Everyone loves perks. Talk to any employee at Google, and they’ll get excited talking about their free lunches — and that’s just the start. Dry cleaning, massages, gym memberships — all of these are benefits companies with cash to spend can offer. But, if you don’t have the funds to put towards these perks, here are some alternatives that can work to help build your culture.
1. Can’t pay for team lunches, try this:
Institutionalize a 15 minute break in the afternoon. Depending on your team’s personality, you could do different things during this break. For example, have a company wide afternoon stretch, coffee break, dance break (if you’re really fun!) or even some creative game like spinning a wheel to see who will win a gift certificate to a local cafe each day. The point is to try and create a space for your employees to interact with each other every day that is not in a meeting.
2. Can’t pay for an elaborate team offsite, try this:
There are a lot of things you can do to get the feeling of an offsite which cost almost nothing. For example, divide your staff up into teams and have them go on a scavenger hunt throughout your neighborhood or bring in a bunch of board games and have a “game afternoon.” You can also find a local organization for which you can all volunteer for the day.
3. Can’t pay for speakers, try this:
It’s very likely you can create learning lunches by just mining the knowledge of your own employees. There may be someone on your team who teaches mediation or someone who really understands personal finance. Once a month, you can invite your employees to share their expertise and the rest of the staff can bring in their lunch to create a “lunch and learn.” This also gives the speaker a nice place to show their colleagues a different side of themselves as well.
4. Can’t pay for company swag, try this:
Let your employees create their own swag and make an event out of it. Set aside a lunch, bring in fabric paints and some stencils of your logo and let people go to town. If you can cut it, buy the t-shirts, but if not, have everyone bring in their own (and that way they’ll know it fits!). This will no doubt be a fun activity and will certainly set your t-shirts apart from most company tee’s!
Some of the most team-building moments happen when a company doesn’t have much money. So, don’t feel bad that you can’t afford the perks of a big company — take pride in your scrappiness. If you have hired the right people, they’ll appreciate these homegrown culture builders. In the end, it’s all about creating a place where people feel appreciated and enjoy coming to work every day.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.