32 Awesome Rewards You Can Offer Your Employees

Rewarding your employees for a job well done is an important part of employee engagement and morale. You don’t have to go all out and spend a ton of money, though. It’s more important to spend a minute showing your team members that you value the contributions they give to your company, every single day. You can start small—just make sure you do something.

Key takeaways:

  • Rewarding employees for a job well done is an important part of your role as a manager or leader.
  • Employee rewards and recognition are key to creating a great workplace culture and increasing employee engagement.
  • Rewards don’t have to be expensive or extravagant. Many times a small gift or thoughtful note can be just as impactful. 
  • If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on employee rewards, there are some small ways to get started, and even some that are free.

At SnackNation, employee engagement is something they think about everyday. While they might technically sell snacks, they’re really in the business of creating more engaged teams and more awesome offices. One of the things they’ve learned is that recognition is a crucial part of creating an engaged team.

Something as simple as rewarding individuals for a job well done creates a sense of belonging and boosts their self-esteem, and creates a strong emotional connection between the employee and the company.

But not all rewards are created equal. The more creative, unique, and personalized the reward, the greater the impact on both the individual and the culture.

So here’s a list of 32 great employee rewards you can offer—because you don’t need to spend a lot to make a big difference.

Table of contents

  • Why should management invest in employee rewards?
  • 32 employee rewards
  • Conclusion
  • Rewarding employees: FAQs

Why should management invest in employee rewards?

Employees want to feel valued, and they want to know that what they do every day is important to you and your business. Investing in employee rewards is a key way to show your appreciation for your team, helping to boost employee engagement and making for a better workplace atmosphere. 

Creating a culture where employees are recognized for their contributions is also a great way to attract and retain top talent. Workers want to be at a job that values and appreciates them, so rewarding your team actually gives you a competitive hiring advantage.

Benefits of rewarding employees

When your employees know they’ll be rewarded for doing a good job, they’ll be more motivated and productive. You’ll also build a better, more supportive workplace environment. That great culture you’ve built will help you retain staff and reduce turnover, which is high on every manager’s priority list. And when you have your team of valued employees all working together in such a great way, they’ll feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment at getting the job done every day. 

So how do you reap all the benefits of using employee rewards, especially when you don’t have a huge budget? Check out these great ideas that are an easy way to get started…

32 employee rewards that won’t break the bank

1. Handwritten note

It’s so simple, yet so effective. There’s just something about the personal touch of a note written in your own hand that really shows you care. Bust it out for birthdays, yearly anniversaries, or for significant performance milestones.

You can never underestimate the power of seeing a handwritten note arrive in your mailbox!

Cost: Practically free!

2. Charitable donation

The key here is to personalize it by choosing a cause close to the recipient’s heart. Get to know your employees, and align your donation with their passions.

Does your sales rep love dogs? Donate to a local no-kill animal shelter.

Is your head of operations nuts about the environment? Find a suitable environmental cause. 

You’ll demonstrate that you’ve been paying attention, and your employees will feel cared for and appreciated.    

Cost: Up to $35

3. The Five Minute Journal

This is a favorite of the team at SnackNation, where they really emphasize personal growth and development. The Five Minute Journal concept comes from the realm of positive psychology. The idea is to set aside just five minutes each day to help you focus on the good in life. It helps make affirmation and gratitude an automatic part of your day, and results in happier, more productive lives.

Cost: $29 

4. Lunch or dinner on the boss

This simple gesture is a great opportunity to learn more about what makes your employees tick. The more you get to know them as people, the more you can help them succeed.

Cost: up to $35

5. Car wash at work

We all know our most valuable commodity is the one we can never get back—our time. Help employees maximize their free time by giving them an on-demand car wash at work. Apps like Washos offer just such services.

Cost: $25-35

6. Thank you video

Think of this as a handwritten note on steroids. It’s a personal way to voice your appreciation. Get the whole team in on the action to show your employee how much their contributions matter.  

You don’t need to be a professional videographer to make a compelling thank you video. In fact, apps like iMovie for iOs or Powerdirector for Android enable you to shoot and edit the entire thing on your phone.

Cost: Free

7. Custom coffee mug

Sites like Vistaprint allow you to create custom mugs for about the same price as a trip to Starbucks. Treat your employee to a one-of-a-kind gift that he or she will appreciate for a lifetime.

Cost: $15

8. Custom phone case

Coffee mugs aren’t your style? Try creating a custom phone case.

Every phone needs a case. Why not reward team members with a case that lets them know you care.

Cost: $40

9. Mandatory day off

Reward stellar performers by forcing them to take a day off.

