20 Low to No Cost Fringe Benefits that Engage and Retain

August 7, 2018
20 Low to No Cost Fringe Benefits that Engage and Retain

Offering benefits can be key to attract and retain talent in today’s tight labor market. But for small businesses, competing with the big players is tough. While on-site massages, fully stocked juice bars and nap pods may be off the table, there are a host of no-cost fringe benefits you can provide to boost employee engagement and retention.

The difference between benefits and work perks

While benefits are strictly defined under the IRS tax codes and include things like health care, paid leave and retirement plans, fringe benefits go beyond. They provide extras to employees that may be just as beneficial. Most adults spend almost 1/3 of their life at work: when employers provide the best working experience, including perks that show staff members they’re valued, the chances are higher you’ll engage and retain your workforce. Continue reading for 21 no-cost fringe benefits you can launch for your team.

Fringe benefits that won’t break the bank

Flex time

More employees are looking for flexible work schedules than ever before. Whether it’s late start times to get the kids off to school in the morning or avoid the morning rush, or shifting hours and days around, the chance to customize hours is a valuable perk you may be able to offer. Obviously, you’ll need coverage for some positions, but often giving employees a chance to work out schedules among themselves, then report to you how they can manage, can make everyone happy and provide a much-desired perk.

Remote work

Is there an opportunity for staffers to work remotely? A day (or more) working from home is a huge plus for staff members. If you can provide this benefit, you’ll likely see productivity rise, as well, as staffers strive to show they can be just as valuable off-site as on.

Casual work environment

So few businesses are button-down shirt and tie environments these days that dry cleaners bemoan the loss of revenue. A casual workplace puts employees at ease and lowers their work-related costs. If you can allow it – even only on Casual Friday – you’ll see employees participate and enjoy.

Bonus time

A little time off goes a long way with employees: a half-day off with pay during the holiday season can help staffers get their shopping done. A long lunch for employees who meet milestones shows you value their effort and commitment. Anything you can recognize to show you appreciate their work can translate into bonus time off. It costs nothing but a bit of lost productivity, but nets you employee loyalty in the end.

Condensed time

Can your staffers get their work done in a condensed fashion? For example, 4 ten hour days rather than 5 eight hour days? If you can allow it, that extra day off could be a huge perk for staffers.

Summer hours

For some businesses, summertime means clients are out of touch and vacationing with their families. If you can shift to a summer hours model, your employees will appreciate it. It could be starting a bit later during the week; opening late on Mondays or closing early on Fridays. Whatever you can provide that won’t hurt customer service or the bottom line will surely be a bit hit.

Birthday PTO

Once a year, let them sleep in. A birthday off is a great, inexpensive perk that says you care.

Bereavement PTO

For staffers who lose a loved one, consider providing a day of paid time off to attend memorial services. Your support of staffers in their time of need could easily translate into engagement and company loyalty.

Vendor relationships

Can you connect with local vendors to provide perks or discounts for your staffers? Everything from restaurants, other SMBs, daycare centers and more may offer discounts or freebies to your staff if you’re willing to ask. Many large restaurant chains offer “kids eat free” coupons or other offers you can pass on to staffers. Make some calls or, the next time you’re at your local business association meeting, float the idea and see what you can provide.


Got a closet full of tee-shirts and coffee mugs collecting dust? Employees love swag – and when they wear your shirt off hours, they’re advertising your brand. Everybody wins.

Theme days

What’s more fun than dressing up at work? Having fun at work is proven to reduce sick days and boost creativity and productivity by more than 10%. Theme days like a pajama day, western-wear, luau, superhero and more can generate a bit of humor that employees love. Be sure to encourage your team to share their team photos on social media to contribute to building your employer brand.


Volunteer time off is a perk employees really get behind. Offering a day off per year to work for a cause they support, or at a selection of opportunities you suggest, gives staffers a chance to feel good about themselves and your company. VTO is fast becoming a must-have for new hires in big business – and it’s something SMBs can afford inexpensively, as well.

Support their causes

Beyond VTO, consider a donation to an employee cause or allow staffers to promote something they believe in at the office. Coworkers may even find common ground with colleagues who share the same commitments. Supporting employee causes that mean most to your staff members shows you care about their work/life priorities.

Free food or snacks

While most companies provide free coffee or water, why not mix it up occasionally? A donut afternoon or ice cream surprise once in a while can generate a lot of positive buzz. You might even consider a healthy snack day – just to keep it in balance. Free food goes far.

Office parties

You probably spring for birthday cakes occasionally, but why not go further? Got a parking lot? Tailgate parties after work are a blast! Kickoff summer or football season with a tailgate that provides drinks, dogs and music: to keep costs down, make it a potluck where employees bring in their own tailgate specialties. Don’t stop the fun there – consider holiday cookie exchanges, egg hunts, or cultural appreciation day where employees bring in one of their culinary masterpieces. Any opportunity for an office party should not be ignored!

Fun time

Want to capitalize on the benefits of a fun at work vibe? Just finished a massive project? Survived another open enrollment? Or, you may be on the brink of a something big and you’re looking to get the troops together. Consider activities like scavenger hunts, annual Office Olympics (cubicle beach ball and rubber band challenges are a big hit), or create a fun team to come up with ideas you can implement to give them a bit of entertainment. Happy people work harder – if you can provide the fun, they’ll provide as well.

Communal spaces

If you have the real estate, consider creating a community space where employees can go to get away from their desks. These spaces not only provide an oasis, they can offer staffers a chance to meet and collaborate with people from other departments they don’t often get a chance to see. That opening of communication could lead to a better understanding and appreciation of what everyone does throughout the company.


Most employees are looking to grow and develop their careers. If you, or some of your more seasoned staffers, can mentor a new hire, you'll build an environment of cross-collaborationg and support. Whether it’s a structured mentoring program with scheduled meetings and updates, or a more casual “call me when you need an ear,” this freebie not only says we’re invested in you – we’re invested in your future.

Perks that have a net gain for employers

Commuter subsidies

Do your employees commute to work? You may be able to let employees set aside pre-tax dollars to offset their transportation costs. How does this benefit employers? When these funds are taken, they are given pre-tax, meaning that the employee and company pay a lesser amount of taxes on wages received. Even bike riders can receive a pre-tax benefit for commuting to work with a smaller carbon footprint.

Flexible spending accounts

Like transportation subsidies, flexible spending accounts allow employees to set aside specific amounts of their wages, pre-tax, for qualified expenses like healthcare and dependent care costs. They can include daycare for children or expenses to assist an elderly or infirm relative. Again, by setting aside these funds from employee wages before taxes are paid, both the staffer and business pay a reduced amount on taxable earnings.

Small and medium-sized businesses can provide perks and benefits that compete with the major players in their region and industry, if they take the time to be creative and listen to what really matters to their employees. Creating a fun committee or a perks committee to get the ball rolling is a sure way to let staffers know you want to make their work life the best it can be.

This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.

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