5 Ways Small Businesses Can Match Big Company Perks

November 26, 2016, 3:00 PM UTC
Young adults are playing foosball at work
Coworkers are relaxing by playing foosball together in their startup office
Photograph by Eva Katalin Kondoros — Getty Images

Over the last decade, the arms race around company perks has escalated to an outlandish level. Some companies are becoming famous for offering employees freebies like branded bikes and on-site massage therapists; Facebook has an office barber and personal surveillance company Dropcam gives away vouchers for helicopter flights.

Even outside the mad world of technology, Fortune 500 companies frequently provide workers with generous expense accounts, on-site gyms, and tropical corporate retreats. In this kind of competitive recruiting environment, how can smaller businesses hope to attract top talent without compromising their bottom lines?

1. Wellness programs

Multinational corporations may occasionally boast in-office fitness complexes, but even the smallest startup can partner with a gym near the office to provide discounted memberships for staff. Many gyms actually seek out these partnerships, since they boost sales.

Smaller companies should also consider wellness benefit programs that reimburse employees for gym memberships and classes. Incentivizing healthy decisions pays off for individual workers as well as the company as a whole — it’s a small monthly commitment that makes a huge difference in employees’ lives.

Another inexpensive alternative to gym membership is organizing a recreational sports teams. Getting the office together regularly for some friendly competition around a game of kickball or flag football is a great way to strengthen team bonds and have some fun. Plus, they’re a good excuse for everyone to get beers afterwards.

2. Transportation perks

Many Bay Area based companies may have their own fleet of buses and electric cars, but any company can take advantage of the monthly commuter benefits that are available in cities with mass transit systems. Employers can offer tax-free transit fare programs such as WageWorks or Commuter Benefits Solutions, which have the added benefit of saving money on payroll taxes.

Gas gift cards are another cheap alternative to help those who commute by car. Offering them on a monthly basis can make a big difference for employees who spend time driving to work each week, especially on non-pay weeks.

3. Free food

The power of free food should never be underestimated. A number of companies have become well-known for their gourmet cafeterias, but even a simple lunch program can serve as a major perk and productivity booster. At Seamless Corporate Accounts, we give companies flexibility to offer either individual, group or catered meals to employees, on any schedule and for any budget.

A well-stocked fridge is another easy way to set your business apart. Heading to the office in the morning is just a little more exciting when employees know that a complementary selection of their favorite snacks are waiting. To keep costs down, try wholesalers like Costco, or even its online counterpart, Boxed.

4. Flexible hours

Some of the simplest, cheapest and most effective employee benefits are paid time off incentives. Sure, you may offer the standard two weeks of vacation, or even unlimited vacation, but how much time are employees really taking? It’s important to create a culture that encourages employees to unplug so that they can recharge and spend time with loved ones. Studies are definitive in showing that even a little time away from the office goes a long way.

We also know that telecommuting or allowing employees to work from home a couple of times a quarter can increase satisfaction, retention, and productivity. Offering these types of flexible perks demonstrates that you value the work-life balance of your team.

5. Off-site events

You don’t have to offer helicopter rides or diving with sharks to provide a healthy social outlet for employees. Relatively simple outings like concerts, sports games, or even trivia night at the local bar can bring the office together and create memorable team-building moments. A themed, catered dinner once a month, or a weekly happy hour are additional easy ways to bond as a team.

At the end of the day, your small company doesn’t need to match every crazy perk of the competition. After all, working at a smaller business is often its own reward for employees who get to stay close to the impact of their efforts and teams. But no matter the size of your operation, it always helps to show employees and prospective hires that you take company culture, and their well-being, seriously.

– Nick Worswick is the vice president of Seamless Corporate Accounts