Since small businesses often don’t have big budgets to compete with bigger companies on salary, offering employee perks is one way to help bridge the gap, boost morale and improve employee retention rates. So, we have asked the CarolRoth.com contributor network of business owners, experts, advisors and entrepreneurs to share what they think are the best perks that small businesses can offer employees. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some similar ideas listed, but I kept them separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. Fur Family Days
One of the best perks a small business owner can offer their employees is the ability to bring a dog to the office. As crazy as it sounds, fur parents really appreciate this because they do not need to spend money on doggie day care or race home to their four-legged babies at the end of the day. It puts their minds at ease and can increase productivity in the office. Plus, who can have a bad day with their pup by their side?
2. Best Small Business Perk
Roger West, a small marketing agency based in Tampa Fla., brings in a nail technician once a month for its employees. One day each month anyone who would like is allotted an hour time slot to enjoy a manicure during the work day. The nail technician provides gel manicures for those who want and even adds a design if desired. Something about getting a manicure at work just feels better than actually going to a salon, maybe it’s because I’m not paying for it.
3. Educate Them
There are many perks employers can offer, but one of my favorites is tuition reimbursement. I've found that not only does tuition reimbursement lead to happier employees, but it attracts higher-quality employees, as well, because you're attracting people who are serious about their education and self-improvement.
4. Listening to Employee Needs
Companies big and small need to listen to employee needs and understand what are the personal challenges they face to do their jobs well. In a world of single parents, having to take care of parents, long commutes & other things, employees are under stress.
The best thing employers can do is understand the individual challenges that employees have and work with them to develop solutions that benefit both employee and employer.
Creating individualized solutions is key to building employee loyalty.
5. Share Joy With Shared Bikes
As a small business, particularly in cities, many employees may want to enjoy the benefits of biking, but choose not to actually bike to work. Between bringing a lock, finding a place to keep it, and then being sweaty first thing in the morning - there's lots of reasons to not bring a bike. That being said, having a bike can make breaks or lunch a lot more enjoyable. So, we keep a shared bike in the office that staff can "check-out". It's a smaller, relatively low-cost benefit that all can enjoy.
6. Did Someone Say Vacation?
We provide our staff unlimited vacation time... Yes, UNLIMITED! BUT, with the caveat that they do not impede their fellow co-workers with a last minute trip to Buddha or a month-long trip on a day's notice; as long as they work with the team, we're good and want to help them to enjoy the work/life balance.
Christopher M. Carter of Approyo
7. Play Away Some Work Stress
Put a video game console, such as a Xbox or PlayStation, in the conference room or where ever there is a TV in the office. This small yet exciting perk will help alleviate the office stress with some fun video game playing time. It's a small investment that changes the work environment from strict to friendly. It encourages the team to get together and have some fun while straying from fancy expenses.
Leo Friedman of iPromo
8. Free Food
Although you don't need an in-house chef, a well-stocked snack pantry and quality coffee maker can go a lot farther than you think. Just be sure to consider all diets, allergies, and other restrictions before you buy a month’s supply of food. And, try to veer on the healthier side – you don’t want your whole team having a daily late afternoon sugar crash.
9. Bagels for Breakfast
The office treat doesn't always have to be bagels, but any treat gives employees something to look forward to. It can become very routine and help boost office morale on a Monday morning. For small businesses, going above and beyond with this simple treat allows for employees to have a more relaxed morning. Employees can rely on this treat when they are running late in the morning and need a quick pick-me-up. Different departments can also be encouraged to bring in different treats to help offset costs.
10. Build Their Skill Set
Building your employees' skill set is a perk for them and for you. This will increase the collective knowledge of your team and boost employee job satisfaction. Start hosting lunch-and-learns or go out as a team and attend a conference/class together.
11. Invest in Education
One great perk that many employees will value is to have opportunities to continue learning new skills. This can take the form of lunch-and-learns, webinars, or even through an annual learning stipend. It's a win-win for both you and your employees.
Think of it as an investment for both your employees and your company. When they learn and grow, so does your business!
12. Weekly Lunches and Snacks
Providing weekly lunches can increase productivity and keep employees focused. You can also provide healthy snacks to your team in order to give them the fuel they need to stay energetic. Providing food is a simple gesture to show your team that they're appreciated.
13. Social Skills Training
Sure, you HIRED people with good social skills (didn't you?) but many of them want to get better at networking, want to feel more comfortable with people from different departments and could probably use just a little bit of FORMAL training on how to leverage this vital skill.
