15 Low-Cost Employee Perks Small Businesses Can Offer

Motivating employees with perks doesn’t have to cost a fortune. What small businesses may lack in corporate advantages, they gain in more closely knit teams and fewer layers of management and HR to navigate. So, instead of trying to match all the costly perks of larger organizations, get creative with your company’s benefits. Here are 15 ideas to get you started.

1. Free stuff: Everyone likes concert tickets, movie outings, and passes to sporting events. AnyPerk is a low-cost service that makes it easy to give employees access to discounts in your area. You can also work it out with a local coffee shop to offer frequent visitor rewards or arrange employee discounts with health clubs, dry-cleaning services, or nearby restaurants.

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2. Kitchen stock: We’re not talking specialty offerings like at big tech companies, but having a few treats like coffee, tea, hot chocolate, milk, and simple snacks goes a long way.

3. Flexible hours: Employees have lives outside of work. Within reason, let them know that with your approval, they can work out hours that best fit their schedules.

4. Working from home: If employees have tasks that can be done remotely, let them know it’s okay to work from home. They might even be more productive without the distractions of the workplace.

5. Be dog-friendly: Do a bunch of your employees have dogs? If it makes sense for your business, let them bring their canine companions to work. Having this policy (at a cafe, for example) may even attract more customers who are looking for places to hang out where they can bring their pups.

6. Commuter benefits: While formal commuter benefits programs offer tax-free transportation benefits, there’s still room for creative commuter thinking if that’s not in your budget. Clif Bar gives employees who pledge to bike to work two days a month some cash to keep their bikes in good working condition. Healthier, more eco-conscious employees = win-win.

7. Summer hours: Kicking back early on Fridays during summer months is the best. Just have employees make up those hours off throughout the week.

8. “Doughnut” days: They don’t have to be doughnuts, but regularly bringing treats into the office can boost employee morale.

9. Pay it forward: Chances are your business is racking up perks by using a company credit card. Pass these earned freebies, such as airline miles or tickets to events, along to your employees.

10. Higher learning: Last year, Starbucks announced its plan to offer full-tuition coverage for eligible employees to earn a bachelor’s degree online through Arizona State University. That kind of education perk may not be in the budget for small businesses, but you might be able to swing something like bringing in experts once a month to give a presentation on their area of expertise.

11. Yoga classes: Partner with a local yoga instructor to offer lunchtime or post-work yoga classes once a week. To keep costs down, you could pay them in trade.

12. Birthday love: Give employees a paid day off on their birthday — we’d say it’s the best way to honor the annual occasion.

13. Happy hour: Taking employees out for a few rounds of drinks can really add up, but bringing the drinks to the office is a cheap alternative. Stock a bar cart in the office and when 4 p.m. on Friday rolls around, toast to the weekend.

14. Lounge space: Decorate an area of your business with couches and comfy chairs so employees can enjoy a change of scenery to work or chat with colleagues.

15. Unlimited vacation: This may sound like a slippery slope, but it can actually help motivate employees to work harder. Big companies like Netflix, as well as many startups, have adopted unlimited PTO policies. Put a set of official guidelines in place, and then tell your employees you trust them to do what’s best for the company and themselves. They’ll really thank you.

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