Ever since our start-up days, even when there was very little money with which to get festive, my partner and I thought it was important to make the holidays special for our employees.  We just felt that it was worthwhile to take the time to appreciate the efforts our team had made throughout the year, not just as employees, but as human beings. We wanted them to know that we were not just concerned with their professional lives, but their lives in general.  Below are some easy ways to reward your team, even if your budget is small. 

1. Give employees extra paid days off around the holidays. Even if you can only afford to let them have one extra day that's paid, it will matter to them. It may mean one day to rest after their holiday preparations, or one more day to spend with their children, or even just the ability to travel less expensively by avoiding peak periods.  We give every staff member paid days off between Christmas and New Years off so they can disconnect from their jobs and reconnect with everything else. 

2. Throw an all-staff lunch.  It doesn't matter if you order from a nearby take out place, invite them to a swanky restaurant, or even throw a potluck. It will give employees a pause during which they can enjoy one another's company, get a free meal, and celebrate all the work they and their colleagues have done. One year, I just brought in a crockpot filled with a homemade soup, and fresh bread. It probably cost $30 to do, but my employees loved it even more than the restaurant we were able to take them to a few years later.   

3. Decorate the office.  It sounds silly, but just changing the decor can change the daily grind and give everyone a little pep in their step. We invested in a company tree and gave everyone money to pick an ornament that meant something to them the first time we put it up. Each year, all our staff members look forward to finding their ornaments in the box and adding them to the tree. 

4. Do a white elephant gift exchange. People like to get gifts but it's sometimes hard for staff to participate in Secret Santa exchanges--they don't always have the money to do so, might not feel capable of choosing well for a colleague, etc. We help our employees to get into the spirit of the season by giving them each $10 to purchase a funny gift that has to be suitable for anyone on staff. They all go in a pile, and everyone has the fun of opening something and trading until they get something they like.

5. Give each employee a gift card from the company. If you're short on funds, use the points you earn via credit card purchases throughout the year to get gift cards for your team. I send out a list to our employees each year with gift cards they can choose from (letting them choose is something that makes the gift really mean something to them)--and we give them out the first week of December so that employees can use them to fund their own holiday gift giving if they want. 

6. Make cookies. There is nothing like a little sugar cookie to get everyone in the spirit of the season. My partner and I started bringing in homemade sweets to share with our staff, and now the staff brings things they want to share as well.  It's a nice way to help staff get to know one another's cultures and traditions--and bring everyone closer together. 

Finding a reason and the time to celebrate with your staff is crucial to maintaining good morale, and ultimately to keeping your employees engaged. But the best reason to share the holiday spirit is simply to reflect gratitude and kindness with those who share our lives daily.