Non-Monetary and Low-Cost Perks and Benefits for Employees

Low-Cost Incentive Programs and Reward Ideas

Employees happy about good news and recognition
•••

Getty Images / FG Trade

Providing employee incentives is crucial for business success, but your company doesn’t have to expand its budget or hand out cash in order to provide something meaningful. Often, thoughtfulness is a more potent factor in deciding which employee benefits to offer than sheer monetary value. The goal is to create a collective environment of motivating gratitude. Learn how to consistently offer valuable non-monetary or lower-cost perks and benefits to every employee in your care, no matter your business’s market or size.

Why You Should Offer Employee Rewards and Incentives

Employee appreciation can make or break your business. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek said it well:  “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” The role of gratitude in a company-employee relationship cannot be overstated. According to a survey conducted by recognition tool maker AttaCoin of over 500 full-time employees across the U.S., 88% said it’s important that employers reward employees for great work, though only 36% partially agreed that “appreciation is best demonstrated with money.” Meanwhile, in its 2019 Global Human Capital Trends survey of senior executives, Deloitte found that fewer than half of respondents felt their rewards programs were aligned or highly aligned with overall organizational goals. 


Rewarding employees motivates them to stay and continue contributing to your company. A lack of recognition from employers is one of the main reasons employees quit.

Get Creative With What You Have

An effective way to offer employee perks without overextending your budget is by providing goods and services directly from your company. Using what you already have to appreciate your workers is an elegant business move. Here are some examples of how to supply desirable benefits without breaking the bank.

“On the House” Perks

Find creative in-house ways to reward employees for their contributions to the wellness of your company. If your business is finance-focused, this could mean offering free sessions with a financial advisor. If your business is retail-driven, discounts on merchandise or early access to sale items can often be crowd-pleasers in terms of employee benefits.

Genuine, Timely Recognition

Studies have shown that employee recognition can lead to a boost in both morale and retention.  If an employee has gone above and beyond for the company, the business should express gratitude promptly in a tangible, individualized way. Some examples include: 

  • Giving on-the spot thanks
  • Encouraging peer-to-peer recognition 
  • Posting a shout-out or notice in your company’s newsletter or website.  

Employee recognition does not have to be elaborate; even something like a simple, handwritten thank-you card—as long as it’s personal— goes farther than you think.

Schedule Flexibility

A simple, but effective employee benefit that a business can offer is greater time and schedule flexibility. If you haven’t already, consider these options for your business:

  • Expanding employee time-off request allowances, which shows your support for, and understanding of, work-life balance 
  • Implementing an online scheduling platform to streamline schedule adjustment requests 
  • Allowing for more overall break time (For example, a recent study by Draugiem Group found that the most productive workers are the ones that can take regular and frequent breaks, working in “sprints” of 52 minutes on, 17 minutes off.)

Ease Financial Stress

A business can show that it appreciates its employees and cares about their financial stability without necessarily having to rely on monetary rewards. One way is to optimize their existing wages. For example, Square, the merchant services and mobile payment company, is offering early wage access to employees of its merchants through what it calls On-Demand Pay. With this option, Square is allowing eligible employees of its merchants to transfer up to 50% of their earned wages—up to $200 per pay period—and have their money sent instantly to its Cash App or a linked debit card. 


This timely action can have a twofold positive effect of easing financial burdens and inspiring employee loyalty. In addition to early wage access, you can encourage staff to take advantage of free financial advising, give access to budgeting and financial education resources, or help them set up savings fund accounts if they have not already done so. 

Improve Employee Experience at Work

Sometimes, you may actually have to spend a little money to reward staff. Make it count by directing these funds into meaningful areas. Develop a holistic business practice by keeping employees’ mental and physical needs in mind while supplying resources, offering benefits, and designing the workplace environment. 

Support Mental Health

Employee burnout and stress have been an all-too-common occurrence in the workplace—especially as of late. Addressing mental health in the form of training, education, and support can be effective, budget-friendly solutions. It can be as simple as scheduling regular check-ins with your colleagues and employees, especially if they are working at home. Start and maintain a conversation with them about their recent workloads, environmental stressors, and current concerns.

Conduct “stay interviews” to make sure you understand what your employees need from their workplace. If it is noticeable that their work quality or efficiency has decreased, consider offering more personalized coaching. If they are in a new role and floundering, don’t wait for them to “sink or swim”; provide additional training and time for them to adjust to their new tasks.

Encourage Physical Well-Being

The physical environment that your employees work in can have a significant impact on productivity. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, employees with more control over their working environments exhibited significantly more productivity than those who were not given similar freedom. It rarely requires unreasonable effort or finances to consider employee input when it comes to structuring a work environment.

Spending an affordable portion of your budget on purchasing better office chairs, workspace personalization, offering breakroom snacks and drinks, upgrading equipment, painting the walls a better hue, or improving lighting can go a long way toward making your workers feel more at ease. 

Build a Support System and Acknowledge Milestones

Many mental health organizations have free guides to help employers learn how to support and encourage employees. If employees have optimal quotas for work, feel confident in their abilities, are not burned out, and are able to have healthy work-life balances, there will likely be improvement in their productivity. Partnering with a local hospital for free counseling sessions, encouraging peer support, and offering mentoring sessions are excellent ways to ensure your staff feels valued and supported. 

Additionally, remember to acknowledge important milestones, employee birthdays, and work anniversaries. Buying a hardworking team coffees or desserts in celebration of a project completion is a simple way to foster workplace camaraderie.

Connect Work With What They Love

Charitable Causes

Ask your staff for causes and charities they care about and choose one or several to match support for throughout the year. Make sure the cause aligns with your business’s values and goals. 

Volunteering

Another option is to schedule a day off for staff to spend time volunteering for a local charity event or nonprofit in need. 

Volunteering is known to improve trust (empathy for strangers triggers the connection-building hormone, oxytocin) and lower stress. It can also boost morale through social identity building by supporting a cause your employees care about together. 

Employees Must Want the Perks

Some traditional incentive programs may only inspire temporary compliance and loyalty and may not motivate staff in the long term. If the perks offered are too small, unwanted, outdated, or cause more work in order to fulfill them, they could backfire. Instead, think of creative ways to offer benefits that show gratitude for your staff’s hard work, inspire company loyalty, and encourage pride in their contributions. 


Before you move forward, though, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Are the current incentives fair, competitive, and fitting?
  • Do employees find the perks or benefits meaningful to their work or personal lives?
  • What could be done differently in order to offer better employee rewards?

Regularly reevaluate the effectiveness and desirability—via anonymous employee surveys, for example—of the current benefits and perks offered, and adjust based on the feedback you receive. Receiving any combination of these appropriate, timely, low-to-no-cost perks can inspire your team to work hard, stay motivated, and ultimately grow your business.