Budget-friendly benefits to boost happiness

budget-friendly benefits

Need to know:

  • Employers do not need to spend excessively in order to bolster employee happiness and engagement; flexible working arrangements, employee discounts and recognition schemes can all do this.
  • Employers should consider the wants and needs of their specific workforce demographics, to ensure that reward initiatives will be valued.
  • Implementing an employee wellbeing strategy can impact staff happiness, as well as aid employee health.

A compelling benefits package is essential for attracting and retaining talent; this is confirmed by research from recruitment website Totaljobs, published in August 2018, which found that 25% of employers feel that their ability to retain staff is aided by their office environment and its perks.

However, with organisations increasingly facing monetary limitations, they must strive to offer rewards that are budget-friendly, yet deliver results. The good news is that there are plenty of these benefits and approaches to be found.

A flexible approach

Adding a little flexibility can go a long way, advises Debra Corey, head of group reward at Reward Gateway. “Numerous studies on millennial workforces highlight their desire for greater flexibility, including where they work and the hours they work,” she says. “Flexible working motivates employees by demonstrating that the employer trusts them to take ownership of their work. [It can also] help staff better manage their work-life integration, improving their wellbeing and increasing employee engagement.”

Making money stretch

Providing discounts is another popular and budget-friendly benefit; this might include supermarket vouchers to help staff with their weekly shop, or discounted tickets to a range of events. While the employer pays for the administration of the scheme, the employees redeem the offers via their salaries.

“Helping employees’ disposable income go further is often the most valued benefit, and can be implemented at much lower cost than say, [an organisation-wide] pay rise,” adds Corey.

Simple touches

Sometimes, the simplest and least expensive perks generate the most positive reactions.

For example, Yousaf Sekander, owner at cosmetics organisation Procoal, bought a Tassimo coffee machine in September 2018 and buys cappuccino and latte pods for his eight members of staff, at a cost of around £25 a month.

Tom Bourlet, head of marketing at Procoal, says: “I’m so used to working in an office where [we] have to make do with disgusting instant coffee, and most people end up bringing in their own stuff, but we are all over the moon with our very own coffee machine.”

Performance marketing agency Journey Further has 28 employees and, unusually for a business of this size, also employs a full-time talent and wellbeing manager, responsible for developing engaging benefits initiatives. These include free weekly yoga sessions, at a cost of £40 per week to the organisation, and a book club learning initiative, which costs around £1,200 a year. Employees also benefit from flexi-time and unlimited holiday; this is all part of a strong culture designed to make staff happy.


Happy employees are, on average, 12% more productive than others, according to Happiness and productivity: understanding the happy-productive worker, published in October 2015 by the University of Warwick

Recognition plays a key role in this. Employers should, therefore, make the most of this budget-friendly opportunity to boost morale, notes Debbie Mitchell, organisational development consultant and author of 50 tops tools for employee engagement. “Managers can say thank you or send cards, buy doughnuts or fruit baskets, but the message must be personal, be clear who [it is] thanking, whether an individual or a team, and for what,” she says.

Allowing staff to nominate each other for non-financial rewards can be a hugely effective motivator, adds Jacqueline Benjamin, co-founder at employee benefits specialist Xexec.

“Some great examples that we have seen include things such as an extra hour in bed, a day off, or even being awarded use of a coveted parking space for a month,” she explains. “There may be a nominal cost associated with some of these, in terms of lost labour, for example; however, non-cash awards can be a very effective use of available resources.”

Wellbeing at work

Employee wellbeing is gaining momentum; research by Employee Benefits and Healthshield, published in September 2018, found that 33% of employers offer an integrated wellness strategy, incorporating physical, mental, emotional and financial wellbeing. A further third (32%) are planning on introducing a strategy of this type.

Both employers and their staff could benefit from a workplace wellbeing strategy. This might include healthy eating choices, activity groups and spaces to relax and reflect; all of these are cost-effective initiatives that promote wellness.

When structuring a wellbeing initiative, or any other strategy to boost happiness, it is important to think about the employees themselves. Corey says: “Flexible working isn’t going to work for employees in retail or hospitality, but help with their commute, such as a travel loan or cycle to work vouchers, might prove more useful. Employers must listen to their employees’ feedback.”

Whatever budget-friendly strategy they choose, organisations must ensure that it reflects their demographics and delivers what employees really want and need.