How to Offer Big Business Perks on a Small Business Budget

Free meals. Nap pods. On-site medical clinics. Exclusive resort.

Sound like a vacation spot? Nope, this is work.

With so many job choices available to today’s top talent, offering special perks gives your company a valuable edge. These perks can not only help you attract new candidates, they can also help you retain current ones. Little “extras” that add to employees’ work-life balance can even trump higher salary bids by competitors.

But when you own a small business, you don’t always have the budget to spend on the non-essentials.

Don’t sweat it!

You don’t have to have a high-octane income statement to offer employees perks that will win them over and keep them for the long haul.

You can compete with the benefits of the big dogs. Here’s how.

Fitness: What they offer

Everyone’s heard of the major athletic brand Nike. So naturally, a company that literally bleeds sportswear is going to create an atmosphere promoting exercise and fitness.

Nike’s corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, features a 2-mile running trail, putting greens, soccer fields, an indoor basketball court and weight rooms, with their man-made “Lake Nike” at the center.

Employees often get to test new athletic products on-site, and with access to on-campus showers and locker rooms to freshen up, they can easily turn working into working out.

Fitness: What you can offer

Most likely, you don’t have silhouettes of corporate-sponsored athletes to garner at your offices, or the funds to build an entire sports facility.

So what can you do?

Encourage a Fitbit competition among your employees. Offer discounts on the initial purchase to those who wish to participate, as well as fun, inexpensive (or cost-free) prizes for winning or meeting goals.

You can splurge on cash gift cards and extra PTO days for winners, or go simple with a non-Friday casual dress day.

Organize intramural sports teams for after work or encourage an informal lunchtime walk that any employee can choose to participate in, on any given day. Partnering with a local gym to offer employees company-exclusive membership discounts is another relatively inexpensive option.

Fun: What they offer

Google’s corporate campus is literally a tourist attraction.

In addition to on-site massages, cute artistic statues and employee-only sports fields, Google’s campus also features tennis courts, ping-pong tables, open recreation areas and yes, nap pods.

Don’t forget their bowling alley and volleyball court.

Fun: What you can offer

You probably don’t want to pay for a machine so your people can sleep on the job.

But what about adding some collaborative games to your employee break rooms? Jigsaw puzzle, search puzzle and crossword puzzle challenges between departments can encourage teamwork and friendly competition. You might even ask employees for recycled board games to be donated or brought in for a monthly gaming lunch or happy hour.

You can tie corporate recreation to charitable efforts by offering inexpensive arts and crafts supplies for employees to create cards or holiday ornaments for hospital patients.

And if you have the room and budget, adding one or a few recreation tables like pool or ping-pong is an easy-to-implement option.

Health care: What they offer


Employer-sponsored medical benefits
are a pretty standard offering these days, right?

Not at Microsoft. They turn a common benefit into an enviable perk.

Not only do they offer top-tier medical, dental and vision coverage, but their Redmond, Washington, campus’ Living Well Health Center boasts an on-site medical clinic and pharmacy.

There, employees have physical therapy, chiropractic and lab services available just a few steps away from their offices.

As if that weren’t enough, Microsoft employees also have access to a 24-hour health line and doctors who make house calls.

Health care: What you can offer

Aside from standard medical benefits, there are more than a few budget-savvy ways to promote the health of your people.

First of all, keep the Kleenex and hand sanitizer handy. Simple adds like this can keep colds from being spread around the office.

Partner with a local hospital or clinic to offer free on-site health screenings and flu shots. The initial cost of benefits like these can actually help stave off future productivity losses and higher treatment costs incurred by ill employees out on sick leave.

Additionally, have you thought of offering an employee assistance program?

Some companies enlist a service providing a network of mental health providers, dependent care specialists or additional wellness support hotlines for employee use. Having access to this kind of instant support is a major plus for busy parents and families.

Other inexpensive ideas include sending out regular email reminders offering healthy recipes, office ergonomic awareness or quick stretching routines that easily fit into a busy work day.

Food: What they offer

I hate free food. Said no employee ever.

Some companies like Facebook have picked up on that idea and run away with it.

Chefs at their Menlo Park, California, headquarters serve up free breakfast, lunch and dinner for employees. Every work day.

In total, the Facebook campus has 11 eateries, from taquerias to sweet shops to pizzerias. After 5:30 p.m., you can even order a margarita. And again, all of these options are available for free or at a discount to employees and their guests.

Food: What you can offer

You don’t need to have Wolfgang Puck on retainer to please your employees.

Pay a nominal yearly fee and stock up on bulk snack foods from large club providers, such as Sam’s or Costco. Buying in bulk offers you a discount. And filling containers in your office break rooms with free granola bars, nuts, pretzels or other healthy options is an inexpensive way to put a smile on your peoples’ faces.

Offer monthly “theme” lunch days around special events like the Super Bowl or the start of summer. You can serve a catered meal, or appropriate snacks, and ask employees to dress in accordance to the theme.

Around the holidays, present opportunities for office potlucks where everyone brings in a favorite family dish to share.

Other fresh ideas include organizing a department cook-off challenge. Or, make arrangements for a local food truck to park outside your building and offer free or discounted menu items occasionally.

Vacation and flextime: What they offer

To many, the most valuable perk is the gift of time.

The household products company S.C. Johnson truly sets the bar when it comes to flexible work hours.

In addition to summer hours, which means half-day Fridays for eligible full-time employees, and an office “holiday shut-down” at the end of the year, employees are able to spend 20 percent of their work week telecommuting.

The company even offers sabbaticals to employees who need extended job leave.

Most impressively of all, S.C. Johnson owns “Lighthouse Resort,” a lodge and 22-cabin location in Minocqua, Wisconsin, that they make available to employees and their families throughout the year.

Vacation and flextime: What you can offer

Don’t worry, you don’t have to call your real estate broker to start soliciting resorts for sale in your region.

Are many of your employees able to work remotely?

If so, consider offering greater flexibility on the number of weekly work hours that can be spent at home. This may be a benefit to your business as well.

One Stanford University study found that over a 9-month period, productivity actually increased by 13 percent for employees doing the same job at home versus in the office.

If your business doesn’t support a more flexible telecommuting option, and you can’t afford to offer additional PTO days, consider occasional half-day Fridays or extended lunch hours. This gives your people a little extra time to relieve stress by socializing or run personal errands during the work day.

Finally, celebrate the vacation time you do offer.

Encourage the sharing of photos throughout the office on central bulletin boards or set aside a few minutes at the beginning of Monday meetings to discuss leisure or family activities. Getting to relive the fun with your colleagues can foster tighter bonds and make the good feelings last longer.

Final thoughts

You don’t need to have a fat wallet or offer more perks than your competitors to win over top talent. Talk to your current employees and implement benefits that support their most important concerns, as well as your company’s culture. When you do so, you will attract the right people and keep office morale high.

Interested in additional ways to improve your retention strategy?

Download our guide, How to Develop a Top-notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business, to learn successful ways to increase productivity and align your people for sustained growth.