While the economy continues to recover, and e-commerce and SaaS companies grow at a rapid pace (e-commerce has seen 14.6% growth from 2014 to 2015), businesses are still looking for ways to make operations more efficient and reduce expenses.

The downside to this is that striving toward greater cost-effectiveness sometimes conflicts with the development of a company's culture, with greater emphasis on employee engagement and investing in top-notch new employees. Solely focusing on employees' productivity in a high-pressure environment can have some short-term benefits, but in the long run there might be more negative consequences for both yourself and your employees if you create a bare-bones, cutthroat environment within your company.

There's proof that positive work cultures with employee investment lead to more productive employees. Small investments in employees can have huge returns later on down the road. Engaged employees are 38% more likely to have above-average productivity, and even just a 10% increase in employee investment can increase your revenue by as much as $2,400 per employee, per year.

There are dozens of employee perks you can offer to keep employees engaged and motivated. Here are some simple, affordable ways you can invest in employee perks that will positively impact their performance and your bottom line.

1. Allow Remote Work

Unless you absolutely must have your employees working in the office, punching the clock, and reporting for duty, then one perk you could offer is allowing them to work remotely. Allowing for remote work tells employees you trust them, and it gives them the freedom to work at their own pace from wherever they feel most comfortable.

It costs you virtually nothing and makes life easier for employees, especially those with young children and scheduling issues.

"By allowing employees to work remotely, you can hire the best of the best while not limiting yourself by geographical restrictions," says Simon Slade, CEO and co-founder of Affilorama. "Nineteen of our 28 employees work remotely, and I have seen no difference in job satisfaction or work performance. If anything, my remote employees' production rate is higher because they are better equipped to avoid distractions."

2. Compensate Community Outreach

Employees of all ages want to be active in their local communities - some through outreach and community service programs, others through their church or programs they started themselves. A great, affordable way to give back to employees is by helping them make time for those activities and even compensating them for that time.

Southwest Airlines has a program similar to this, with their employees working to support Ronald McDonald House Charities.

3. Simple Concierge Services

Employees lead busy lives outside of the workplace, and anything you can do to make their lives a little easier is going to be appreciated. It costs very little to lighten their loads by making concierge services available to employees. This can include anything from picking up dry cleaning to getting car washes, grabbing grocery items, paying a bill, or dropping off paperwork. The less your employees stress about their personal lives, the more they can focus on their work.

"We'll have a large company and they'll say 'We want to give back to our employees - they're working 60-80 hours per week; what can you do for us?'" says Dustyn Shroff, COO of One Concierge in Boca Raton, Florida. "We're providing services to employees that don't have time to fulfill them...Basically whatever an individual doesn't have time to do themselves, we do it."

Taking a little bit of the load off their shoulders might be just what your employees need to focus and help you achieve consistent and sustainable growth.

4. Employee Discounts

If your company sells products, then give your employees a larger discount than they might expect. Many companies provide a standard 10-15% discount. Give them 50% or more. You could even go so far as to provide employees with free product, and/or extend a large discount to their families and friends.

You may be discounting more frequently this way, but it will also bring new business and happier employees.

5. Open a Tab for Employees

If you want a perk your employees will love, and it entails bonding time for more meaningful workplace connections, then open a tab at the local watering hole or restaurant. Set a policy so that if three or more employees are together, then drinks are on the tab. You can set whatever limitations you like on frequency, but it's best to leave it open for when your team members want to get together. This promotes socialization among team members and can foster a more casual environment in which your employees are more open with each other.

6. Hire Recommendation Incentives

Some companies offer sizable bonuses in the hundreds and even thousands of dollars for recommending a new hire who works out and stays with the company past a certain point. It's a great way to source talent. If you currently don't have the ability to offer large cash rewards, then consider other incentives like extra paid time off, vacation days, or a handful of "I don't feel like coming to work today" coupons. It will save you quite a bit of money, and it's a win-win because employees love having extra paid time off.

"When a growing company like ours looks for top talent who fit within our dynamic culture, it's important to use our most valued asset to help recruit: our employees," says Kate Pope, manager of talent acquisition at Achievers. "Job boards, sourcing tools, and job fairs can be a huge expense. We would much rather invest our dollars back into our employees by rewarding them for helping us find A-Players."

7. Give Rewards Points Away

Companies often accumulate a ton of points and miles with all the purchases put on the company's credit cards. A great perk that costs you virtually nothing is to turn those rewards over to employees as incentives for project completions and on-the-job performance. In tight financial times, employees appreciate the extra compensation with points, gift cards, and travel packages.

8. Buy Movie Tickets in Bulk

This is another great way to reward employees and get them to go out together as part of a team. Buy movie tickets in bulk and give them away to your teams as an added perk, with extras that allow them to bring family on some occasions. It'll keep everyone happy, and bulk quantities of tickets are usually offered at cheaper prices than retail.
What are some of the ways you're investing in your company's culture and employee engagement strategies? Share your tips with me in the comments below: