45 Employee Incentive Ideas — That Won’t Break the Bank

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
June 12, 2024 at 7:28PM UTC

Your employees work hard. At the end of the day, they deserve some appreciation — whether it’s in the form of simple thank you note or huge monetary bonus. So, how do you make sure everyone feels valued and motivated? Here are 45 employee incentive ideas, from small tokens of gratitude to bigger awards for a job well done.

45 employee incentive ideas

1. Company swag 

Giving your employees tee-shirts, mugs, pens, hats and other merchandise with the company logo or branding builds team spirit and loyalty. Plus, your employees will demonstrate that they’re proud to work there, even when they’re away from the office.

2. Meditation, relaxation or yoga classes

After a stressful day (or in the middle of one), who couldn’t use a few minutes (or even longer) to unwind? Offer your employees classes to help them de-stress and learn techniques for practicing meditation, mindfulness, yoga or similar activities on their own. Bring in an expert to teach the class.

3. Matching donations

Reward your staff for donating to good causes buy matching their charitable contributions. Make the process of requesting a matching donation easy to encourage them to give.

4. Office snacks

Keep everyone’s energy up and make them happy (and well-fed) by providing a kitchen that’s always well-stocked with snacks. Make sure to offer plenty of healthy options such as fruit, popcorn and more. Ask for your employees’ preferences and give plenty of different choices.

5. Animals in the office

Encourage your employees to bring their pets to work on designated days, provided your office space allows it. Alternatively (or additionally), bring puppies into the office to give people a reason to smile. How doesn’t love playing with puppies, after all?

6. Parties

Holidays are a great time to rent out a space or bring treats and drinks into the office. Or, have a just-for-fun party for no particular reason! This helps boost morale and encourages people to get to know one another in a low-key setting.

7. Gym memberships

Reimbursing gym memberships helps promote a healthy lifestyle. You could also offer discounts to specific facilities near the office or reimburse certain classes.

8. Fitness equipment

Pay for some or all of equipment such as running shoes, weights, fitness trackers and more to encourage your team to stay active. 

9. Birthday celebrations

Everybody likes feeling special on her birthday, no matter how old she is. Celebrate employee birthdays with treats or activities in the office. Bonus points if you know your employees’ favorite cupcake flavors!

10. Company picnics

For a change of scenery, bring everyone out to a local park or other outdoor space and provide snacks and beverages. You can even hold work meetings during this time, or make it a work-free event.

11. Painting night

Ever done a sip and paint class? Bring it into the office and have a fun night of team building and bonding. You don’t have to be an artist to create something beautiful. Showcase the finished products in the office. 

12. Meal delivery

Services like Blue Apron can give your employees a much-needed break from having to think too hard about cooking. Offer gift cards or discounts to help everyone get a tasty, stress-free meal.

13. Book club

Discussing books is a great way to bring everyone together to share their thoughts and connect over different topics and issues. Choose a book that’s at least somewhat related to your company or industry or covers an important theme that matters to your employees. As an added bonus, give everyone their own copy of the book of the month.

14. Floating holidays and vacation days

Sometimes, people just need a little downtime, even if there’s no big holiday coming up. Random floating holidays, to be used whenever the employee chooses, can help her relax and recharge when she needs to the most.

15. Casual fridays

Let everyone let loose by dressing down once a week or at least once in a while. While you’ll probably want to impose some guidelines about what employees can wear to work, let people feel comfortable in their casual clothes. 

16. Half days

The occasional half day lets people relax. It can be helpful to schedule the time off in advance so everyone can figure out childcare arrangements and other concerns.

17. Museum memberships

Have a corporate membership with a local museum (or several) so your employees can visit for free. It’s a great way to get your employees to engage in their city’s culture and art landscape.

18. Wine tasting

Wine tasting (for 21+ employees) is a terrific bonding activity. Visit a local vineyard if there’s one nearby and accessible, or bring the event to your office!

19. Vacations

Give your employees trips to exotic locations for a job well done. Offer a range of locations and cover airfare, hotel, or both. 

20. Team lunches

Food is the perfect way to get everyone together and make them happy. Bring your team to a fancy restaurant to say thank you for their hard work.

21. Cooking demonstrations

For a tasty treat, bring a cooking class to your site. Aspiring chefs can learn how to make their favorite meals. Just make sure to accommodate people’s dietary needs and restrictions. 

