A happy team leads to a good product, so keeping your employees positive should make the top of your to-do list. Below, 15 founders from Young Entrepreneur Council share the surprising perks your employees might really care about.

1. Lunch

john ramptonI never realized how much our employees loved and appreciated lunch until we skipped it for a week. It was a disaster! When you have lunch in the office people work harder, longer, and become better friends with everyone in the company.

– John Rampton, Hostt

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 2. Working from home

Justin BailleWe have employees located across the Greater Toronto Area and in California. Offering a part-time or full-time work from home option has allowed us to attract and retain amazingly talented staff. Working from home saves the employees time and money—two very coveted commodities.

– Justin Bailie, FR8nex.com

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 3. Time to pursue their own projects

Brian HonigmanGoogle famously publicized this practice, but I figured Google’s employees were uniquely nerdy. When you hear the word perk, it’s mostly associated with something outside of work. I didn’t seriously think people could get excited about more work; but I was wrong. Employees love the opportunity to explore their own interests while getting quality feedback. The best part is that it’s a perk for you, too.

– Brian Honigman, BrianHonigman.com

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4. Flexible business hours

Sharam Fouladgar-MercerAll of my team members have times they are more productive. Giving them the opportunity to set their working hours (within reason) has proven to be incredibly effective for productivity and happiness levels.

– Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, AirPR

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5. A bunch of little things

Joseph DiTomasoFlexible work hours, time to pursue their own projects, and the ability to work from home are all necessary “perks.” However, I have found that it is the little things that make the most difference: a fully stocked fridge, a comfortable couch (for the occasional afternoon nap), and catered lunch can make the difference between 50 percent and 110 percent productivity.

– Joseph DiTomaso, AllTheRooms

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6. A book club

Beck_BambergerEvery month, the team meets for morning lattes and shares their latest reads. You can read anything you want, as long as you provide a little book report, and we reimburse employees for any books they read and report on. It’s an enriching gathering that always sparks conversation and camaraderie.

Beck Bamberger, BAM Communications

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7. Peer awards

dave-nevogtSetting up a program for our team to recognize hard work, dedication, and cooperation in another employee has been more important to morale and motivation than other perks that I always thought were much more attractive. Knowing that your peers recognize the extra effort you put in can mean a lot more than free gym memberships, flex hours, etc.

– Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com

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8. Days off to volunteer

Brittany HodakWe offer all of our employees two paid days off per year to volunteer for a community organization or charity of their choice. It’s a great way to give our team members the opportunity to make a difference in the community. Our employees love this perk, and the fact that we don’t vet organizations—any kind of helping is pre-approved!

– Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

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9. Public recognition and a relaxed environment

Jyot SinghIt’s easy to forget to show appreciation for your team members, but recognizing their accomplishments (whether you list their talents on the website or recognize their achievements) will mean a lot to them. Employees also value having a relaxed work environment that encourages sharing. A team that shares personal interests is going to share knowledge and solutions.

– Jyot Singh, RTS Labs

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10. Paid lunch breaks

It might seem silly if you have folks who are paid hourly instead of on a salary basis, but be sure to pay for their lunch break. It makes them feel valued.

– Lane Campbell, Syntress SCDT

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 11. A new Macbook Pro

Alec McNayrSure, everyone gets a computer when you start a new job at an agency, right? But at McBeard, everyone receives a new Macbook Pro. Apple products have the cool factor that our (mostly) Millennial team loves, and they get to unbox it themselves. It surprises me how much they love that moment, but it’s worth every penny.

– Alec McNayr, McBeard Media

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 12. Summer fridays

Cassie PetreyA couple of years ago we started implementing “summer fridays” at our office. Essentially, that means letting staff take advantage of the nice weather and letting them leave the office anytime after 2 p.m. Work is usually slow at this time anyway, so it’s not detrimental to the services we provide. Employees loved this way more than I expected, and they now look forward to the tradition every summer.

– Cassie Petrey, Crowd Surf

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13. Knowledge about money management

David HassellEarlier this year I created three money management webinars for my employees. The feedback from the team was incredible. People started savings accounts, paid off debts, and improved their relationships with money. Sure we provide benefits and hold company retreats, but they were most appreciative of the information that allowed them to be the agents of their own financial wellbeing.

– David Hassell, 15Five

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14. Naps

Firas KittanehHere at Amerisleep, we actually encourage team members to take naps during break times. We care about sleep and good health, and research has shown that when you’re well-rested, your mood, productivity, and creativity benefit. Our employees love it, and the practice has truly improved all aspects of employee happiness and performance.

– Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep

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15. Sharing our space

Zach RobbinsMany of our team members are involved with or on the boards of local organizations, and we’ve found that they are really excited to be able to use our space to host meetings and events for their organizations. By making the space available to them, we’re able to learn about our employees’ personal interests and it provides us with a great way to engage with our community.

– Zach Robbins, Leadnomics

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What perks do you offer your employees to keep them happy and to create a positive company culture? Have any to add to the list? Share with us in the comments below or @bplans on Twitter!

Hear more about human resources and employee happiness with Peter and Jonathan on the thirteenth episode of The Bcast, Bplan’s official podcast (at 22:32):
Click here to subscribe to The Bcast on iTunes »

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