Benefits & Comp 15 min

101 Great Ideas for Employee Perks and Incentives

February 11, 2020

Employees love perks and incentives. Savvy employers love them too.

Employee perks and incentives can help attract and retain top talent. Glassdoor research shows 57 percent of job seekers say perks are highly influential when deciding whether to accept a job. That’s especially important in today’s tight job market.

Creative perks and incentives help employees see how organizations stand out from their competition. Prospective employees see that the company takes good care of its people, while current employees remain engaged and satisfied.

Employee perks and incentives say a lot about the personality and culture of an organization as well. Perks and incentives don’t create company culture, but they do reinforce it. The best ideas for your employee perks and incentives are the ones that will be a natural fit for your culture and the types of people within it.

What Are Employee Perks and Incentives?

Perks are non-cash extras that are offered to employees to increase their happiness and job satisfaction and enhance their quality of life. Incentives are rewards (sometimes including cash) that encourage or acknowledge great job performance by individuals or groups.

The line between employee perks and incentives can seem fuzzy because people often use the words interchangeably—after all, a perk can be something you have to earn, and something given freely can create the incentive to work harder. By those definitions, many items in our list could be either one. Don’t worry too much about which are perks and which are incentives; keep your eye on their shared objective, which is improving the employee experience.

Choosing the Right Employee Perks and Incentives

With so many options available, how do you choose the right ideas for your employee perks and incentives? It helps to follow these three steps:

  • Define the perk or incentive’s role or purpose
  • Consider the cost
  • Consider the impact on individual employees and your organization

Perks and incentives may include one-time events (say, having an artist give a group painting lesson), recurring events (Employee-of-the-Month celebrations), or continuous features (such as keeping a pantry stocked with yummy snacks). Having a mix of all three types and adding new ones from time to time will help keep your employee perks and incentives program appealing.

Some of the best ideas for employee perks and incentives will only appeal to a fraction of your employees—and that’s okay. It’s impossible to come up with a list of perks and incentives that every single employee will like. The idea is to offer a variety that includes something for everyone.

Our Top Employee Perk and Incentive Ideas

If you have already implemented some great ideas for employee perks and incentives, you’re well on your way. But if you’re just starting out, or if you’d like to add something new to your program, you’ve come to the right place. Here are 101 employee perk and incentive ideas:

Food

#1 Healthy Snacks- When the munchies strike your employees, make sure something tasty and good for them is always nearby.

#2 Monthly Catered Lunches- A great way to encourage employees to socialize while they enjoy a delicious meal.

#3 Chili Cookoff- Who makes the best chili in your company? Hold a friendly competition and let the rest of your staff vote for their favorites, with prizes for the winners. 

#4 Holiday Treats- Spread cheer throughout the year by leaving a little bag of holiday-themed candies on everyone’s desks at Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, and so on.

#5 Birthday Cake- Get the team together to honor the birthday person and share the traditional treat. 

#6 Potluck- You never know what people will bring to a potluck—and that’s half the fun! Employees will enjoy trying tasty new dishes and swapping recipes. A sure-fire way to break the ice when there are new faces at work.

#7 Barbecue- Sure, you could have it catered, but if you buy the meat and fixings, employees who are devoted grilling enthusiasts will likely welcome the chance to show off their skills by cooking up a company feast and sharing their home-made BBQ sauce. 

#8 Build Your Own Ice Cream Sundae- Set up a self-serve sundae bar with lots of flavors and toppings for a fun and mouthwatering event your employees will never forget.

#9 Team Restaurant Lunches- Some people need a nudge to get away from their desk at lunchtime. Let teams take monthly turns dining at a nearby restaurant of their choosing, while you foot the bill.

Fun Work Activities

Here are some great games that will energize coworkers day after day. All you need is a room where players won’t disturb their colleagues while they’re working.

#10 Foosball

#11 Golf Simulator

#12 Ping Pong

#13 Billiards

#14 Pinball

#15 Video Games

#16 Tabletop Games- If you think “tabletop games” only means Monopoly and chess, think again. There’s a whole new world of role-playing adventures, party games, and more that offers fun for everyone.

