Exploring Cost-Effective Employee Perks for Small Businesses

Exploring Cost-Effective Employee Perks for Small Businesses

Small businesses tend to be restrained by tight budgets, so even if you’ve got ambitions to poach top talent, it’s not easy given that large corporations have the resources to lure them with juicy benefits packages.

Rather than throwing in the towel, it’s better to go back to the drawing board and think about ways to win over the right people for available roles via perks that are cost-effective rather than profligate. 

With creativity and strategic thinking, small enterprises can coax prospective employees away from larger rivals - so here are a few examples of what this looks like when applied practically.

Providing Health-Focused Perks That Pay Off

In every glittering skyscraper you’ll find an embarrassment of gym equipment - used as a lure to keep employees on-site long after their contracted hours have ended. And on top of that, the old stereotype of well-stocked snack bars and free drinks all round still rings true for the Googles and Apples of this world. 

So small businesses would be forgiven for assuming that wellness perks are out of their financial reach - even though that’s not the case.

In fact it’s arguably a savvy step to implement wellness programs in-house, since average levels of absence are at 3.4% annually, which is higher than at any point in the previous 10 years. So as well as getting the right applicants and retaining talented team members, you need to have health-oriented benefits in order to keep your workforce fighting fit.

Here are a few cost-conscious options to consider:

  • Launch an in-office fitness challenge with small rewards for milestones reached. The likes of Couch to 5k and Parkrun are perfect for measuring the metrics involved - and those that succeed could receive anything from branded swag to extra time off.

  • Negotiate corporate rates with local gyms to offer discounted memberships - perhaps setting up a reciprocal deal where you offer these establishments services in return for their partnership, as a way of saving cash.

  • Treat top performers to convenient, healthy food on a regular basis. For instance, you could offer Green Chef's weekly meal plans to team members who are looking to up their nutritional intake, and who also hit personal targets they’ve set for their professional responsibilities.

  • Implement a Cycle to Work scheme that assists employees in purchasing bicycles for commuting, promoting physical health and environmental responsibility - while also having tax benefits involved to lessen the burden.

  • Provide access to mental health resources, such as subscriptions to meditation apps or virtual counseling services, which often come at group discounts.

  • Offer standing desks or ergonomic office chairs through a cost-sharing initiative that helps employees invest in their workstation comfort.

Building a Culture of Work-Life Harmony


With people now accustomed to having more flexibility in terms of where and when they work, delivering a balance rather than enforcing rigid policies is one key thing that small businesses can do to set themselves apart.

Once again there’s hard evidence to support this as a salient strategy, with a survey from Randstad showing that 39% of professionals now see having the option to work remotely as being a bare minimum when weighing up job opportunities. 

In addition, 37% of respondents said that if they were required to dedicate more of their working week to office visits, they would think about handing in their notice.

This is clearly something that up and coming companies have to accommodate, so here are a few work-life benefits to table:

  • Introduce flexible working hours or remote work days to accommodate different life schedules.

  • Implement a 'compressed workweek' option, allowing employees to complete their standard hours in fewer days for longer weekends.

  • Establish a policy for paid time off (PTO) on birthdays or personal milestone events, emphasizing employee recognition and celebration.

  • Create opportunities for occasional early releases on Fridays, giving staff a head start on the weekend and demonstrating respect for their personal time.

  • Offer a set number of "no questions asked" mental health days per year to emphasize the importance of psychological well-being.

Delivering Empowerment Through Education

A culture of continuous learning within a company has advantages for individuals, but more importantly can contribute to the continued growth of the organization as a whole. 

The annual Workplace Learning Report from LinkedIn provides a good backing for this - with the latest iteration showing that 90% of businesses have fears over their ability to retain team members, and most see personal development opportunities as the main tactic to prevent an exodus.

Small businesses can use this to their advantage by offering learning and development perks that require minimal expenditure, so you could:

  • Partner with online course providers to give employees access to professional development courses at reduced rates.

  • Host monthly "lunch and learn" sessions where team members share expertise or external speakers are invited, often for modest honorariums.

  • Set up a library of business-related books that employees can borrow from, incentivizing self-directed professional growth.

  • Offer to cover or subsidize certification exam fees for qualifications that enhance an employee's role and the company's service offering.

  • Create a mentorship program pairing seasoned employees with newer staff, fostering a knowledge-sharing culture where everyone can learn and teach.

  • Establish a set number of hours each month for employees to engage in self-directed learning during work hours, showing trust in their professional development choices.

Fostering Team Spirit Beyond the Office

The cohesion of a team can significantly influence job satisfaction and performance. A Gallup study found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%, while those with a best friend at work are significantly more likely to engage fully in their work - particularly now that more people are working remotely. 

And since there are many factors at play in influencing business objectives, having a sturdy team to support organization-wide goals is sensible.

Recognizing this, small businesses can create community-focused perks that build relationships without hefty investments, so why not:

  • Organize regular team volunteer days for local charities or environmental efforts, showing company values in action.

  • Host quarterly meals or picnics, allowing employees to bond over shared food and stories.

  • Sponsor team participation in local sports leagues or fun runs, promoting both health and camaraderie within the group.

  • Initiate a "bring your pet to work" day, enhancing the workplace atmosphere with moments of joy and relaxation.

  • Implement an "employee of the month" recognition program which highlights individual contributions and fosters a culture of appreciation.

  • Set up a company bulletin board - physical or digital - for employees to share personal milestones, celebrations, and classified ads, encouraging a sense of community.

Key Takeaways

As we’ve hopefully shown, the pursuit of top talent by small businesses need not be held back by budget concerns. Instead, with an inventive approach to employee perks, a small business can lay out an attractive spread that competes with larger entities, offering a unique and compelling work environment.

Focus on the following:

  • Health is wealth: Affordable wellness programs can lead to healthier employees and reduced long-term costs.

  • Time as currency: Flexible schedules and PTO demonstrate respect for work-life balance, drawing in professionals seeking more autonomy over their hours.

  • Invest in growth: Educational opportunities suggest a career trajectory within your company that values upskilling and self-improvement.

  • Community counts: Fostering strong team bonds transcends the workplace and can increase overall job engagement.

Implementing these affordable yet valuable perks means any small businesses can create an enriching culture that attracts diligent workers who are looking not just for a job, but for a place where they feel valued and invested in.

Editorial Team
This article was written by Editorial a Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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