The holidays are fast approaching and no doubt you’re already drawing up your shopping list. Probably, it’s not just that hard-to-buy-for aunt that’s causing you some heachaches. Let’s face it, the magnitude of your appreciation for your employees and the size of your budget may not always line up.

So if money is tight but your team are a bunch of rock stars, how can you show them how much you value their hard work without splashing out on gifts or perks you can’t really afford?

Lucky for you some of the best gifts for employees not only don’t cost a dime, they are also highly likely to boost morale and productivity year round.

Permission to Be Themselves

Bringing only part of yourself to work, or covering up whole segments of your personality for the sake of “professionalism” is exhausting and leads to disengagement. A recent report from Deloitte found half of employees reported that the need to cover up who they truly are had  “somewhat” to “extremely” affected their sense of commitment to the organization. So why not give your team the simple but powerful gift of loosening up and signaling that there’s no conflict between working hard and having a bit of fun?

How can you signal that personality is welcome at work? If your employees aren’t in public-facing roles, you could opt for something along the lines of 'Pajama’ day or 'Dress like the 70s' day like the CEO of Beryl Companies. Too out there for you? Subtler signals that people can be themselves are also available. The founder of Method in San Francisco plays Eye of the Tiger in the elevator, or how about a simple casual dress day? Just switching your attitude to make it clear that you respect your employees’ quirks and complicated lives outside work can help.

The Gift of Impact

Meaningless work is demotivating work, while the flip is also true. Knowing the impact of what you do every day makes it so much easier to push through the low periods and summon that extra bit of inspiration. So why not give your team the gift of knowing how much their work matters?

When one software firm brought in an “internal customer” to thank the sales team for bringing in the revenue that paid his or her salary, the company saw a 20 percent improvement in revenue per shift. What you could arrange that would demonstrate to your team just how much their hard work impacts others?

A Nap

As if your personal experience wasn’t enough to convince you, HBR recently reported on the “mountain of evidence about the incidence and costs of sleeplessness.” Plenty of companies, including Google, Procter & Gamble and The Huffington Post, are taking heed of scientists and allowing employees to follow their natural rhythms and take a short snooze when their energy flags during the day. Give your team the gift of adequate sleep and bring in a pillow and sleeping bag from home and leave them on the office couch along with a sign pinned above that says ‘Go ahead.’


How about the gift of no commute? Giving your team the option to occasionally work from home will not only save them some of the emotional and financial costs of commuting, but is also likely to make them happier and more productive, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Sure, it takes a little thought to do it right, including setting expectations and getting the right tech tools in place and, but who wouldn’t appreciate fewer traffic jams in their life?