6 Budget-Friendly Holiday Bonus Alternatives for Startups

A holiday bonus infographic created by recruiting agency Accounting Principles reports that 25% of surveyed human resources professionals have no plans to give employees a monetary bonus this year. However, that is not to say one should expect coal in their stocking either. The same infographic reveals that in lieu of a traditional bonus, 39% of companies surveyed prefer to offer other perks instead.

While everyone loves a cash bonus during the holidays, newly established startups may struggle to come up with financial incentives that rival their corporate counterparts. How can you show your appreciation or hang onto talented employees without a hefty check? Truth is, you really don’t need one to motivate your team — proven by McKinsey & Quarterly in a study on how noncash options like praise and leadership opportunities are actually more effective for retaining employees than money.

But it’s still the holiday season and time to spread good cheer. Even if your startup is on a shoestring budget during the holidays, there are plenty of simple ways to celebrate and reward your team for their hard work.

1. Put the money towards a festive holiday party

Christmas office party photo shoot
photo credit: Blake Danger Bentley / Flickr

Cash is fleeting, but jolly get-togethers are the gifts that keep on giving because they allow you to create lasting memories with your team. Treat everyone to dinner at a nice restaurant, enroll in a cooking class, or go see a live comedian. Even taking a holiday-themed wine and painting class offers up an inexpensive way for your team to bond with one another while indulging their creative streak.

2. Offer flexible scheduling options

I think we can all agree that everyone could use a clone this time of year. Between shopping, prepping to have family come visit, booking flights, and hitting the road for travel, it’s tough to keep work/life balance in check. By providing flex scheduling options, employees are trusted to get their work done and leave earlier/come in later as needed so they can take care of personal to-do lists. It’s a win-win for everyone — employees are motivated to work hard and thankful for schedule accommodations.

3. Send personalized handwritten thank you notes

You can never say thank you enough, but specific gratitude is golden. Write notes to everyone on your team thanking them for all of their hard work. Highlight moments where they went above and beyond expectations, stepped up to help a struggling coworker, took on a big project and made it their own, or came into work each day with a good attitude. Your team will hang onto these notes for a long time, and even display them with pride on their desks!

4. Give an experience

Ballet performance

Instead of a generic gift card to Starbucks or Target, why not give the gift of experience? Treat your team members to an outing that allows them to have a cultural experience. Tickets for a ballet, the botanical gardens, art museum, or even a bookstore are great options that inspire and reinvigorate the senses. These gifts give us permission to put life on pause and make time to take in the arts.

5. Engage with tangible presents — preferably workout-themed!

Most of your team members probably have “get active” as one of their New Year’s Resolutions. Why not get them a gift that motivates? Try to avoid anything that could alienate some employees since not every workout plan will be the same across the board. Neutral presents like a Fitbit, gym bag, or even a water bottle are always appreciated!

6. Host fun events in the office all throughout December

Make spirits merry and bright all month long in the office by hosting festive events for everyone to participate in! From potluck lunches to white elephant gift exchanges, team building gingerbread house activities and even scratch-off lottery tickets, there’s plenty of ways to get everyone involved and celebrating the exciting season all while staying within your budget.