So many things in this world are about the almighty dollar, but job satisfaction doesn’t have to be one of them. Giving your employees raises may help their short-term happiness, but if you want those employees to stay on, you need to offer them incentives that they can’t get elsewhere. Anyone can hand out a raise, but not everyone can hone in on the things employees really want and deliver them.

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):
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Here are 10 ideas for incentives any company can afford, which will go a long way to keeping your employees motivated and your workforce productive.

1. Offer flexible hours

This is, by far, the extra that workers most clamor for, whether they have children, aging parents, or are simply night owls or morning people by nature. Flexible hours allow employees to work on their own schedule, within reason.

Employees should still attend meetings, but they can schedule around such commitments. The benefits of offering flexible work hours include less job turnover, because people are thankful to have a job where they set their schedule.

2. Dress-down days and weeks

If you regularly meet with clients, you may need to have a strict dress policy. However, for companies that have few client meetings and more behind-the-scenes work, offering employees the chance to show up in jeans and a T-shirt may be a bonus.

This will allow them to save money on buying office wear, meaning more of their salary ends up in their pocket.

3. Offer more bonus days off

When you can’t afford raises, offering extra days off may be the next best thing. In fact, some people even prefer more time off to getting more money. You can dole these out however you deem fit: Perhaps offer a company-wide day off after Thanksgiving, or let people redeem three free days throughout the year. Whatever your strategy, your employees will be grateful, and you will have more dedicated, fresher workers.

4. Give them some positive reinforcement

People like to be praised. They absolutely love it when it comes from the heart. Encourage people to offer up praise of their co-workers by putting a box in the office where people can leave anonymous accolades. Pass them on to the people being praised to raise morale.

5. Whip them into shape

Let’s face it, with our nation’s soaring obesity rate, anything you can do to encourage fitness and healthy eating choices at work should be well received. Here are a few ideas:

  • Start a lunchtime walking club
  • Hold your meetings in the office gym
  • Instead of donuts on Fridays, offer fresh fruit or a selection of homemade healthy muffins
  • Start an office weight-loss competition
  • Run a 5K together as a team

6. Encourage breaks

Studies have shown that you become more productive when you take small breaks throughout the day, rather than concentrating on one task until you burn yourself out.

Tell your employees to take a break two or three times each day for five to 10 minutes. Give them a lounge to enjoy on break or allow them to take out their smartphones to catch up on Facebook, and ask for their input on how you can make the breaks more enjoyable.

7. Say thank you

When was the last time you offered a word of thanks to your employees? If it’s been a while, give them some positive reinforcement. Everyone appreciates being praised, and they will like being singled out for recognition. Acknowledge them in a meeting, give them a certificate, or put their name on a plaque.

8. Provide some caffeine

The office coffee room could take a few cues from Google, where the employee perks are legendary. While you may not be able to afford gourmet food in the coffee room, you should be able to upgrade your coffee selection, buy a few fun creamers, and restock the long-empty tea stash.

9. Do something fun

Think outside the box. Ever consider letting people bring their pets to work? How about adding a game room to encourage people to come early and stay late? There are hundreds of ways you can engage your employees and make work a more fun place to be. You just have to be creative.

10. Start spirit days

Everyone has something in their life that they are passionate about. It could be a sports team, their children, or even the latest gaming craze. Whatever it is, it’s fun to share those passions. Feed them by encouraging employees to participate in spirit days. That might mean wearing their favorite sports team jersey to work, or it could mean bringing in games to swap with other gamers.

No matter what you decide, you’ll be building your team and learning more about one another, which will make your workplace that much more pleasant.

Have you come up with a creative—and cost effective—way of incentivizing your employees? Share it with us in the comments!

AvatarKayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a business blogger with a passion for green initiatives and workplace satisfaction. Follow her on her blog Productivity Theory to learn more about her.