Many employers face a conundrum: rewarding staff for great performance without actually giving them a raise. In times of increasing costs for benefits and considerable economic instability, many thoughtful employers may fear losing their valuable staff to other companies. If you’d like to reward your employees but can’t afford to give them a raise, consider these ideas — whether you’re planning on giving a raise next year or think you’ll be strapped for cash for the foreseeable future.

Flexible or Alternative Scheduling

Many employees would love to have half-day Fridays or even three-day weekends and would be willing to work extra time during their workweek for such a perk. While it may not always be possible for small offices or some companies, it’s well worth considering as part of a positive shift in your corporate culture.

Flexible scheduling is ideal for employees who have children, personal engagements, or busy extracurricular schedules. Allowing them to more easily switch their hours is a great benefit that may well be worth the price of an annual raise, particularly if it keeps their work-life balance in harmony.

Relaxed Dress Code

Perhaps you already have instated casual Fridays and can see how well your employees enjoy these days. Most likely, you’ve also noticed that dressing comfortably doesn’t seem to alter your employees’ work. Why not consider instating a business casual dress code every day except, perhaps, meeting or conference days?  Employees that enjoy their office culture aren’t typically apt to begin looking for alternative employment. Moreover, many businesses are moving away from “formal business attire” dress codes, especially in less fussy fields.

Spring for Lunch or Coffee

While it might not be possible to give everyone a raise, consider providing a lunch for staff each month or coffees and sweet rolls on Fridays. Employees may well understand their employer’s financial straits; however, evidence of generosity and kindness from management can greatly improve office morale. Even potluck lunches can support a sense of community and a positive office culture.

Extra Personal Days

Paid time off is never a thing to scoff at!  Employees will definitely appreciate being able to take a day off, as long as they know they’ll remain in good standing with their supervisors and be paid as usual. When such days are scheduled, other staff is likely able to pick up the slack and everyone will feel good about it. After all, they know they’ll have a turn to play hooky from work too.

Theatre Passes, Game Tickets

Consider adding some fun to the calendar each month in the form of a lottery for game tickets or a local concert event. If these prove too expensive, consider a monthly drawing for other items like a bottle of wine or gift certificate for lunch. Small gestures demonstrate that employers are tuned in to their staff’s feelings. A small gesture, moreover, can make an employee feel really good about their workplace.

Many businesses find themselves unable to provide raises. However, being unable to offer money doesn’t negate the necessity to reward staff for their hard work. If money is an obstacle, strive to improve the office culture and tune in to your employee’s other desires. When you do, you’re likely to reach an effective compromise. And when everyone at work likes their job, everyone — and everything, including the bottom line — benefits.