With so much focus on customer experience, the conversation has gotten away from the people who make good experiences possible: employees.

A recent report from Udemy found that 60 percent of employees report feeling stressed either all or most of the time at work. That's bad news since workplace anxiety can contribute to negative outcomes like higher turnover and lower productivity -- not to mention all the ways stress leads to health problems.

Companies looking for happier customers should look at their employees first. Gallup found that engaged employees enjoy more positive communications with customers and make more sales because of it.

To keep top talent satisfied and productive, offer the following low-cost perks:

1. Free and Healthy Office Snacks

All free food is good food, right? Not exactly. Today's workers are more health-conscious than ever. With offices full of keto-advocates, vegetarians, and lovers of natural ingredients, companies can't slap a few boxes of pizza in the breakroom on Fridays and call it good. NatureBox Executive Chairman John Occhipinti noticed this trend in action at large companies like Google and Facebook, who started diversifying employee food options to cater to a wider range of palates. Rather than have an employee run to a big box store and make a series of educated guesses about their colleague's preferences, the company decided to start delivering unlimited office snacks for as little as $20 per employee.

Whether they're picked up or delivered, it makes sense to offer at least some healthy snack options so that team members can indulge in guilt-free munching to stay focused and fresh. And the impact could also extend to job satisfaction and retention: In a survey conducted by ZeroCater, 90 percent of employers said that meals help employees build stronger relationships with colleagues, and 88 percent of employees consider office snacks to be an important part of their work life.

2. Games and Prizes

The proverbial ping pong table of startup life is not the right game to boost employee satisfaction. Rather than drive everyone crazy with an arcade in the breakroom, offer employees the chance to win meaningful prizes by gamifying regular tasks.

Let employees cut loose with a little friendly competition. Increase camaraderie by creating teams made up of people from different departments. Who will win an extra day of PTO -- Debra from sales and John from accounting, or Jessica from marketing and Ryan from engineering?

3. Local Service Partnerships

No one likes to run errands. So, give employees a break by bringing the errands to the office.

Even if the company can't afford to install a gym on site, partnerships with local businesses help employees save time. Work with a local laundromat to set up drop-offs and pick-ups at the office. Find a local daycare and work out a group rate. Arrange for a local theater to entertain staff for a sneak peek of a new movie. The more local connections the company creates, the more it will feel like home for employees.

4. Health Beyond Insurance

Employees love health insurance, but they don't love taking an entire afternoon to visit the doctor. Provide on-site healthcare options for employees and their families to help workers streamline their schedules and stay updated on shots.

Companies like Rite Aid offer flu shot programs for workplaces. When everyone gets vaccinated, employees stay protected and employers deal with fewer medical call-ins.

Get off the beaten path and provide other wellness options. Bring in massage therapists to help employees melt away stress. Invite a local studio to host a yoga class.

5. Employee Sports Team Sponsorship

People who play together stay together. Offer to sponsor employee teams in local softball, soccer, kickball, or other sports leagues. Most cities run leagues year-round. Many require some degree of gender inclusivity, so these options aren't limited to guys looking to relive the glory days.

Pay the team entry fee (usually a couple hundred dollars) and spring for t-shirts, too. For a small investment, employees will proudly wear company logos on and off the clock -- and grow closer together in the process.

6. Profit Sharing and Stock Options

Many brokerages help employers offer company stock to workers at a discount. Staying within the law can be tricky when it comes to stocks and trading, so choose an established company that can help navigate the ins and outs of things like blackout periods.

Even if the checks are small, show employees that the company appreciates their contributions by creating a profit-sharing plan. Research overwhelmingly demonstrates that employees are more satisfied and more productive when they get a cut. Gamify profit-sharing incentives by communicating throughout the year about the company's goals and offering different tiers of rewards based on company performance.

7. Eat Together

Do a monthly pot luck to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, awards etc. When people get to know each other around a table they start to understand each other and trust each other. There are so many upsides to this that I shouldn't need to explain. In my case, I get to splurge once a month because one of my team members make a killer banana pudding.  

Employees want to work hard and be happy at work. Make it easy on them by offering the perks, snacks, care, and incentives they need to succeed. The right blend of benefits helps companies keep top talent in place, recruit better candidates, increase productivity, and make the office a fun place to be.

Published on: Mar 20, 2019
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