Your employees have been working hard, and your business is improving dramatically. You want to show your team how much you appreciate their efforts and motivate them to continue the fight — but before you reach for the company coffers, you may want to know that compensation doesn’t have the effect on productivity and attitude that we always thought it did.
According to Harvard Business Review, the bonus system has been around since Ancient Rome, but it fails to inspire employees because it doesn’t come at an opportune time. Most companies wait to distribute monetary rewards until the year’s end, when higher performance (and higher profits) are obvious. However, employees usually don’t associate a year-end bonus with their year-round hard work, and any slight benefit to productivity disappears fast.
Additionally, though many experts have predicted the end of the recession, plenty of companies continue to struggle to come up with extra cash to compensate their employees. For those leaders looking to breathe refresh their tired workforce and reward them for their ceaseless toils, here are some suggestions for cash-free incentives any office will love.
Written and Published Recognition
Recognition and encouragement is the main purpose of bonuses, but leaders can do those for free by writing down precisely what an employee has done to merit them. Seeing their names and accomplishments in writing is something most people can’t get enough of. Supervisors can single out high-achieving employees with special notes of appreciation detailing their hard work and success. Hand-written notes offer a personal touch, but company-wide emails that spread an employee’s good works far and wide are equally inexpensive and perhaps more exciting.
More Power Over Schedules
There is a reason the national workday falls during prescribed hours of the day: Companies need their employees to be available for cooperation and coordination, and in the past, the only way to do that was in-person.
However, now that most business has moved online, plenty of workers can easily complete their tasks over the Web from any physical location. Realizing this, plenty of people are campaigning for more flexible work schedules. Because it doesn’t cost anything, employers can easily reward high-performing employees with this valuable gift.
If whole departments (or even the entire company) has shown dramatic progress of late, leaders can inspire their teams to do even better with a break from work to strengthen the bonds between coworkers, perfect communication throughout the company, and generally be inspired to be better workers. There are plenty of fun exercises that help business teams grow together, but one of the most effective is listening to a qualified speaker expound on corporate merits.
The friendlier a workspace is, the more employees will enjoy coming to work and trying their hardest to preserve it. Harmless office games — not to be confused with time-wasting activities or malicious pranks — can bring coworkers together in fun and laughter while encouraging them to give work their all. Here are some examples of entertaining games that keep an office happy and busy:
- Baby pictures. Ask employee bring in childhood pictures of themselves. Then, post them around the office, and have everyone vote on which picture belongs to whom.
- Best artist. Ask employees to bring in an example of their best artwork, be it painting, sculpture, photography, or something else. Hang and place everything as though the office were an art gallery.
- Home at work. Allow employees to make their personal workspaces more comfortable, as though they brought their homes to work for the day. Vote to decide the most creative homes.
Weekly Food Options
Food is one of the most underutilized incentives in the office. Forbes reports that one study of more than 1200 workers found that 60 percent of all employees feel more appreciated when their companies provide free food. Plus, food in the office allows teams to bond over shared meals. Leaders should consider making regular offers of sustenance to their employees; perhaps Friday can be pizza day, or Monday morning can have bagel breakfasts.
If a weekly meal still isn’t in the budget, leaders can still use food as a reward by inviting employees to bring their own special meals to work. Usually, employees are more than willing to share their most beloved recipes with their coworkers, and potluck lunches can provide even more comradery than takeout.