22. Discounts

Partner with local businesses to offer your employees discounts to restaurants, bars, stores and other nearby venues. 

23. Audible subscription

This is an especially good one for employees who have a long commute. Being able to listen to audiobooks on their drive or train ride will keep them plenty entertained and make the time pass quickly.

24. Music lessons

Have any aspiring musicians in your midst? Offer music lessons on site, or pay for individual lessons and classes for your employees to learn something new.  

25. Trophies and badges

Everyone loves a physical symbol of recognition (there’s still a kid in all of us, after all). Give select employees trophies or badges for doing a particularly good job. It will also serve as an incentive for employees to work hard in the hope of earning the award.

26. Ride share or car service credits

Sometimes, it’s just nice to not have to worry about transportation once in a while. Give your employees the gift of transportation through services such as Lyft and Uber. This can be especially helpful for people who need to stay off of their feet due to factors like pregnancy complications.

27. Work-from-home days

Allowing your staff to work remotely on occasion can really boost morale. After a long conference or just because, why not give people a day or two to recuperate and work from the comfort of their own homes?

28. Karaoke

Let loose and belt it out! Even if your employees aren’t the world’s greatest singers, karaoke is perfect for team bonding. You might even discover some hidden talent. 

29. Gift cards

Gift cards to someone’s favorite store or a pre-loaded debit card are an ideal token of appreciation. Then the recipient can get what she really wants.

30. Massages

Nothing says relaxation like a long massage. Bring the massages to the office to give your employees an hour or two of pure bliss.

31. Thank-you notes

A handwritten note goes a long way in expressing your gratitude for someone, whether she picked up the slack for another worker or did a stellar job on a project. Say thank you! (Emails work, too, but a physical note is a nice touch. Plus, she can hold on to it.) 

32. Friendly competitions

Have challenges (work-related or otherwise) to boost morale. You might, for example, compete to raise money for a favorite charity or hold field day events. 

33. Concert and sporting event tickets

Offer tickets to a local game, concert or another event for free or at a discount.

34. Education

Paying for some or all of college tuition or courses encourages your employees to learn more skills and advance in their careers. It can help your organization as well since your employees will bring back what they learn to their jobs.

35. Mentoring programs

Mentors are an important part of professional development. Set up a mentoring program to pair senior employees with more junior staff members. Encourage people at all levels in their careers to take advantage of the program; it’s never too late to grow, after all.

36. Guest speakers

Bring in outside speakers to teach, discuss, demonstrate and share their wisdom on topics relevant to your organization and employees. For instance, you might bring in an author to discuss her book about career success.

37. Happy hours

Going back to basics...gather together your team for a drink to let everyone unwind after a long day at the office. 

38. Volunteer days

Encourage your employees to give back by offering a designated number of paid volunteer days. Bonus points if you suggest some great organizations that could use a hand.  

39. Lunches with the CEO or President

Show your employees that you want to get to know them and hear their ideas by holding occasional lunches with small groups. Offer pizza and other snacks and encourage everyone to participate by providing discussion prompts and asking for people’s opinions about different issues.

40. Service awards

After an employee has been with the company for a period of time, such as five or ten years, give her a small monetary award or offer a period of paid time off (PTO). This not only makes employees feel appreciated, but it also encourages loyalty.

41. Parking spaces

Your employees will love having designated parking spaces for a given amount of time as a thank you for a job well done.

42. Extra PTO

Time off is a precious commodity. Why not give exceptional employees a few days off here and there just because?

43. Household and cleaning services

Those seemingly insignificant but incredibly annoying tasks like laundry, cleaning, cooking, housekeeping and more can really add up and become overwhelming. Help your employees out by giving them discounts on or covering these services. 

44. Free breakfast

Bagels, donuts, pastries and coffee are sure to give people a boost as they’re starting a long day of work. Spontaneous breakfasts are especially fun.

45. Simple praise and recognition

Even a simple word of praise or a thank you can go a long way. Make your team members feel appreciated by offering recognition frequently.

Why it’s important to say “Thanks”

A gesture or token of appreciation, no matter how large or small, can really boost morale at your organization and make your employees feel motivated. Mix and match these ideas, or create some of your own, to reward your team for all the hard work they put into your organization every day. (One final tip: If you’re not sure what your employees would appreciate, you can always ask!)

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