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Team Sports

Employees can form a team to join a local league or play pick-up games in a nearby park or sports facility. You can support them by encouraging attendance, or by paying for equipment, team T-shirts, membership fees, or postgame refreshments. What better way to grow team spirit?

# 17 Basketball

#18 Volleyball

#19 Baseball

#20 Soccer

#21 Football

#22 Bowling

#23 Horseshoes

#24 Cornhole

Socializing

#25 Group Breaks- Put a shared daily break time on your team or department calendar, and watch your employees find fun ways to spend it together and build camaraderie.

#26 Book Club- Reading is more fun when coworkers read the same books and get together to talk about them. Small groups may work best; it’s easier to find books everyone likes and give everyone a chance to participate in the discussion.

#27 Happy Hours- At the end of the week, give employees a chance to relax, unwind, and mingle over a drink at the end of the day. Include non-alcoholic options.

Most of the items in other categories of our list can also double as socializing opportunities. Anything that fosters interaction between individuals and teams helps build bridges.

Self-Improvement and Career

#28 Tuition Reimbursement- Encourage lifelong learning by making it more affordable. Even partial reimbursement will help.

#29 Lunch and Learns- Once a month, let employees bring their own lunch to a TED Talk-style event where an expert from inside or outside your organization talks about a subject they are passionate about.

#30 Lending Library- Support professional and personal development by stocking a workplace bookshelf with volumes on business knowledge, self-improvement, and other educational and interesting topics. How about including some e-readers?

#31 Mentors- The attention and guidance provided by a more experienced person can be invaluable to a fledgling employee.

#32 Cross-Training- Employees who are eager to explore different jobs and learn new skills will welcome opportunities to do this within their own workplace.

#33 Career Coaching Services- Help your workers envision and plan for their work future.

#34 Webinars- The internet is filled with informative and educational webinars conducted by industry experts, and many are free. (Including our own BambooHR webinars!) Set aside a regular time for employees to take advantage of them. 

#35 Paid Memberships to Professional Organizations- Help employees develop their career as they learn from and network with their peers.

Rewards

#36 Cash Bonuses- When it comes to great incentives, who doesn’t like money? Receiving a bonus for exceptional accomplishments is always appreciated.

#37 Recognition- Let employees feel the pride that comes from recognition by their peers and leaders. Whether it’s Employee-of-the-Month celebrations or an article in the company newsletter, use as many ways as possible to publicly acknowledge great work.

#38 Certificates of Achievement- Present a framed certificate to honor an employee’s outstanding accomplishment.

#39 Event Tickets- Treat them to a great concert, big game, or other special event.

#40 Team Travel Adventures- If your budget allows, reward a team for outstanding performance by taking everyone to a coveted travel spot, where they’ll strengthen friendships as they enjoy an extra vacation.

#41 Thank-You Cards or Notes- Employees appreciate the thoughtfulness behind a handwritten expression of appreciation from an executive or manager. 

#42 Shout-Outs- At the end of department or all-hands meetings, have a regular opportunity for anyone to give a shout-out to another employee to say thanks for doing something special. A morale-booster that doesn’t cost a cent!

Employee Perks Camping

Outings and Travel

#43 Paid Paid Vacation- A BambooHR employee favorite! In addition to paid time off, we give our people a stipend that pays their travel expenses for one trip each year.

#44 Unlimited Vacation- Employees are still responsible for getting their work done but have greater freedom to take time off when they can. A giant leap forward in work-life balance.

#45 Off-Site Meetings- Taking a team or entire company away from the office for a day can help them focus on big-picture issues like goal setting and problem solving. Add engaging team-building activities to maintain interest as they sharpen their skills and strengthen their bonds.

#46 Conferences- Help employees travel to industry conferences where they can broaden their knowledge and enjoy networking opportunities.

#47 Movie Night- Rent a theater for a private showing (or just buy a big block of tickets) so your employees will be among the first to see the latest blockbuster.

