6 Cool Employee Perks Your Small Business Can Afford

Sweeten the deal for your employees without breaking the bank.
Form a rec sports team and create T-shirts so that employees can bond after hours. (Photo: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)

Nap pods, concierge services, catered meals — Silicon Valley knows how to pamper its employees. But it’s not just tech company workers who want more than the standard 401(k), paid time off and employee discounts. Everyone likes perks that complement their lifestyles, enhance their daily experience in the workplace and and recognize their achievements.

Think you can’t afford to offer employees cool fringe benefits? Think again. Even if an in-house bowling alley is way out of reach, you can probably swing some of these six sure-to-be-popular extras. They may even pay for themselves if they help you retain your best employees.

Discounted transportation

If your business is located in a metro area, discounted public transportation is one perk you can give employees at little to no cost to you. Some transit systems, such as Atlanta’s MARTA, offer partnership programs for businesses of any size through which employees can get discounted fares to lower their commuting costs. Most of the time, it’s free for the business.

Paid volunteer time

Employees — especially millennials — like businesses that demonstrate corporate social responsibility. So one perk to consider is offering employees paid time off for volunteer work, whether it’s a set number of paid volunteer hours or an extra day or two off a year earmarked for this purpose.

Another idea: Let employees know that if they participate in a charity run or walk, you’ll support them with a donation.

And of course, invite your employees to participate in your company-wide charitable initiatives. Online art marketplace Rise Art donates an art kit to a children’s hospital for every order they receive. “We take members of the team to the hospitals to donate the kit. It’s something they absolutely love doing,” said CEO Scott Phillips.

Massages for met goals


Offering a free massage for meeting goals is one way to motivate employees and make them feel appreciated. (Photo: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)

Jacob Khan, owner of Jacob K. Hair salon in Atlanta, gives his five stylists free half-hour massages for meeting their retail goals.

Khan said he keeps his costs down by trading services with a local massage therapist. “I don’t charge this one massage therapist for her hair, and she provides these massages for my stylists whenever they hit their goals.”

But Khan said even if he had to pay full price, it would be worth it. “We make more money in the end because we aren’t rotating out hairdressers and losing clients. Hairdressers are happy so they’re giving much better service, making our clients happier, who then refer more clients.”

Related: 7 Cheap or Free Ways to Make Your Employees Happy

A recreational sports team

For those with a competitive spirit, a recreational sports teams can be a fun (and social) employee perk, so consider creating one. Use a website like Sportsvite to find a club or rec league in your area to join, and cover or at least subsidize player signup fees. A bonus for the business: Team T-shirts or uniforms double as advertising for your brand.

Work-related expenses

Helping employees out by covering costs associated with their work is another great perk. For instance, restaurants could provide pens for wait staff (rather than making them buy and bring their own) and offer full or partial reimbursement for required footwear.

Khan absorbs certain small costs that are more of a burden to the employee than the business. “A lot of salons will have a back bar cost, where they either take a percent off the top of a stylist’s services or a certain dollar amount per client to cover the shampoo, water and color used for that client. We absorb the back bar costs and don’t charge them one, so they are automatically making more money than they normally would.”

Buffet-style benefits

Instead of taking the traditional “one size fits all” approach to employee benefits, some businesses are catering to staff while keeping prices low by creating a benefits menu, letting employees pick and choose the perks that are most important to them, said Nikki Larchar, cofounder of human resources consultancy SimplyHR Partners.


According to Nikki Larchar, cofounder of human resources consultancy SimplyHR Partners, a buffet-style benefit package allows employees to pick and choose their perks. (Photo: Nikki-Larchar)

“Either the employee is offered a benefits budget and they are able to choose from a list of benefits or the employee is able to pick one item from each category.” This approach lets the employee choose what benefits they want and keeps costs down for the business, which doesn’t have to pay for perks an employee isn’t going to use.

Related: Paid Sick Leave from the Business Owner’s Perspective

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