Why mandatory? Because, most likely, your star achievers are going to be the hardest ones to pry away from their work. To make sure that the day off is truly rejuvenating, institute a hard and fast rule—no email or phone check-ins.

Cost: Free

10. Monday Night Football party

At the risk of stating the obvious, Mondays aren’t always everyone’s favorite day. Give your team something to look forward to by throwing the most epic office Monday Night Football party they’ve ever experienced.

Once a year, when there’s a particularly good matchup, SnackNation projects the game on a massive screen, providing pizza, beer, and healthy snacks. They even hold a spirit contest during the day where they encourage employees to represent their favorite teams (of any sport). Winner gets bragging rights and a gift card.

Cost: around $35

11. Front row parking

Reserve a prime parking spot for the month’s top performer. To make it extra special, make a custom parking sign.

Cost: Free ($40 for custom sign)

12. Custom Fathead

Fatheads are sure to be a crowd favorite. Surprise your employee with an oversized custom wall hanging… of their face.

Cost: $29.99 – $34.99

13. Bring your dog to work day

If your office space can handle it, allow your employee to bring their doggos in for the day. Nothing elevates the office mood quite like man’s best friend.

Plus, office pets have been proven to reduce stress and help foster relationships between coworkers.

Cost: Free

14. One-on-one mentoring

More likely than not, your employees crave mentorship—they just might not know how to ask for it.

Make it easy for them by rewarding the org with a mentorship program. Find volunteers among leadership, and pair mentors and mentees based on their interests, goals, and desired career paths.

Cost: Free

15. S’well water bottle

Why do we like this? Because this is something your employees will use everyday. Every time they do, they’ll make an unconscious, positive association with their workplace.   

Besides, with their sleek design and eco-friendly impact, S’well bottles are just freaking sweet.

Cost: $35

16. Swap jobs for a day

Sometimes all you need is to switch things up to get your employees to think creatively and come up with new ideas. Allow them to choose a job they want to learn more about, and swap jobs with their colleagues.

Bonus—this practice will give your team a new appreciation for other departments, and give them a new perspective to take on the challenges within their own role.

Cost: Free

17. CEO for a day

This strategy works best at bigger companies, where the CEO can’t be 100% accessible.

Have the employee shadow the CEO… and weigh in on important decisions, especially ones that relate to the team. They’ll come away with a new, holistic perspective on the business, and feel like they have a say in some of the high-level decisions.

Cost: Free

18. Food trucks

Food at work always brings up the mood. That’s probably why it’s the second most requested perk in the office. Food trucks are a convenient, easy way to deliver gourmet food straight to your employees.

And since food trucks are always on the lookout for hungry lunchtime patrons, you can often negotiate a discounted rate or free item the first time a new truck visits your area.

Cost: Free

19. Casual dress

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.

Instituting a casual dress code signals to your employees that you care about their comfort and their ability to express themselves as individuals. Casual dress is also consistent with a results-oriented culture. Like unlimited vacation, it shows that you’re more interested in the work they produce than forcing your employees to conform to cultural norms.

In some industries, like law or finance, casual attire might not seem like an option. But increasingly, companies in these fields are choosing to adopt a flexible dress code, allowing employees to dress casually on most days, but requiring more formal attire for certain situations, like client meetings.

Bonus idea: at SnackNation, Friday is the day the dress code gets a little weird. They’ve had Aloha Fridays, Football Fridays, Flannel Fridays (when the weather permits), and most recently Flashback Fridays, when team members dress in ‘80s or ‘90s era apparel.

Cost: Free

20. Books

Legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson is famous for giving his players and coaching staff books as holiday gifts. They are thoughtfully considered, and tailored to the player.  

For instance: in 2010, he gave Spanish power forward (and deep thinker) Pau Gasol a copy of 2666, the posthumous masterpiece by Spanish writer Roberto Bolaño. More recently, he gave George Mumford’s The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance to the Knicks’ young 7-footer, Kristaps Porzingis.

This gesture supports a culture of perpetual growth and development, and will demonstrate an interest in the individual recipient that goes above and beyond.

If you’re not sure where to start, a great book to give is Mindset by Carol Dweck. 

Cost: $10-25

21. Laundry services via Washio

Just like car wash services, laundry apps like Washio give your employees some of their time back.

Besides, does anyone actually like doing laundry?

Cost: Up to $35

22. Micro-bonuses with Bonus.ly

Bonus.ly is an online platform that enables your employees to reward each other with micro-bonuses for a job well done. Companies like ZipRecruiter are already using Bonus.ly to create an environment of recognition.