Why? It's a worthwhile investment because it will help your retention; employees will be more engaged and feel more connected with more people in the organization, which makes them more likely to stay.
14. Flexibility Comes First
Giving employees maximum flexibility is probably the best perk of all. Choosing one's own hours, if possible, allows people to do as many other things as they wish, from hobbies to education, from parenting to side hustles. In this busy era, people just love that option. For those who live far from the workplace, giving them flexibility to telecommute sometimes is just as rewarding, as it saves them commute time (which is essentially unpaid work hours).
15. We Want Cake!
At our immigration law office, we’re serious about cake breaks. When it’s your birthday, naturally you get a cake, which everyone sits down to share and enjoy. And, when we win a big case or really almost any other occasion, it’s also cake break time. We invite our lawyer colleagues to come to our office to share the sweetness. The frequent cake breaks have become nice part of our culture and are a fun way to chat, socialize, de-stress, and celebrate our staff and our successes.
16. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
At our small company, we choose to supply a gym membership to all employees and we're running a friendly competition to see who works out the most. This both fosters a healthy lifestyle and shows our staff that we care about their well-being. It's proven to be a really valued benefit!
17. Flexible Work Options
One of the best perks a small business can offer their employees is flexible work options. The willingness to accommodate employees’ personal life – such as daycare pickup or care for another family member – is critical to retaining the best employees. So, providing the ability to work flexibly in terms of both location and hours is one perk that can help differentiate smaller businesses, while engendering loyalty that leads to better retention. It's easier to retain workers than to find new ones.
18. Build a Better Bathtub
Research has repeatedly shown that it's not money but a sense of belonging that increases employee loyalty/job satisfaction. "Belonging" includes feeling listened to and being appreciated. Employers can convene staff regularly and brainstorm (for fun, the first time) how to improve a bathtub. Then, brainstorm each subsequent time on ideas for improving the business--on every level. Implement the most workable--there will be enough for years.
Thanks to: Marlene Caroselli.
19. Working From Home is Life
It doesn't cost an employer one extra penny to let staff work from home, even if occasionally. On the contrary, there are studies that show how much money it actually saves the employer and the employee, not to mention the environmental and mental health benefits of remote working. Yet, so many bosses are still hesitant to allow this simple flex. Like my boss Kari says, "If you don't trust your employee to do good work when they're out of your sight, why did you hire them in the first place?"
20. Unlimited Time Off: Not Scary
With only a dozen employees, we put a high value on team commitment. From the management side, that means having people at work that are mentally engaged; a physical presence means nothing.
We implemented unlimited time off in 2015 after much internal discussion over concerns we would have no way to test with a subgroup--it would apply to everyone.
Fast forward four years, it's been win-win. Everyone appreciates the flexibility and generally speaking, it's rarely used--and never abused.
21. Snacks and Coffee
One of the best perks for working at a small company is the kitchen space! With a small number of employees, companies often provide free snacks and coffee to keep their employees sharp throughout the day!
22. It's Not One Size Fits All
The best perk a small business can offer their employees is an individualized approach. People value different things, so if you can cater to that, you'll stand out. For example, we have an employee that loves to travel. We have been able to build a program for him so that he can be out of the office for six months at a time and still get his work done. He wouldn't be able to get that benefit at a larger business.
23. Company Lunch
Everyone loves a good meal... even more so, a free meal! Depending on your company's budget, consider having a weekly, monthly or quarterly luncheon. This small perk will help employees feel appreciated, while also promoting interdepartmental conversations that may have not happened otherwise.
24. Fun Break Room
Almost every break room has a couch and maybe even some board games. Step your game up with video games! Whether it's old-school Street Fighter or a modern VR set-up, having a place to relax with exciting amenities will encourage your employees to blow off some steam in a fun way.
25. Foster Growth and Purpose
People want to feel a sense of purpose. They want a job that never makes them ask “what’s the point?” And, the fastest way to get to that point is to stop growing.
So, the best perk to offer employees as a small business is the opportunity to grow.
It could be a book-shelf with growth-related books to borrow, an in-house mentorship program, an opportunity to work in a different department for a short time, more responsibilities, or whatever works for your company culture.
26. Try the 5 Hour Work Day
Today time is the new money. Many workers are more than willing to exchange money for more time with their family and friends and to pursue their favorite hobbies. Give the 5 hour work week a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised nothing will change except for increased employee morale and improved profits.
27. Flexibility is Key
The most important perk you can offer your team is flexibility. Whether it be flexibility with their schedule, with the days they need off, with giving them the ability to work from home at times or the flexibility to be creative with their ideas and the work they perform, being a flexible employer is key. As the work environment continues to evolve and more millennials join the workforce, rigid rules and an 8-5 schedule should be a thing of the past.
