Emotional Salary takes into consideration the social, personal, professional, and transcendental dimensions that affect an individual’s working life. Employee benefits focus more on the physical elements and needs of the employee, such as financial needs or holiday days.


Up until now, we have been describing mostly the differences between Emotional Salary and employee benefits in the hope that you can realise that, while both have their place in the workplace strategy, they both have very different ways of working and differing outcomes for the employee.

There is one thing, however, that Emotional Salary and employee benefits have in common and that is their purpose. They are both designed in an employee-centric manner and offer a solution to improve employee wellbeing at work. They are complementary to one another and both have their place in talent development and employee engagement strategies in an organisation.

If you would like to discuss using the Emotional Salary Barometer in your talent development and employee engagement strategies, contact us here to arrange a pilot test in your organisation.


Live Your Brand (the creators of the Emotional Salary Barometer) are people and organisational development specialists with passion, expertise and continuous learning at our core.  We work with organisations that understand that their people are central to their success, both now and in the future, whatever challenges they may face. Through our tools and programmes, we encourage teams and organisations to listen deeply and be continuously inspired and energised by their people.  We facilitate the creation of a platform for growth for all employees in the organisation, driving a clear sense of purpose and direction in order to deliver real and sustainable business results.


  Sign up to receive regular updates, tips, inspiration and strategies related to Emotional Salary direct to your inbox.