20 Low- or No-Cost Summer Perks Employees Love

Employees will love these budget-friendly summer morale boosters.

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Here's what you need to know:

  • Any summer-oriented celebration or benefit companies can provide is welcome by employees
  • Getting employees involved in planning for them ramps up the excitement even more
  • Consider giving staff members extra weekend time or break time
  • Institute a relaxed dress code or fun theme days
  • Plan a talent show or trivia night
  • Set up a scavenger hunt or arrange discounts with local retailers

Summer is nearly here and workers are ready to enjoy the sunshine and activities the season brings. Kids are out of school, families are planning road trips and vacations, and there’s a sense of fun in the air. As adults, we don’t get the summer off from school, but we never lose the summer mindset  — summertime is fun time.

Many business leaders jump on the summer fun bandwagon with perks and benefits for the season. Some are free, others can be provided at a minimal cost.

Any summer-oriented celebration or benefit companies can provide is welcome by employees. Getting employees involved in planning for them ramps up excitement for the season even more. Here are some low- to no-cost ways to brighten up your summer with employee perks.

1. Summer Fridays

In 2019, Gartner, Inc reported 55% of North American companies offer their staff some form of summer Friday perk. Whether it’s the whole day off or closing up shop at noon, most companies gave staff some extra weekend time between Memorial and Labor Day weekends. With businesses struggling to retain staff in 2022, that number is likely much higher.

2. Vitamin D breaks

Do you have a parking lot or outdoor area you can convert into lunch or break room space? A 20-minute burst of sunshine is a great vitamin D boost for employees.

Set up a cooler or even a grill if possible, and let employees soak in some warmth when they take their breaks. Bonus points if you provide sunblock or a bit of shade for those who want the fresh air but not the sunburn.

3. Lazy lunch day

Every once in a while surprise individuals, teams, or the entire crew with a lazy lunch day. Double or triple their half-hour lunch break and let them window shop, nap, or linger over their sandwiches.

4. Relaxed dress code

It’s hard to imagine dress codes any more relaxed than they were during the lockdowns and remote work. Now that employees are back on site, casual Fridays (or entire casual weeks) should be reinstated. You don’t want staff to show up in their pajamas but it’s great to ditch the suit or heels when the temperatures are soaring.

5. Theme days

Everyone loves Hawaiian shirt Fridays — they’re a fun way to create a relaxing vibe, but don’t stop there. Work with your team to create theme days on a weekly basis. Favorite sports teams or band t-shirt days are fun and great icebreakers for employees.

Pick a decade day — 70s, 80s, etc., mad hatter, or mismatched clothing days are fun. BBQ dad day, complete with socks, sandals and a cheesy apron can be a hoot. Think of all the fun your staff will have on the bus explaining why they’re dressed that way!

6. Tailgate parties

Can you turn your parking lot into a tailgate party after work? Ask employees to bring in their tailgate paraphernalia or supply your own lawn chairs and tables. You may be able to find a local food truck that can stop by, set up grills, or have catered food dropped off. Pipe in some music, add some beverages, and let staff let their hair down.

7. Bonus breaks

If you catch yourself staring out the window on a particularly sunny day, you can imagine your staff is doing the same. Bonus work breaks — 15 or 30 minutes for no reason at all — periodically are a fun way to tell staff to take a breath and stretch.

Some companies call for SEAR breaks — Stop Everything And Relax!

Some companies call for SEAR breaks — Stop Everything And Relax! Whether at their desk or out stretching their legs, a bonus break is a welcome surprise.

8. Floating summer holiday

Summer kicks off with Memorial Day in May and ends with Labor Day in September. Between those 3 months 4th of July is the only holiday, making summer one of the seasons we go the longest without a day off. If you can, give employees a floating holiday to use in the summer between June and August.

9. Work paws day

Not pausing work, creating a day when furry friends (or scaly ones) are welcome at work. Bring Your Pets to Work Day is gaining momentum in a lot of companies. You may not be able to handle 15 dogs and 11 cats in the building at once, but you can probably rotate who gets to bring their fur baby in and when.