28. Never Come to the Office
The main perk we have always offered to employees is the ability to work remotely. We don't have a budget for a big office full of ping pong tables, beanbag chairs, and snacks. We have found that this perk is highly sought after. Our employees don't have to worry about commuting in traffic or sending their kids to an after school program. It works for us as well, since we don't have to lease a large office.
29. Flexibility is Key
We give employees a lot of flexibility in terms of their schedule and where they get work done. We don’t have a set time employees need to be in the office by and we frequently allow them to work from home or a coffee shop for a change of scenery. I know how mentally draining it can be to sit down at the same desk all day, so it's nice that employees are able to leave and work from different locations. I believe this helps keep the work fresh and boosts overall morale.
30. Choose Your Schedule
The nine-to-five doesn't work for everyone and many often complain about short weekends. A no-expense incentive you can offer is multiple shift options. Try four 10-hour days and a three-day weekend, or a swing shift for those who like to sleep late. This is super appealing because it helps eliminate many employee frustrations in work/life balance. It also makes them feel cared for and understood, so they're more inclined to stick with you.
31. Flexible Hours and Laptop
While our corporate office and clients are typically located in the USA, in the translation business, employees and suppliers are located worldwide. Time zone differences create problems. So, we offered our staff flexible work hours to allow more overlap with clients and with each other. We thence discovered it to be a big hiring perk. Employees loved to drive in after rush hour and leave at will. We also outfitted many with portable computers to be more effective. They were also a big hit!
32. Perks We Offer to Employees
Things I've always done to and for my workers: I pick them up at their house and take them to where the work is. I usually pay for their lunches, too. And, I pay each worker the money they earned at the end of each work day. I'm not saying other employers need to do what I am doing, I'm just saying that this is what I do. I don't offer 401Ks or other bonuses, but I have no trouble keeping workers and they seem to appreciate the little things that I do for them.
33. Flexibility in the Workplace
In today’s digital age, flexibility in the workplace is becoming more and more common. So, we allow our team members to have a flexible work schedule. We understand some people aren’t morning people, and so they’re allowed to come in a bit later, as long as they stay late to make up the time. We also allow team members to work from home occasionally. This has proven to be one of the most favored perks that we offer.
Andrew Wesper of Phoenix
34. Create a New Role
We constantly try to create a healthy work-life balance and one of the things we’ve done is created a full-time position called "Director of Happiness". The primary responsibility is team member engagement and morale. We are certain that these kinds of initiatives lead to decreased turnover and happier employees.
35. Create Unique Rewards
Millennials don’t respond to traditional rewards and want recognition in a way that feels supportive to their psyche. These rewards often have a lower financial cost than traditional ones, but will have a greater impact.
Celebrate small successes, not just big wins. Let employees reward each other by giving them $50/mo to give to another team member. Find out what motivates each employee and create personal rewards. Support their causes, either financially or with time off to volunteer.
36. Allow Them to Grow
The best perk that you can offer is personal growth opportunities. My CEO and I have breakfast every two weeks to go over personal goals and career goals. It shows that the company cares about me and wants me to be successful. If you treat your key employees right and take interest in their growth, they will go out of their way to help the company grow to the next level.
Bryan Pattman of 9Sail
37. Show Appreciation
Since most talented employees leave because they don't feel appreciated, take steps to ensure your best people know how much the company values them. Designate a front row parking spot for the employee of the month, dedicate space in the company newsletter or on the company website to talk about your best employees and what they've helped you accomplish, give time off, hand out gift cards for a nice dinner out, and regularly nominate employees for industry and local awards.
38. Best Benefit? Health Care!
My fiancé and I run a small business, but I maintain my corporate job to provide health care for the both of us. However, we are in the process of learning about small business health care options. We learned about the Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement (QSEHRA) and how it is an employer-sponsored reimbursement program that offers a payroll-tax-free benefit to the employee and creates a tax-deductible business expense for the employer. Health care never seemed so feasible!
39. A Literal Taste of Diversity
Managing a small business lets you to create a great workplace for your unique team - not the anonymous thousands of a corporation!
A great perk we do isn’t about giving employees free things, but instead letting them be proud of their identity. We encourage our team to give us a literal taste of their culture!
Whether a traditional religious food or a family or geographic tradition, we encourage sharing samples.
Everybody feels affirmed and excited to learn about each other!
