You may not be able to compete with larger employers when it comes to salary, bonuses, or resume bragging rights—but there are plenty of other ways to attract employees to your small business. Here are a few inexpensive and innovative employee perks all small business owners should consider adding to their workplace benefits.
Choose your workspace. A study by Universum revealed that many employees are particularly drawn to start ups and small businesses because they believe that scrappier companies offer more freedom and flexibility. Though a wide body of research shows that allowing workers the option to work from home least some of the time is an impactful perk that can make employees more productive and happier in their jobs, you can improve employee experience when they’re in the office, too.
At Facebook, individuals are reportedly allowed to tailor the size, shape, and orientation of their personal workspace to preference. Teams and departments that work closely are free to determine the best way to configure their shared spaces. Whether your employees choose for stability balls in place of chairs, standing work stations instead of desks, or the removal of partitions around their desks altogether, businesses of any size can afford to give employees the freedom they crave.
Weekly “recess.” School age children are given recess as a means to give their bodies an opportunity to move, and their brains a break from the highly structured school day. Adulthood doesn’t erase the efficacy of breaks when it comes to giving employees the release they need to be mentally focused, creative, and engaged.
Consider the outcome of 3M’s “15 percent program,” which gives every employee the chance to work on whatever they want, for 15 percent of the week. Employees use the time work on job-related tasks, to explore ideas relevant to the company in some other way, and sometimes, to do little work-related thinking. Though that may seem like poor time management for a resource-strapped small business, consider the results: 3M’s innovation program famously led to the invention of the Post It Note. Similar programs are now offered at Hewlett Packard and Google because to stimulate innovation.
Empower employees to use time off how and when they want. Work-life balance is often touted by recruiters part of the culture—but falls short in practice under the realities of the pressure to perform. (And what small business isn’t under immense pressure?) But giving employees the freedom to determine when they need time off can prove critical to how engaged and invested they are in their jobs.
At Netflix and Hubspot, the sky’s the limit when it comes to vacation. Moz even pays employees a bonus to help subsidize their travel costs for vacation. You may not be able to offer those kind of perks—but it costs nothing to offer your employees a flexible vacation time or paid time off that allows them to choose when they need a break, without having to call in sick or invent a family emergency in order to take the time away that they need. Experts Kin HR explain that flexible vacation benefits ultimately reduce absenteeism, and ease the stress on co-workers when employees do take time off.
Make work feel like fun. Annual team-building events, office softball leagues and Friday happy hours can establish a sense of camaraderie–but all require that the employee spend even more time at work (or at least, with work buddies) than may be preferred.
Real perks don’t require additional effort on the part of the employee—but they make work feel less like a job. For that reason, workplace game rooms can be the perfect solution. Whether you add an air hockey, table dart board or Wii gaming system, adding a game room to your environment can help employees unwind, build relationships—and provide a far more fun venue for meetings than sitting in a conference room.