Set up a roster for employees to choose the day they get to bring their pet to work. Set limits on how many fuzzy friends are allowed to visit at 1 time.

10. Shameless self-promotion day

Do your employees have a side hustle? Are they making candles and selling them online nights and weekends? Let staff promote their items in-house 1 day a month with an employee craft fair. You may even want to allow staff members to sell their goodies to customers.

11. Volunteer days

Your company may have a charitable organization it supports, or staff members may have 1 near and dear to them. Volunteer days off with pay are a great way to show staff you appreciate their extra efforts for the community. You may be able to arrange an all-staff event day, or allow workers to take days off when there’s an event of interest to them.

12. Movie nights

Employee movie nights are rising in popularity. Companies can rent projectors and set up outdoors or inside a large facility. Families bring recliners, sleeping bags, and even beanbags for a fun drive-in theater night experience.

Most companies that rent projectors also rent popcorn machines. Coolers with juice boxes for the kids and beverages for the adults round out a lazy summer evening.

13. Neighborly discounts

If you’re a restaurant, retailer, or your company is in a retail-heavy area, work with your neighbors to create discounts for employees. An employee ID from each of your companies can net 10% off the neighboring stores.

The discount could encourage staff to take a healthy walk at lunch and boosts traffic for your neighbors. Shopping locally can start right on your own street.

14. Scavenger hunts

Setting up a scavenger hunt takes a bit of organizing, but it can be a fun way to create a single event or a summer-long experience. Provide employees with a list of things they can find on-site or at home. A picture of themselves with the item is enough to earn points or the next clue.

Setting up a scavenger hunt can be a fun way to create a single event or a summer-long experience.

You can make an all-day hunt, or dole out clues every week throughout a month or the whole summer. Employees win small prizes for getting all (or most) of the items, and have a blast searching for them.

15. Family events

There’s probably a minor league team, bowling alley, or movie theater in your area that sells discounted group tickets. Consider buying a block of these and offering them to staff members and their families. These events underscore how valued your staff members are — as well as the families that support them.

16. Employee clubs

Summer is a great time to encourage staff to form clubs. Suggest book clubs, cooking clubs, hiking, or geocaching clubs, or anything else they can come up with. These get employees out of work mode to make connections with each other.

Ask staff to post things they’re interested in to see if others are also fans. Let them meet at work, after hours or during lunch/break times to talk about their interests, share insights or make recommendations.

17. Trivia nights

Many local bars sponsor trivia night events for the general public — you may be able to arrange one for your staff. Make sure it’s close enough to work that employees can get there with ease. You might even ask the trivia master to include questions about the company that employees may or may not know.

18. Workplace Olympics

From desk chair aisle races to rubber band darts, workplace Olympic events make for fun days and lasting memories. Be creative: spoon races with ice cubes or office binders are fun, fast events. Pin the logo on the company t-shirt is a quick way to get some dizzying fun.

Beer pong games (without the beer), paper airplane challenges, and blowing paper boats with a straw are fun games most everyone can play. Set up risers for individual game winners, along with silly ribbons to make Office Olympics official.

19. Karaoke night/talent show

From Letterman’s Stupid Human Tricks to America’s Got Talent, there’s probably a hidden skill your employees would love to showcase. At your facility or at a local bar, set up a talent show/karaoke night so staff members can shine. Set prizes for the silliest talent, the most surprising, and other categories to reward employees for participating.

20. Vacation shutdown

Some companies grow so weary of the annual competition for time off during the summer that they’ve remedied the situation by shutting down. Families vie for a week (or more) to get the kids on the road while they’re off school, but often they have to plan around work.

Some companies simply shut down for a week (or 2) in the summer so everyone can make family or individual vacation plans without having to compete for prime time off.

If you can’t shut down completely, consider splitting vacation shutdown time. Can you work with half staff for 2 separate weeks during the summer so staff members can have their choice of 1 of the weeks off? If you can, you may be able to avoid the chaos of scheduling vacation time off during the summer months.

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It doesn’t seem to matter how old we get or how long we’ve been in the workforce, summer is a state of mind. If you can, help employees enjoy the summer months with perks that add a bit of fun and boost morale.

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