Cost: Free – $5/user

23. Summer hours

A staple of East Coast offices in industries like tech, media, and fashion, many employees let their employees leave at 2 pm on Fridays during the summer—as long as they can wrap up their work, of course.

Employees appreciate the opportunity to start their weekends early and enjoy some extra time in the summer sun. Plus, the 2 pm light at the end of the tunnel motivates most employees to come in a bit earlier and maximize their time in the office. In fact, more often than not, your employees will be more productive with a shortened Friday schedule.

Cost: Free

24. UberEats gift card

Meal planning is difficult to maintain throughout the week, and if you don’t have an onsite restaurant or good food nearby, getting lunch can be a major hassle and interruption.

UberEats solves this problem by delivering great local food at Uber speed.

Cost: Up to $35

25. Swag

It’s Stuff We All Get. Business leaders tend to underestimate the allure of swag for their employees, and see it as mere marketing collateral, something you give away at a booth at a convention.

But more often than not, employees are dying for some company swag. They want to show off who they work for, and will gladly wear that t-shirt like a badge of honor.

Cost: Varies

26. Custom stickers

Create a sticker of the employee’s face and pass them out at the next team meeting. The possibilities are endless here.

Stickermule is a super simple and affordable service for making custom stickers.

Cost: Varies

27. Audible account

Unless you have an entirely remote workforce, I’m guessing your employees have a daily commute.

Make that commute a bit more productive by gifting your employee an Audible.com account. An Audible membership gives you access to their vast library of audio books, which contains fiction, business, and personal development titles.

Cost: $14.95/month

28. Nerf guns

Let’s face it, we all fall into a rut every now and again at work. Surprise your team with a cache of Nerf guns and inject some fun and unpredictability into the office. This old-school classic toy is sure to bust your team members out of any rut.

Cost: $10-25

29. The prize wheel

Create a wheel of prizes to reward employees for their performance.

SnackNation spins a prize wheel at their weekly all-hands meetings to reward people for things like referral hires and goal completion. Prizes include gift cards, movie tickets, coffees, and other niceties. It’s always a crowd favorite.

Cost: about $35

30. Offsite

Nothing breaks up routine like a day spent away from the office.

Offsites don’t have to be expensive. A day at the beach, with fun, low-cost team bonding activities like touch-football or tug of war can do wonders for morale.

Cost: Varies

31. Uber of Lyft credit card

Whether it’s for a night on the town, or an airport drop-off, we all need rides from time to time.

Give the gift of convenience with an Uber or Lyft credit card.

Cost: Up to $35

32. The wall of fame

Reward employees for exemplary contribution with a spot on a wall of fame. To make this truly special, limit the number of inductees, and create criteria (like minimum number of years worked at the company). The wall of fame should be something employees aspire to, so make it an exclusive honor.

Mimic your favorite sports arena by making mock-jerseys and hanging them from the rafters.

Cost: Varies


As you can see, there is no shortage of affordable rewards that let your team know that you care. These are just some ideas to get you started—there are so many more ways you can reward your employees for their hard work. The point is that it doesn’t have to be something expensive or outrageous. You just have to get started.

One of the easiest ways to show your employees that you care about them is to make scheduling, time tracking, and team communication easier with When I Work. Team members can choose their own shifts, swap and drop shifts when needed, and set their availability so they know you value their time. Try When I Work for FREE with a 14-day trial. Sign up for your free trial today!

Rewarding employees: FAQs

Why is it important to invest in employee rewards?

Investing in employee rewards helps boost employee morale, engagement, and motivation. It creates a positive work environment, increases job satisfaction, and fosters loyalty among employees. This, in turn, leads to improved productivity, lower turnover rates, and enhanced overall company performance.

Will employee rewards really help my workplace culture?

Absolutely. A culture of recognition and appreciation, fostered through rewards, contributes to a positive and supportive work environment. It promotes teamwork, collaboration, and a sense of camaraderie among employees, which, in turn, enhances overall company culture.

How do rewards affect employee performance?

Employee rewards serve as incentives for staff members to perform at higher levels. When employees know their hard work will be acknowledged and rewarded, they are more motivated to excel in their roles, leading to improved individual and team performance.

What impact does employee rewards have on retention?

Employee rewards play a significant role in retaining valuable talent. By recognizing and rewarding employees’ hard work and accomplishments, you can create an environment where employees are less likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. This reduces turnover rates and the associated costs of recruiting, onboarding, and training new employees.

How do I get started with employee rewards?

You can start small with some of the ideas in this list. Employee rewards don’t have to be expensive, you just need to do something. Put together a plan on how you might start rewarding or recognizing your team and try out a few different ideas.

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