How to Reward Employees for Free

Discover free ways to reward your employees and show your appreciation, without breaking the bank.

Cam McIntyre

Why is it important to reward employees, free of charge?

Top of most staff wishlists of employee rewards is a pay rise but that’s not always possible no matter how much you appreciate your staff. Your employees are your most precious resource so it pays to keep them happy and loyal, so here are ten things any boss can try to show you care without spending money.

Time off

While this could have an economic impact this is a really great way to boost employee engagement without spending any money, and most studies show that decreasing work hours doesn't show a drop in productivity.

Closing early on a Friday if the team hits their targets is a great way to not only reward employees but also inspire employees to make the most of the day. Also, things like having the day off on your birthday or just letting people work around things outside of work (leave early occasionally to pick up their child etc.) without them having to make it up in other places are the kind of employee perks that small business owners can offer without breaking the bank. You'll probably also see a drop in sick days!

Working from home (flexible working)

Remote working is especially popular in a post covid world but it’s not the ideal set up for all staff. Some staff will prefer to be in the office or might need special attention such as one on one mentoring, and therefore would prefer not to work from home.

By asking or at least offering the choice, those who prefer the office environment don't feel like they have to ‘spoil it’ for everyone else and still offer the convenience for those who prefer the WFH option. Working from home can be a huge show of employee recognition because of the trust that it shows, as well as hugely boosting morale. Staff will be able to spend more time with family members, less time commuting and doing things like house cleaning in between meetings or over lunch really maximizes their time

Internal skills swap

This is a fun one to boost employee morale, get each team member to know each other, as well as potentially boost professional development. If any of your employees have a skill or hobby outside of work that others might like to learn, organizing a skillshare (and offering a conference room or break room stocked with tea, coffee, and healthy snacks) will allow them to flourish and learn new skills. These can be advertised in a company newsletter to maximize engagement and peer recognition.

Let them choose their own equipment

Giving employees the chance to have a say in the things that they use every day is an easier way to show them that you care about their working conditions and trust them to make the right decisions. You might even have to buy new chairs, desks, equipment, etc. so this is a way to get staff involved without spending any extra money!

You might be happy with everyone in the team working on a brand new MacBook but some in the team might prefer PC and there could even be some savings there. Other things like standing desks are becoming more popular which will not only tell your staff you care about their preferences but also their health.

Scavenger hunt

If your staff are local, set up a scavenger hunt, or better yet, see if anyone wants to volunteer. It’s a great team-building exercise and gets people out of the office. There may be some local businesses that would offer a group discount that you could incorporate into the activity.

Volunteer time

By letting your staff spend the odd day volunteering for a charity of their choice, you let them out of the office and it shows you care about them as well as helping your local community. This is also great for their professional development as they will learn new skills from these experiences.

Volunteering is also something that a lot of people would like to take part in but don't have the time outside of work so can be a very enriching, low-cost employee reward.

Employee of the month

An oldie but a goodie is the employee of the month recognition but even if the recognition alone isn’t enough, it’s always a nice value add to their CV. This one may not be applicable for all companies as small businesses may not have enough employees to circulate but it is a great reward to show the extra effort put in by your staff.

A handwritten note

A thank you email is always appreciated, especially when it’s written for a specific task but in a world that’s increasingly digital, a handwritten note only takes a few extra seconds but shows you really care. As employee rewards go, this is definitely one of the cheapest, but if enough care is put into it (i.e. not handing it off to a personal assistant!) then you'll earn bonus points from the employees view that they are valued in their work environment.

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