In Defense of Snacks: 5 Office Perks Every Small Business Needs (and Why) Erin Posey Happy employees make a happy company, which is why workplace perks—like the oft-referenced foosball tables and free lunch—aren’t as silly as they sound. Those perks and others are a seriously important factor when it comes to employee engagement and successful recruiting. In a recent study of workplace benefits, Guardian Life found that two-thirds of workers rate workplace benefits, including company perks, as “very important” when choosing whether or not to stay with their current employers. And Glassdoor’s Employment Confidence Survey released at the end of last year found that almost 80 percent of employees would rather have new or additional benefits than a raise; a whopping 90 percent of Millennial workers prefer perks to cash. That said, it’s not easy for someone running a 10-person company to compete with the likes of Twitter – with its on-site acupuncture and improv classes – or Google, which offers so many perks it’s impossible to list them all, but among them are never-ending snacks, free gourmet food, free on-site day care and massages. So how can you compete with these deep-pocketed giants? By being nimble and creative. That’s what separates small businesses from the big guns anyway. Your perks can reflect that as well. Here are some perks small businesses can offer employees that won’t break the bank. They will, however, let your people know you appreciate them and want them happy, healthy and engaged in the work at hand. Free Lunch We get it. Gourmet lunches in a subsidized cafeteria is not within the realm of possibilities for most small firms. But that doesn’t mean you can’t offer free food once or twice a month, depending on the size of your workforce. Quality, free food makes employees happy, and if it becomes a company-wide event, it’s also a chance to get your people to take a break from their desks to socialize in one place. Food can be a great way to unify your team and create a relaxed and supportive culture. Find a restaurant or two that everyone likes and work out a deal with them to cater. Let everyone know that on those days, lunch is on the company. Wellness Programs While your budget probably doesn’t allow you to provide an on-site fitness center for employees, even a very small business can provide simple wellness benefits for employees. Try to partner with a gym near the office to get discounted memberships for your staff, or partner with a yoga studio to offer an on-site yoga class a couple of days a month. If you don’t have the space to host in-house sessions, consider reimbursing employees for their gym memberships or one-off classes. It’s a relatively small expense for a perk that will incentivize your employees to stay healthy. Space for Downtime Provide a space for employees who may need a place to rest or wind down a little. A half hour power nap can make us feel far more awake and productive than if we just keep fighting sleep the whole day. It’s a healthy alternative to the usual remedy for mid-afternoon sleepiness– pounding coffee, energy drinks and candy. A well-known study done by NASA in 1995 found that a 26-minute nap improved performance by 34 percent and alertness by 54 percent. Also a nice perk is a space for relaxing that allows employees to play board games or do puzzles. Employees that play well together generally work well together too, and games like Scrabble or Scattergories have the added benefit of sharpening our minds. Flexible Hours Lucky for you, this perk is often much harder for big, entrenched companies to provide their employees. But for small, nimble companies, it’s extremely manageable. In fact, flex hours are one of the least expensive, most effective employee benefits. Giving workers choices about telecommuting or staggering hours encourages them to take time to recharge when they need it, and tacit permission to spend time with children or parents when that’s important. It also creates a corporate culture that clearly cares about work/life balance. A recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found that 91 percent of HR professionals agree that flexible work arrangements positively influence employee engagement, job satisfaction and retention. Get Out of The Office Several times during the year—maybe once a month, maybe quarterly—hold an off-site event for your employees. It could be a group skydive or something less dramatic—a day at a rock climbing gym, an outing to a baseball game, a concert or even a karaoke night at a local bar. Social events for your employees outside the office is essentially team building, and the more cohesive and happy your team is, the better it is for your business. Although these perks may seem like they’ll have a minimal impact on your company culture or recruiting efforts, you might be surprised by the results. With minimum effort, you can make your employees feel valued and make your company stand out to prospects.