In a nutshell: No, your small business can’t match Google or Netflix for employee perks. But there are creative ways to provide inexpensive benefits that will boost productivity, increase loyalty and appeal to jobseekers.

Work perks have become more important in recent years, thanks in part to some of the amazing benefits offered by tech companies.

For example, Facebook offers free housing to interns, as well as shuttle service to and from work, and a $1,000 monthly stipend. Netflix offers one paid year of maternity or paternity leave. Salesforce pays employees for six days of volunteer work each year. And Airbnb gives employees $2,000 a year to stay at any Airbnb listing around the world.

As a potential employee, that all sounds awesome. As a small business owner, it sounds daunting and too expensive. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for small business leaders to offer great benefits without breaking the bank.

Why Employee Perks Matter

About 57 percent of job seekers said in a Glassdoor survey that benefits and perks are some of the top items to consider before taking a job. And in another survey, almost four out of five said they’d prefer a benefit over a pay raise.

Most experts agree that perks improve employee morale, make a company more appealing to job candidates and lower the turnover rate. Engaged employees tend to be more productive, leading to increased sales and profits for their business, according to Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace” report. All of this makes the return on investment for offering perks very high for small businesses.

So what perks can a small business provide? Consider the following five ideas.

Dog-Friendly Workplace

You think finding a hotel that takes dogs is difficult? Try finding a workplace. This perk, offered by global online dating platform Zoosk, allows employees to bring their dog to work every day. That can save on costs if they previously hired someone to walk and feed the dog during the day. But more importantly, having their dog around can reduce an employee’s stress.

Paid Volunteer Days

Salesforce gives their employees six days a year to volunteer in the community and be paid for it. Genesys Premiere Edition (formerly called Angel), a cloud-based contact center software firm, now does the same, although the number of days may be less. It’s a great way to involve employees and the business itself in the community.

Working from Home

Allowing employees to work some days from home saves them money spent on transportation and the time spent getting ready for work and commuting. Offering even just a few days per month or quarter to work from home can improve employee satisfaction and productivity. In fact, a 2016 survey from employee engagement firm TINYpulse found that 91 percent of employees were more productive working remotely.

Free Food

Some of the tech giants famously provide staff food every day from a gourmet kitchen. That’s not going to happen at a small business. However, any lunchtime meal, even if only a few times a month, may be seen as a huge perk. Lunch is costly to buy at restaurants around the office or a burden to make in the morning before leaving for work. Having free food for lunch — or even a well-stocked pantry of snacks — can make work that much more enjoyable for employees.

Fitness Discounts

Small businesses don’t have the cash to have an office with a built-in gym, of course. But they do have the ability to partner with a local gym and offer employees discounts on memberships. Small businesses can also sponsor employee sports teams that play in community leagues.

All of these ideas are within the reach of most small businesses. They key is to do something. Doing nothing could result in valuable employees searching for another place to work.

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