When it comes to engaging, motivating, and keeping your employees happy, employee incentives are a great method to implement at your company. And no, we don’t mean bonuses and high pay (although that’s always appreciated.) Here are 30 affordable, creative employee incentives ideas you can start today.

Table of contents
  1. Why Are Employee Incentives Important?
  2. 28 Employee Incentives to Keep Employees Engaged, Motivated, and Happy
  3. Frequently Asked Questions About Employee Incentives
  4. The Bottom Line On Employee Incentives

Have you noticed that employee engagement is low?

And so is motivation, productivity, and even employee happiness?

For starters, you might want to look closer at your employee incentive program.

Rewarding your employees will help boost employee engagement and keep them motivated. Only by recognizing the need and following through can you recruit the best talent and keep employees happy.

Pay raises and promotions are not the only tools you can use as employee incentives – think out of the box to truly energize your staff.

Plus, employee incentives don’t need to be elaborate, pricey, or hard to implement; sometimes, the simplest gesture can go a long way.

Employers should know that employee incentives play a huge part in attracting and retaining top talent. Ensure that you create an employee incentive program that genuinely rewards the actual behaviors you want to incentivize.

Why Are Employee Incentives Important?

There are a few key reasons why employee incentives must be a part of your company’s culture, for example:

  • Increase productivity
  • Better employee engagement and morale
  • Retain employees
  • Attract top talent
  • Helps employees reach and exceed company goals
  • Encourage teamwork and collaboration

Employee incentives help build and foster employee morale, so make sure that your employees feel appreciated for their hard work. When you distribute employee incentives appropriately and regularly, you are helping not just your employees but also yourself and the bottom line.

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28 Employee Incentives to Keep Employees Engaged, Motivated, and Happy

Lunch Or Dinner With The Boss

Whether you’re a massive company or a small business, it can be hard to chat or have access to the person at the top. So setting up a lunch or dinner with the CEO can help increase loyalty and make the employee feel special and recognized. It even allows employees to pitch ideas to the person who makes all the decisions. Plus, it gives the CEO a chance to connect with employees they don’t regularly come in contact with.

Puppy Fun

Talk with a local shelter and have them bring puppies (or grown dogs) to the office so the staff can play with them. It’s not just fun, but it is proven to relieve stress! Additionally, if an employee adopts one of the puppies, gift them with a “starter kit” full of treats, a leash, some toys, etc.

If you’re looking for general tips on reducing employee stress, check out this guide!

dogs in the office as an employee incentive

Free Team Lunch

Who doesn’t love food? Yes, everyone has their own preference so let the teams choose where they will spend lunch. Rotate the departments, so everyone has a chance to enjoy this employee incentive. It’s an excellent perk for everyone, and it doesn’t have to be pizza. Try an office barbecue, a cooking class, or bring in a chef to cook for everyone on the spot.

Wine Tasting or Brewery Tour

Either send an entire department or use it as an employee incentive they can share with a family member or friend. If you’re taking the team, do it during work hours so employees can really enjoy themselves and don’t feel like they’re being forced to ‘have fun’ on their own time.

Work From Home

Sometimes a break from the office is just what the doctor ordered. And no one has to stress about getting ready in a hurry and beating morning traffic just to get to the office. Working in your PJs can be a blast.

Not to mention, it’s more environmentally friendly and can lead to more productive and happier employees.

And given how much COVID-19 has changed, working from home is kind of the norm these days.

In fact, a Stanford University study found that productivity increase among remote workers is equivalent to an extra day per person per week. And remote workers are, on average, less likely to burn out and in many ways more engageable than in-house workers.

If you’re interested in work from home as a solution, check out our free eBook filled with practical and easy-to-implement strategies to make the transition to remote work as smooth as possible.

Movie Tickets

As far as employee incentives go, this one is a no-brainer. Buy some movie ticket coupons and gift them to your staff just because or when they hit a goal. They can share the tickets with friends and family as they catch the year’s hottest film.