40. When in Doubt, Donuts
The best perk about being a small business is that it allows the employees to become more than just employees. With happy hours, office outings to baseball games, bowling, and more - we get better opportunities to know each other on a more personal level. Occasional early dismissal, WFH options during Cleveland's winter storms, and donuts in the office also help to boost employee retention and morale.
41. An Opportunity for a Career
We like to think that our best perk is that we truly offer a spring board career trajectory for capable and enthused young talent. Many of our real estate agents join our enterprise straight out of college with limited real world experience and often, no prior knowledge about sales, real estate, contract formation or client servicing. Our workers know that even if they decide to leave our organization, the skills and training we are imparting set them up to be independent in the industry.
42. Offer Flexibility!
The best perk a small business can offer employees costs nothing and can be broadly described as flexibility. It can mean flexible hours, a flexible working location, or simply freedom to fit work around everyday life. This kind of flexibility displays trust in the employee and encourages their loyalty.
43. A Tax Break AND Employee Perk!
The 401K is a win-win. Americans need more in retirement savings and business owners can use this as a tax break if they contribute. It's super easy and low maintenance, and if someone quits they just take it with them. While it's not a unique or unusual benefit to offer, it's hands down the best perk a small business can provide.
44. Executive Decision Making
I believe the best perks are intangibles and we offer one that is underrated by other employers; giving our employees the authority to act in order to give our customers the best experience possible. This provides not only happy customers, but it gives our employees a sense of agency and fulfillment at work. The common goal is "use today to be better tomorrow". We actually took this idea from the Ritz Carlton, but we do it for trees.
45. More Than Just "Benefits"
The true entrepreneur always wants to grow their business and they need good employees to do that; this can be more lucrative than any “benefit” that is offered by bigger Co’s. If the employee / entrepreneur relationship is right, the employee can get one-on-one leadership training, start-up experience, etc., and gain all the tools necessary to someday start their own business. If they have the right work ethic and attitude, they can at minimum, be in on the ground floor of something huge.
46. Flexibility and Understanding
The most important perk a business can give an employee is not just flexible work hours, but flexibility and understanding. As a mother of two boys, I understand when my staff has a school issue with their child and they have to leave early. I also understand people get sick. I don’t count sick days. Rather, I rely on my employees to be honest, I treat them as professionals, and they get their work done. Same goes for vacations! I believe a good employee is a refreshed employee.
47. Give the Gift of Well-being!
The best perk to offer as a small business is wellness. According to the Staples Workplace Study, 41% of workers would take a 10% pay cut to work for an organization which cares about their wellness! We use wellness as a quarterly incentive for our employees through the SoHookd Marketplace, which allows our employees to redeem experiences like apparel from Nike or Athleta, groceries from Whole Foods Market, spa, fitness and more. It shows them we care about their well-being and offers choice.
B.J. Williams of SoHookd
48. Let Them Have a Say!
The ONE best perk that a small business can offer to its employees is allowing them to negotiate their hours and location. As long as these fit within the business requirements, both parties can reap the rewards of having happy employees who are motivated to work because they are part of that decision process. Larger companies that offer high salaries can be more restrictive, and often employees feel burnt out and unappreciated. This also results in higher turnover, which is a big cost for business.
49. Bonuses for 5 Star Reviews
I run a service business and I’m always looking for win-win opportunities to pay my employees when they do something that helps the business. I pay a bonus every time an employee earns a 5 star review on a major review platform from a customer. It incentivizes them to do great work for our customers, knowing both that there is a potential tip on the line, but also an easy bonus from the company. It’s great “marketing spend”, it rewards quality work, and it’s completely above board.
50. A Saving, a Pay Raise
Work life balance is key nowadays.
If you can't push your budget to award a pay raise, then give your staff a day a week working from home. They save on commuting costs and they save that time, too.
It's win win.
*Bottom Line*: A saving to you, a pay raise to them.
Joe Flanagan of Suddora
51. PTO for Volunteer Work
My favorite perk is paid time off (PTO) for volunteering: in addition to our regular PTO, we can earn up to six extra days of PTO per year if we head out of the office to lend a hand to a noble cause — what’s more, our company matches our salary for that day and gives it to the cause we’re helping out.
52. The Best Perk is Vacation Time
My geographically dispersed team is my biggest investment; they have made my small business the success it has become and they are my greatest concern. While sounding like a cliche, it is absolutely true. Therefore, offering my team valuable perks is paramount in my mind. One such perk is a vacation stipend. In my view, a great stress buster and productivity booster is getting away from work. For this reason, I pay the cost of a return flight to anywhere in the world - no questions asked!
