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When it comes to employee benefits, most of us expect the standards: Paid vacation time, sick time, a retirement plan, and health insurance.

But what about house cleaning? Or travel stipends? Or spa services? At some companies, the employee perks sound like a list of options at a swanky resort, or the top prizes in a sweepstakes giveaway. While these benefits are undoubtedly expensive — the cost of an onsite childcare center can easily approach six figures when accounting for salaries and facilities — the result, in most cases, are happier, more engaged, and more productive employees.

Beyond Casual Friday

By now, we’ve all heard about some of the incredible benefits offered at Silicon Valley tech companies — tales of bowling alleys, star-studded corporate barbecues, and unlimited vacation time have become almost mythical in our imaginations — and left some wondering if anyone has any time left to get work done.

Clearly, they do, and it hasn’t stopped companies from offering benefits like these:

  • Unique Employee BenefitsJM Family Enterprises, a Florida-based automotive parts distributor, maintains a fleet of yachts for employee use.
  • California IT staffing company Akraya helps employees do their chores by sending a cleaning service to their homes every two weeks.
  • Multiple companies offer beauty and medi-spa treatments to employees; for example, one London ad agency allows employees to take a paid day off during the holidays to get haircuts, facials, and spray tans.
  • Some companies offer stipends to employees who take a week’s vacation or visit a particular destination.

Of course, there are usually requirements for employees who want to take advantage of these benefits, but they undoubtedly make employees happier — and more loyal to their employers.

What Can You Offer?

If you want to be competitive with those companies that have deeper pockets, and building a company spa or buying a yacht is out of the question? Don’t worry — you aren’t alone. Most small businesses can’t spend millions each year on employee benefits. However, you can offer similar benefits that will keep your workers happy and engaged without breaking the bank.

  1. Food. The fastest way to your employees’ hearts is through their stomachs, so try cooking up a culinary benefit. Schedule a monthly employee lunch, for example, where you provide pizza or sandwiches. Stock up on free healthy snacks in the break room to support employee wellness efforts, or coordinate with a nearby sandwich shop or café to offer discounts to your employees.
  2. Discounts. Speaking of discounts, everyone wants to save money. Identify places where employees might appreciate discounts, such as the aforementioned restaurants. Travel and entertainment discounts are always popular as well. Your company could purchase memberships to local museums or parks, for example, and allow employees to borrow a pass for a day of fun.

Don’t overlook your own business, either: Do employees receive a discount on your products or services? Be generous, as your employees can be your greatest marketing tool.

  1. Services. For many workers, juggling work and family responsibilities Employee Benefitscan be exhausting, and instead of spending time off recharging and relaxing, they are instead running around crossing things off the to-do list. Make your employees’ lives easier by pitching in to help with their other tasks.

For example, contract with a local dry cleaning company to handle employee laundry, with pickups and drop-offs at the office. Some companies even offer concierge services to help employees with arranging travel plans, buying event tickets, and more. Consider contracting with an outside company that employees can access to handle their needs.

  1. Computers. Many employees use their work computers for personal tasks because their home computers are inadequate — or they can’t afford to buy one. Leverage your company’s purchasing power to allow employees to purchase hardware and software through your IT department; some companies have even started offering low or no-interest loans to employees to allow them to purchase new computers.
  2. Health and Wellness. With the new push toward employee wellness spurred on by the Affordable Care Act, it’s your responsibility to help your employees stay healthy, both physically and mentally. Gym memberships have been popular employee benefits for a while, but there is even more you can do. Building a complete spa facility is most likely impractical, but inviting a massage therapist to work onsite a few times a month can help employees relax and unwind. Consider subsidizing the massage sessions, or arrange for a discounted rate that the employees can cover themselves. In addition to massage, acupressure and acupuncture, Reiki, reflexology, and even nail services are easy to arrange and conduct in an office environment.
  3. Time Off. What’s a better reward for working hard than some time away from work? Some companies offer time off for everyone during certain times of the year — the mythic “Summer Fridays” when everyone takes off at noon — but you can also offer time off to individuals without harming productivity. Try giving people a day off (half day off) on their birthdays, or allow a few days a year off for volunteer work.

Competitive benefits packages are important to employees, not only when it comes to comparing employment opportunities but as incentives to perform at their highest levels. Be creative in your offerings, and your employees will be happier and more productive — even if they can’t get Botox at work.

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