#48 Visits from Out-of-Town Employees- Periodically fly in distant employees so they can meet and bond with the people in your workplace.

#49 Cooking Class- Treat your foodies to a hands-on cooking lesson at a local cooking school. An experience they will eat up!

#50 Drawing or Painting Classes- Give your budding artists a fun hands-on experience taught by a local artist. Could be a single session or a weekly class. 

#51 Instant Vacations- Do your employees like spontaneous adventures? Invite them to pack their luggage and bring it to work, then hold a drawing for a free vacation that starts immediately!  

For more great outings, take your team or department to play for a day! They’ll love a fun break from their routine, and you’ll see them forge stronger bonds from their shared experience. Some of our favorite ideas:

#52 Zip Lining

#53 Go-Karting

#54 Swimming or Water Parks 

#55 Escape Rooms

#56 Ropes Courses

#57 Target Shooting or Archery Ranges

#58 Hiking

#59 Golfing

#60 Rafting

#61 Amusement Parks

Workplace Upgrades

#62 Diversity Program- If you don’t already have one, creating an effective diversity and inclusion program is not only the right thing to do, it’s good business. And a growing number of employees and prospective employees expect it.

#63 Convertible or Standing Desks- Studies say sitting all day isn’t good for employees’ health—so give them a way to stretch their legs while getting their work done.

#64 Flexible Scheduling- Employees value having greater freedom to set their own work hours, and giving it to them will help boost job satisfaction and retention. 

#65 Pet-Friendly Office- Employees with pets love to bring them to work. Consider welcoming occasional visits as long as the animals are well behaved and well controlled.

#66 Casual Work Attire- Relaxed dress standards can help work feel more pleasant. Even employees who take pride in dressing up for work will welcome the opportunity to wear their jeans on Fridays.

#67 Bike Sharing- Join your city’s bike sharing program or provide your own loaner bicycles for employees to use for running errands, traveling to appointments, or just plain fun. 

#68 Community Garden- If there’s a bit of available land near your workplace, let employees enjoy working together to raise fresh veggies or beautiful flowers.

Finances

#69 Student Loan Paydowns- Student loans are the second-largest category of consumer debt. Offering a fixed amount per year to help pay them off eases the burden while encouraging greater retention.

#70 Financial Education- Offer group money-management classes and one-on-one consultations with a personal finance expert to sharpen your employees’ abilities to live within their means and plan a secure financial future.

#71 Paid Maternity/Paternity Leave- Go beyond legal requirements for unpaid leave by giving new parents the financial ability to spend precious time with their newborn or adopted child.

#72 Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP)- An ESPP makes it easy for employees to buy shares of your company’s stock, often at an appealing discount. Employees who own a fraction of their company have a personal stake in its success that promotes greater engagement and performance. 

#73 Company-Sponsored Retirement Accounts- With pensions mostly a thing of the past, employees know they need to save for their retirement. Providing 401(k) accounts will help, especially if your budget enables you to match your workers’ contributions to some extent.

Employee Perks Ideas Hiking

Wellness

Exercise is essential for feeling our best. If your office has a little extra space and a place to shower, there are plenty of ways to help your employees stay fit. Here are just a few options:

#74 Fitness Equipment- Ellipticals, treadmills, spin bikes, weights—a variety of gear helps keep your exercisers motivated. 

#75 Instructor-Led Exercise Classes- Aerobics, stretching, yoga, and more. A professional instructor helps students do it right.

#76 Workout-Video Classes- Can’t afford an instructor? There are plenty of free videos online that can get your group moving.

#77 Fitness Center Passes or Discounts- Give employees the freedom to exercise when and where they want.

#78 Group Walks- Great for a quick, refreshing break from work and a chance to chat with colleagues while getting some fresh air. 

#79 Fitness Monitors- “Did I do my 10,000 steps today?” Employees love to track their progress (or compete with one another), and these handy devices make it simple.

#80 Smoking Cessation- Help smokers kick the habit by connecting them to classes, nicotine replacement therapy, support groups, etc.

