January 14, 2016

9 Ways to Give Your Employees Great Perks on a Limited Budget


Perks and benefits are an all-too-often neglected resource for boosting productivity and morale among employees. You might think that you have to give up a significant portion of your profits in order to create a “cool” place to work – and, yes, plenty of mandatory benefits that can get expensive – but the perks that are most attractive to talented employees can be the easiest and cheapest to provide.

Here are nine ways that you can perk up your company’s workplace without having to break the bank.

1. Flex Time

Some companies, such as Netflix, have successfully implemented unlimited vacation policies that essentially allow employees to take some PTO whenever they want. Instead of tracking the amount of time that employees work, companies like Netflix track the amount of work employees actually do.

This practice could be implemented in many business models. Basically, you would pay employees for full-time work, but instead of track their hours, you track their output. Employees that work more efficient are rewarded with more time off.

If unlimited vacation sounds like too big of a step for your company, you can start by experimenting with small amounts of flex time. Give your employees an hour or two each day that they can in whatever way they see fit. Sure, some employees might use the time to watch YouTube videos, but others might use it to learn new skills, think of better ways of doing things, or recharge themselves so they can come back to work with renewed focus and energy.

2. Paid Volunteer Work

People want to feel like they are making a difference in the world. Making a profit for you is probably not anyone’s key motivation. Depending on the nature of their work, employees may even have a hard time seeing how their day-to-day activities are making a positive impact on the world – and that can lead quickly to disengagement.

There’s a simple remedy to this problem: Pick a charity that you believe in and would support financially. Instead of just writing a check, give your employees a day or half a day to volunteer for this charity – and pay them for it. Many employees will appreciate the change of pace, and the experience will add new meaning to employees’ work, which should help keep them engaged.

Still not buying it? Remember that doing something like this can be a great way to get a lot of positive press coverage for your company (hint, hint).

3. Health Discount Plans

MedicineUnfortunately, medical insurance is expensive. Sometimes, you just can’t afford to give your employees the coverage that you would like to give them.

Fortunately, there is a way you can still help employees, even if you can’t afford an expensive insurance plan: health discount plans. With a health discount plan, you would pay a relatively small monthly fee in exchange for significantly discounted prices within certain networks of health providers. You may not be able to buy the big insurance plans, but you can at least help your employees keep their medical costs down by funding their discount plans.

4. Snacks

It doesn’t cost much to stock a small fridge with yogurt, mixed nuts, and fruit. This small investment will yield great returns in terms of employee happiness – and it will encourage healthy habits in your employees. Healthier employees means more productive employees, and that’s good for your bottom line.

If you really want to go the extra mile, you could periodically reward a high-achieving employee with a snack basket. It’s healthy, it’s delicious, and it will make the employee feel like you really do value their contributions.

5. Gift Cards

Gift cards are a great way to boost employee morale. They allow employees to go out and buy something nice for themselves, with no guilt. A lot of people worry about saving money and spending responsibly, but a gift-card gives them license to do some guilt-free shopping for a change.

6. Intramural Sports Leagues

Sports can be a great way to build team morale – and the great thing is that you don’t even have to use office time to reap the rewards. You just need to organize an afterwork intramural league for interested employees.

You certainly won’t get a 100 percent of your employees to show up for such a league, but those who do participate will have a lot of fun – and their morale will improve for sure.

7. Free Plane Tickets

ContrailsAccording to a survey from Robert Half, about 39 percent of employees do not use all their paid time off. Why? Many of these workers want to save their days, and others are worried they will fall behind at work if they take time off.

On the surface, it might appear to be a good thing that some of your employees are not using all their vacation time. However, the reality is that this is probably a symptom of a deeper problem. If someone feels unable to take a vacation, it’s probably because they feel overwhelmed. There is too much work to do to leave for a few days! This sort of situation leaves to burn out very, very quickly.

Now imagine if you, the boss, purchased a plane ticket for an employee you wanted to recognize and presented it to them. Suddenly, the psychology changes. They are being recognized for their achievement, and they have earned their time off.

You can use a service like HipMunk to purchase plane tickets at discounted rates. This can be a great way to “force” your overachieving (and perhaps stressed out) employees to finally take the breaks they deserve.

8. Catered Lunches

If you can’t play your employees as much as you’d like to pay then, an occasional catered lunch is a good way to reward their hard work and dedication. It is a simple gesture, but one that is always appreciated. No one ever complains about free lunches.

9. Beer

Finally, there’s the gift that has been boosting morale without fail for centuries: free beer. Does this even need an explanation? Simply buying a round of drinks for your employees after an especially grueling week can be a great way to boost morale.

If you want to celebrate at the office rather than go through the hassle of dealing with logistics, you could join a beer-of-the-month club and have the beers sent to your office. No matter how you do it, beer will be appreciated.

In some ways, not having a large budget for employee benefits could be a good thing. It will force you to actually listen to what the employees want, rather than just throwing money at them and hoping it works. There is a big difference between perceived value and money value. Often times, what employees really want is not that expensive to give.

Read more in Employee Morale

Levi Henrikson is a freelance writer who enjoys marketing, personal finance, and personal development. He is a proud father and husband.