53. A Cool Nap Room to Rejuvenate
A Nap room. It may sound funny, but it's one of the least expensive yet effective perks a company can give to its employees. While working, everyone can get a bit drowsy, and a nap of 20-30 minutes can make the person feel energized and give a boost to do the work for the rest of the day.
Thus, if a company can allow 20-30 minutes in a day for each employee as nap time and keep a separate room for people to take a nap, then it will prove as a big employee morale booster.
54. A Perk That Saves Money
I’ve found that the greatest perk that small businesses can offer their employees is the flexibility to work from home and set their own hours. It’s the only perk that actually saves the business money, rather than costing it money.
It saves the business money in several ways:
1. If the company goes 100% virtual with no office, it saves on overhead from rent to office furniture to IT equipment and staff.
2. Employees are willing to take a pay cut in exchange for that flexibility.
55. An American English Accent
Offer your employees training to speak English with an American accent. Many international employees who speak English as a second language just want to be asked to repeat themselves fewer times each day. By providing training to speak with an American accent, you solve a real problem, provide professional development and create an environment where the whole office is in this together. This also makes it easier for employees to understand each other, increasing collaboration and productivity.
56. A Pet-Lover's Paradise
Zety is a dog lover's paradise. We let all employees bring their dogs to work and you can't imagine the great responses we had from implementing this policy. Dog owners do not have to worry about leaving their dogs at home and stressing about it. And it brings a great, homey vibe to the office. There have been times when heated discussions were happening with the team, and then a dog passes gas, and we all laugh, breaking the tense situation in a heartbeat.
Kuba Koziej of Zety
57. Increase Loyalty With Flextime
Flextime is the best perk in my opinion. It allows employees to choose when their workday starts and ends. They can even decide to leave earlier some days, as long as they meet the required number of hours at the end of the payroll period. With flextime, your staff can attend school events or doctor appointments, take extra time to enjoy the good weather in the morning or leave early to spend more time with significant others. All of this makes people happier and more loyal to the company.
Marina Pilipenko of actiTIME
58. Happier Happy Hours
The best thing about working at a small company is the budget for post work fun and company events. Large businesses simply cannot afford much more than the occasional company outing or holiday party because of the sheer number of employees, and small businesses do not have that problem. The happy hours, company events, and holiday parties can be far more enjoyable, and more importantly, far more frequent.
59. Tapping into the Hidden Talent
Unlock your team’s hidden talent by offering a finite monetary contribution annually for each team member to find a continuing education opportunity that addresses a hobby or passion that can improve their job performance at the same time. From yoga certifications and mindfulness to embracing fine motor skills through knitting classes, unlocking your employee’s talent pool should be fun and creative. Also, have a luncheon for everyone to share how the class contributed to their growth.
60. See Me-Hear Me
Small businesses have a leg up in one of the most important perks for all employees: the need to be seen, heard, and valued. Small business owners can take the time to get to know their people on an individual basis, understand their needs, and provide the hands-on mentoring and professional development that will serve them throughout their entire careers.
61. Work-Life Balance
By offering a flexible work schedule or work from home days, employees have the freedom to complete their work at home or after traditional work hours, helping to attract and retain top talent, those with family obligations, and those who enjoy switching up their work environment.
62. Best Perk
The best perk that I can give is ONE on ONE time. This is really small business' best perk. Just like school class room sizes, the smaller, the more time is able to be given to each individual. It's not a fancy perk, but it's the most impactful.
63. Growing With the Business
The best perk which small businesses offer to their employees is the opportunity to grow with the business. Even if you have a very specific job title, you will be asked to take on different responsibilities in a small company where the human resources are limited. This will help you acquire new knowledge and skills and expand your expertise. As the company grows, you will grow with it, being promoted to more and more senior positions.
64. Rewarding Employees w/Money
AegisFS provides our Associates with an employee PowerCard. We fund each month between $250.00 and $750.00 to be used how the Associate sees fit. Many use these funds to buy small get away trips in a nearby town, play golf, go to dinner, pay for school or some medical expenses. The reward miles on their PowerCard are kept by the Associate and each year, they all tell me that they use them for family vacations.
The gift of money is a wonderful and highly appreciated perk. Cards are random in value.
65. Unlimited Holidays
The best perk we offer our employees is unlimited holidays. When an employee meets their quarterly targets, they are allowed to take as many holidays as they like in the following quarter. This incentivizes our staff without costing us anything and boosts productivity each quarter. On the other hand, our staff love the freedom this gives them and the ability to manage children, holidays, etc.