#81 Meditation Room- Research shows meditation can help ease stress and promote physical and emotional health.

Personal Perks

#82 Company Swag- Corporate-branded merchandise such as T-shirts, ball caps, and water bottles is always a hit, and your options are only limited by your imagination. 

#83 Paid Time Off on Your Birthday- Let employees spend their very own personal holiday having fun!

#84 Public Transportation Passes or Discounts- Leave the driving to someone else and make your employees’ commute more affordable and less stressful.

#85 Streaming Music Subscription- Let employees listen to their favorites while they work, using ad-free services such as Apple Music or Spotify Premium.

#86 In-Office Massage- Even a short chair massage from a visiting masseur has an amazing ability to help employees feel wonderful and say goodbye to workday stress.

#87 Life Coaching- Provide encouragement and counseling to help employees set and achieve personal or professional goals.

#88 Child Care- Parents of young children will prize having a convenient and reliable place to care for their little ones while they work. If it’s not practical to set up an in-house daycare center, consider subsidizing employees’ child care expenses.

#89 Time Off to Attend a Child’s Events- Whether it’s Janie’s first soccer game or Jack’s performance as a daisy in the class play, help parents arrange their work commitments so they won’t miss these irreplaceable moments.

#90 Employee Discounts- Offering your employees low prices on your products and services is a great way to help them become loyal brand ambassadors.

#91 Sabbaticals- Provide prolonged time off for professional or personal opportunities that are especially meaningful to employees. Sabbaticals may be paid or unpaid. 

Time Savers

Many local businesses and professionals are happy to make their services available at your workplace. Whether or not you pay for these perks, employees will appreciate the convenience. 

#92 Dry Cleaning

#93 Manicures

#94 Haircuts

#95 Car Washing/Detailing

#96 Medical or Dental Clinics

#97 Tax Services

Giving Back

#98 Charity Walks and Runs- Support a worthy cause while helping employees get some fresh air and sunshine! Pay individual entry fees or sponsor your own company team.

#99 Volunteer Days- Let your workers pitch in on a one-day project under the direction of a charity partner. Whether it’s painting, pulling weeds, or a picnic for at-risk kids, your people will come away with a satisfying sense of accomplishment and unity.

#100 Mentoring School Kids- Work one-on-one with children at local schools to help them learn to read or catch up on other subjects.

#101 CPR Training/Certification- Give employees the peace of mind of knowing what to do if someone’s breathing or heartbeat suddenly stops. The Red Cross and other organizations frequently offer on-site classes.

Watch for Other Opportunities

As you can see, our employee perk and incentive ideas include options that can suit a wide variety of interests and circumstances for businesses large or small. But these ideas aren’t your only good options. Use your imagination, and look for unique opportunities in your area. For example, consider treating your employees to a beach party if you’re on the California coast, or a ski day if the Colorado Rockies are nearby.

Also, if you wonder whether employee perks and incentives will distract people from their work, relax. Responsible employees know they still need to get the job done, and they will. Perks and incentives help employees maintain peak performance by keeping them refreshed and engaged. More enjoyment for them, and greater productivity and retention for you—everyone wins!

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Making the Most of Your Ideas for Employee Perks and Incentives

No matter which employee perks and incentives are right for your organization, achieving excellent results with them may be simpler than you think. People like to be appreciated and rewarded, and that’s what employee perks and incentives are all about. Chances are your employees will respond enthusiastically to your efforts.

Remember, great ideas don’t have to break the bank. Even simple, inexpensive measures can be remarkably effective and memorable if they’re thoughtfully selected to suit your people and company culture.

And if you’re still not sure which employee perk and incentive ideas to choose, why not ask your employees themselves? They’ll love the opportunity to help make their great workplace even better.


Kent Peterson
Writer

I enjoy writing to help HR professionals learn more about their field, find answers to their questions, and discover practical solutions to the challenges they face every day. Here at BambooHR, I’m surrounded by talented HR experts who share their wisdom and insights to help me do that.