by Sarah Kotysch

The pandemic has impacted companies and employees in many ways. It will take the economy some time to recover, so for most companies generating revenue in times of crisis is a top priority. To achieve this, employees are going the extra mile, and channeling all their energy into moving the company forward. Many companies want to show their appreciation, but feel like salary increases are too difficult during times of financial uncertainty.

It’s possible to motivate employees and express appreciation with cost-effective measures. In this article, we share 10 ways to reward employees even on a small budget.

1. A budget for team events

Strong teamwork is crucial for company success. To strengthen team spirit and build trust between team members, organize regular motivating team events. Introducing a set budget for team activities is a great way to reward employees, but let the teams decide how they’ll use the budget. Don’t forget there are plenty of online options for those still working remotely. From virtual wine tastings to online cooking classes to online escape games – there’s something for everyone.

2. A new employee benefit

A new employee benefit is motivating, especially during difficult times. To find out what your team wants, send out a short company survey, preferably with specific suggestions from management. These could include corporate fitness membership, a budget to set up an ergonomic home office, flexible meal vouchers or a subsidy for public transportation. Make sure all employees have access to the new benefit, regardless of company location or whether they work from home. If done with care, employee benefits significantly increase the loyalty and motivation of the workforce. Plus, companies can use the tax-free benefit of 50€ per month to keep costs to a minimum.

3. Give away your own product or service

If money’s tight, offer employees your product or service as a reward. Most employees align with their company’s output, so would love to use the product or service for free. If some employees don’t have a use for it themselves, they can give it to friends and family or donate it to a good cause. The gesture will make the employee feel valued and motivated and your company will benefit from free publicity. 

4. A meal with the boss

Often, small gestures have a big impact. So invite every team member to lunch or dinner with their boss or manager. They can get to know each other, exchange ideas, ask questions and build a strong personal relationship. Employees can enjoy a good, free meal and feel like a valuable part of the company. The positive impact will go far beyond a pay-check and won’t cost companies much money.

5. A budget for professional development

You can also reward employees with opportunities for professional development without breaking the bank. Training, books or professional network memberships will help your employees progress in their careers. Set a budget for each employee, so they can choose training opportunities independently.

If there’s no budget available for further training, a personal mentoring program with experienced managers is a great alternative. Investing in the professional development of employees will strengthen and motivate the team as it proves they’re recognised and valued.

6. Additional vacation days 

Giving employees days off is a great budget-friendly reward. Replace a financial bonus with paid time off as a token of appreciation. This will increase employee loyalty, satisfaction and motivation and your team will return from vacation refreshed, invigorated and with improved productivity. It’s a win/win for employees and the company.

7. Time off for passion projects

Give employees regular time off for special projects as an alternative to additional vacation days. This can range from half an hour a day to two hours a week, depending on the type of project. For example, if your company offers corporate fitness, the time off can be assigned to team workouts or other fitness classes. Another option is time off for volunteer work. This makes employees feel they are contributing to society, which increases job satisfaction and mental health. In any case, time off for passion projects shows employees that management values them as individuals, not just as employees. 

8. A new job title for high performers

For many people, a career isn’t just about salary. Promotions and career advancement is hugely motivating and drives long-term success. So reward a strong performance with a new job title and, if applicable, new areas of responsibility. Involve the employee when choosing the new job title so they can customize it to match their individual focus. This creates stronger identification and higher loyalty and is an effective, low-cost reward.

9. A special event

The world was deprived of events for a long time thanks to contact restrictions, but now we can finally get together again. Company events are integral to a sense of loyalty and belonging within a workforce, and provide an opportunity to bond with colleagues and forget about home office dreariness. The good news is, corporate events can fit any budget. If there’s a budget, hire an event manager to organize a special event at an exciting location. If there’s no budget available, the event can take place in the company’s offices and employees can contribute towards a buffet. Whatever the budget, events create long-lasting memories, strengthen team cohesion and increase loyalty to the company and management.

10. Beautify the office

The work environment helps foster creativity and boosts our mood, so spruce up the office as a simple reward for employees. This doesn’t have to involve a major remodeling project – simple and inexpensive measures make a big difference. Researchers at Cardiff University’s School of Psychology found that office plants increase employee satisfaction by 15%. Ergonomic workstations increase work performance so consider buying new office chairs or standing desks to support and motivate employees.

However you decide to reward your team, remember to remain transparent. Communicate the reasons why you’re rewarding your team with the above ideas instead of with a raise. When employees know the context, they’ll understand the company’s actions and feel greater appreciation.

The ideal reward for employees: corporate fitness

Invest in your employees with corporate fitness membership from Urban Sports Club. With just one membership, your employees can take advantage of the most flexible and extensive range of sports activities in Germany. This way you’ll support their health and offer a great corporate benefit to retain your existing team and attract new talent. 

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