Netflix Subscription

Okay, so maybe nowadays, most people prefer to stay home and watch Netflix instead of heading to a movie theater. Add $50 to a Netflix gift card so your staff can binge-watch The Office for the 50th time.

This could also apply to YouTube TV, Hulu, and other streaming sites.

Instant Employee Recognition

If you’re using a digital tool, like Connecteam, it’s simple to share instant employee recognition. (After all, everything is basically digital these days, your employee recognition program can be too!)

Show recognition and send rewards to all of your employees in seconds – encouraging employees to work even harder. Public recognition is the best way to motivate team members and when combined with a reward incentive for employees, you’ll see a huge boost in productivity. 

Connecteam’s employee recognition program is shared on a social feed where coworkers can celebrate their birthdays, congratulate one another on work anniversaries, or post any other event worth celebrating. 

Using Connecteam’s employee recognition program you can create strong incentives for employees to supersede their goals. The incentives can be anything from monetary rewards to extravagant happy hours.

Staff incentives only go so far and that’s why it’s critical to create a positive work environment. Employees want to be recognized for their efforts, and when they receive positive feedback they will continue along that path, aiding in their professional development.

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On-Site Fitness Class

Bring in a fitness instructor in the morning to help everyone loosen up and get ready for the day. Helping your staff get warmed up properly will also go a long way in reducing workplace stress and work-related injuries.

Lazy Monday Start

One Monday a month, let all your employees come in later than usual. It can help them avoid the morning rush while keeping them happier as they get to sleep in.

A Certificate or Plaque

A simple employee incentive can go a long way. One incentive is to gift an employee with a special certificate or plaque. 

It can be a professional plaque for breaking a company record in sales, meeting a tough KPI, etc.

Or it can be a silly certificate like the best mustache, funniest employee, best coffee drinker, etc.

Company Swag

Tech accessories are a great employee incentive–from headphones to car phone chargers and anything in between. And you can personalize the accessories with the company logo and branding or even an employee’s own name.

Go Off Site

Get your employees out of the workplace to enjoy activities and games so they have an opportunity to get to know each other better, which builds a strong company culture. Choose activities that are accessible to everyone.

Bring Your Pet To Work

As we already mentioned, dogs help relieve stress, so why not let your employees bring their four-legged best friend to the office?! It’s fun, and your employees will appreciate the chance to bring along their best friend.

bring your pet to work benefits

Your employees can also bring their cats to work if they aren’t dog people. (GASP!)

Volunteer Together

Either let everyone sign up to various charities they can volunteer at or let the departments choose. It is a great way to get everyone out of the office and to give back to the community. Plus, it can help boost the community’s image of how they view the company.

VIP Parking

If possible, gift your employees a special parking spot for a week or even a month.

Handwritten Note

Sure, this seems old-fashioned, but it’s effective.

Show your employees you care by taking the time to write them a handwritten note. Thank them for all their hard work, congratulate them on achieving their goals, or even write them a personal note. Personal notes could be congratulating the employee on their engagement or purchase of a house. The note can be about whatever you want; it’s the thought that your employees will appreciate.

handwritten note as employee incentive

Breakfast Treat

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day so arrange for a morning filled with donuts, hot coffee, pancakes, egg sandwiches, and so on.

This will fill your employee’s bellies, so they have more energy to work hard for the day.


Dedicate an unused room for a special nap time where employees can sign up for a 20-minute slot. That’s probably one of the best employee incentives we’ve ever heard of!

Office Games

Get a ping pong table or foosball for your staff to enjoy. Employees can enjoy a quick game of ping pong or foosball whenever they need just a few minutes to unwind and burn off steam. Plus, it’s easy to move if you need to save space.

LinkedIn Recommendation

Write a glowing recommendation for your employees to reward them for a job well done.

