Low cost ways to improve employee engagement

By Georgina Rodgers
Smiling employees in a huddle engaging with each other



When it comes to attracting the best people to work for you, the salary alone might not cut it; employee perks can often make staff feel valued and their working life more fun, comfortable and productive. If you want to attract top talent from rival employers or compete with bigger employers, these staff perks can attract and retain the best people.


According to the recruitment company Glassdoor, 34 per cent of people report that the benefits are the most important consideration before they accept a job. So where do you start when it comes to thinking about low cost benefits?


What perks could you offer your employees?


Employees who are engaged understand the importance of doing a good job and feel valued in their contribution to the success of the business. All employers must offer a workplace pension scheme by law. Under the Pensions Act 2008, workplace pensions have become ‘opt-out’ rather than ‘opt-in’, which means eligible employees are automatically enrolled into the pension provided by the employer. By law, employers must also pay into their employees’ pension schemes.


When you are planning other benefits you wish to offer your staff, spend time thinking about what they would find most useful and the culture of the company. A start-up with younger employees are not likely to appreciate the same sort of perks as older employees who have families and other family commitments outside of work. There is no point having perks that no one takes advantage of, so tailor any benefits so they suit your workforce. If you have a diverse group of employees, think about different benefits that might appeal across the board.


There are a number of providers that offer straightforward workplace benefit plans that you, as an employer, can easily access for your staff. These include:

  • Perkbox: Employees can access discounts and freebies from hundreds of leading brands, so they can make savings in all areas of life, from food and drink and shopping, through to gym memberships and travel. This is for companies with five or more employees and costs from around £5 per employee, per month.
  • Untangl: They offer a single employee benefits plan for businesses with three or more employees, including life insurance, private medical insurance and health scans. The cost starts from around £70 per month, per employee.

What are the most attractive staff benefits?

  • Flexible working: Research shows that employees with a good work-life balance are happier, healthier and more productive. If you are a small business you may be in a position to consider this and offer your employees tailored work schedules. Examples could include working four working days across five days, so employees are able to pick children up from school or nurseries. Other options could include working from home on certain days, if appropriate for your business.
  • Exercise classes or discounted gym memberships: Employee health and wellbeing is a top business priority and can improve engagement and productivity, as well as reduce absence through sickness. Regular exercise plays a key part in staying fit and healthy and will improve both physical and mental health, helping people to work at their best. One option is to negotiate preferential rates with a local or national gym provider or to offer free or subsidised members as an employee benefit, through a salary sacrifice arrangement.
  • Health insurance: By offering health insurance to staff, they can beat NHS waiting lists, to treat different ailments, from back pain to toothache. Waiting several weeks for appointments results in losing work hours and productivity. Whilst this can be a large investment for employers, there are significant tax breaks available and this can be a wise investment because it shows a dedication to the well-being of the people who work for you.
  • Subsidised travel: In many big cities, there is a necessity to travel to and from work via public transport and this can really add up. Offering subsidised travel is a great money-saver and is treated favourably by the taxman. Other options for travel could include Cycle to Work schemes, which offer employees great savings on bikes and biking equipment and is a tax-free benefit.
  • Parental perks: As well as offering maternity and paternity leave, many parents will be attracted to companies that help them juggle work and family life. This could include government childcare vouchers, working from home every so often to go to nativity plays and sport days, or time off with short notice if their child is ill, for example.
  • Free food and drink: This is arguably one of the top ranking benefits for many employees. Whether it is just a kitchen stocked with tea, coffee and a fruit bowl or cooked breakfasts and lunches, free food and drinks can be a good way to provide energy when needed.
  • Social activities: Activities where staff meet outside the office, such as evenings out, sporting events and team-building events, can encourage staff to bond and have fun, making them feel happy to be part of an organisation. These types of events have been proven to boost morale, productivity and engagement.
  • Other benefits: There are many other low-cost, unconventional things smaller companies can offer to appeal to staff, to show them they really appreciate their employees. These innovative benefits could include days where meetings take place outside in the park, certain days for casual dressing, ‘bring your dog to work’ day or paid days for volunteering. Swinton Insurance offers their team an extra day’s holiday for Christmas shopping, Holiday Extras hires out a cinema once a year for employees and Brew Dog offers a week of paid puppy leave to help a new puppy settle at home.

Should you have a policy on employee perks?

In one word – yes! It is important to ensure full transparency about the company’s benefits and who is eligible. Schemes need to be designed to avoid discrimination risks, so all benefits are available to everyone regardless of their age, gender or any disability, for example. A policy, or details on the company’s internal communications system, can set out the criteria to be eligible and what schemes are in place and should be made available to all employees. This should be regularly updated and potential employees should also be made aware of what the company offers, during any recruitment drives.


Are there other ways to incentivise staff?


Perks will have a financial cost associated with them and will need to be budgeted for. Small businesses may not have the budget for the more expensive benefits but there are other ways to incentivise staff. These could be run on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis, where staff work towards a prize, such as an afternoon or day off, or even a meal voucher. These incentives can encourage healthy competition, boost performance and create a positive working environment.


Don’t forget, regardless of the employee benefits and incentives you may offer, motivation can be part of the culture. When a staff member goes the extra mile, giving them a surprise ‘duvet day’, or even a thank you note on their desk can go a long way to increasing morale.