Let me start off with a disclaimer: I'm not hating on free food. In fact, I love free food. And I know I'm not the only one who appreciates getting surprised with Dunkin' Donuts from the boss on a random Wednesday morning. However, if you're a manager and you're only relying on free food to motivate your employees, it starts to get a little stale (pun intended). The best workplace perks are personal -- designed to show employees you value their work, respect their time outside of work and look out for their well-being.
The following workplace perks go beyond the norm to provide employees convenience, flexibility and fun at the same time. It's also worth mentioning that the employers referenced below, who offer these perks, are mainstays on national and regional "best places to work" lists. The best part? These perks are at very little to no cost for employers.
15 little employee perks that go a long way
1. Flexible schedules: You may not be able to offer your employees the luxury of working remotely all the time or creating their own schedules, but perhaps you could offer a monthly "work from home" day or take a cue from World Wildlife Fund and give them every other Friday off. Employees will appreciate the show of trust and autonomy.
2. Concierge services: Both SC Johnson and USAA offer employees an on-site concierge to help them accomplish everyday errands at work, such as mailing packages, sending flowers, delivering groceries, getting oil changes and picking up prescriptions.
3. Free classes: Discovery Communications offers employees free classes designed to engage their creativity, while World Wildlife Fund offers employees complimentary lunchtime presentations from professional speakers related to conservation and the environment, and Quicken Loans -- boasting that "working here makes you smart" -- offers free educational seminars on finance and health.
4. Free booze: New Belgium Brewing employees are allowed to drink one shift beer (after clocking out) and take home one 12-pack per week. But it's not just beer companies offering free alcohol -- in fact, free alcohol seems to be a growing workplace trend.
5. Free massages: It's becoming more normal for companies to offer massages as a work perk. Justin.tv employees get to take advantage of free monthly massages, and USAA is also known to send masseuses to employees' desks for the occasional stress-relieving rubdown.
6. Discounts on event tickets and retailers: Bright Horizons employees enjoy savings on movie tickets and brand-name retailers, online stores, along with exclusive discounts for services and goods at such places as Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and Budget Rent a Car.
7. On-site child care: What parent wouldn't be grateful for free child care? Both Discovery Communications and Yum! Brands (owners of KFC and Taco Bell) are among the growing number of companies offering on-site child care.
8. On-site haircuts: Haircuts are one of the more unusual of Google's many employee perks, but other employers seem to be catching on to the trend as well: Worthington Industries employees get access to on-site barbershops.
9. Community service days: Sponsoring companywide volunteer days is a good way to boost employee morale and encourage team building at the same time. U.S. Bank, Gap and Intuit are just a few of the many companies that give employees paid time off to volunteer.
10. Nap rooms: The Huffington Post and Nationwide Planning Associates both have designated "nap rooms" where employees can get a midday refresher.
11. Free play: Whether it's a designated "playroom" for employees -- stocked with foosball tables and video games -- or holding a friendly after-hours bowling game (like SeatGeek does), encouraging play at work can boost productivity and strengthen team bonding.
12. Fitness discounts: It's getting to the point where companies that don't offer some sort of health club discount are in the minority. But these days, health and wellness perks come in all forms -- from on-site fitness facilities and yoga classes to company sponsored weight loss programs. Some companies -- such as Missouri American Water Company -- even go so far as to pay their employees to work out.
13. Employee referral bonuses: One of the best ways to reward great employees is also one of the best ways to get new employees. Just look at Ernst & Young, Deloitte and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, where employees get referral incentives such as iPads and big-screen TVs for referring new hires.
14. Hack-a-thons: Hack-a-thons, or hack days, have become a mainstay for companies of every size and across all industries -- from Google, Apple and Pinterest to online lending platform Enova, and even CareerBuilder. Not only do these events tap into workers' creativity and sense of accomplishment, they also tend to generate new business ideas.
15. Pet-friendly environments: A growing number of companies allow employees to bring their dogs to work, but tech company The Nerdery goes one step further and hosts "Puppy Fight Club" every Thursday (it's a lot nicer than it sounds).