Meal Delivery

Meal prep can be tedious and time-consuming so ease that task by setting up your employee with a meal delivery for a week. This way, their favorite meals can show up straight to the office when it’s lunchtime.

This became a huge employee incentive during the pandemic that many parents appreciated.

Custom Coffee Cup

There is no doubt that almost every one of your employees is a coffee drinker so why not get them a customized coffee cup or mug?

You can even add the company logo to it.

Traveling Trophy

Have a trophy of some kind that moves from employee to employee (whether it’s weekly or monthly) based on them doing something outstanding – like going above and beyond for a customer, landing a huge deal, etc. Coworkers can vote on the trophy winner every week or month.

Professional Growth and Development

Employee incentives are not just trivial gifts. Actually taking the time to invest in the growth of your employees will keep them around for the long haul.

And if you have younger employees, then know that  87% said that development is essential in their job.

You can create training courses, hold one-on-one classes, send employees to seminars, sign them up for online classes, and more.

Profit Sharing

Profit-sharing isn’t like offering a 401K. With a profit-sharing plan, your employees can receive contributions to their retirement account, like in cash or stock forms, and can even receive direct payments.

Profit shares are a great employee incentive as it helps to empower your staff as they are more invested in the company’s success.

Tuition Reinbursement

Did you know that 79% of employees reported that tuition assistance is a key factor when joining a company?

Incentivize your employees to learn by giving them the assistance to do so, whether it’s time off from work or tuition reimbursement. When encouraging continued education, you build a more well-rounded company culture that excels in everything they do.

Choose Your Own Project(s)

A great employee incentive is to allow your employees to choose what projects, or shifts, they want to work. This helps you build trust among your team and holds employees accountable.

Frequently Asked Questions About Employee Incentives

What Are Some Common Best Practices To Shape Employee Incentives?

There are a few things that you can do to build out your employee incentive program. For example, write it all out in your employee handbook in case anyone has any questions.

Additional tips include:

  • Make it inclusive and ask your employees what they prefer (and what they don’t)
  • Hang posters up, send emails, start a chat thread, etc. to share what the employee incentives are and what the program entails
  • Lead by example with senior management
  • Personalize your employee incentives

Should I Use A Digital Tool To Share Employee Incentives?

The world is going digital, especially when it comes to how businesses operate. (Plus, your employees are human after all, chances are they spend hours scrolling on their phone so why should how you incentivize them be any different?)

The Connecteam employee management app makes it easy to dish out employee incentives. How so?

  • Create a digital employee handbook with a specific section on employee incentives
  • Start a group or 1:1 chat to share updates and announcements
  • Send surveys or live polls to learn more about what your employees want
  • Use the virtual suggestion box so your employees can drop in ideas whenever the thought strikes them
  • Include GIFs, pictures, videos, audio notes, and more

Get started for free now!

Are Employee Incentives Expensive?

That all depends on the employee incentive itself. If you’re dishing out raises and bonuses, then yes, that will cost you.

However, many of the employee incentive ideas we shared above are more creative, so it shouldn’t be that costly.

The Bottom Line On Employee Incentives

Employee incentives offer powerful and affirming recognition, so be sure to foster this into your company’s culture. When it’s done effectively, you help build employee motivation and engagement because, in today’s society, employees desire to be a part of something bigger. And as we already said, employee incentives don’t need to burn a hole in your pocket; sometimes, a simple “thank you, nice work” can go a long way.

All these employee incentives can help you improve the morale of your employees. And not only that, but they can also translate into a gesture of gratitude and appreciation for them.

However, it is possible that depending on the time of year or the profile of the employee, you need other types of incentives, so in that case, we recommend you check these appreciation ideas where you can find various gifts categorized into 10 groups.

Don’t overlook the idea that some employees may consider gifts to reflect their value within the company. So if you have some staff members with low morale, maybe a small gift can make them feel valued again. Ultimately, it’s all about building a strong and united team.

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