In today’s economy, more and more businesses are looking for ways to do more with less. Unfortunately, many have begun trimming employee benefits. In some cases, reductions in benefits cannot be avoided if the company wishes to remain viable. However, for many businesses, cuts in employee benefits result from a lack of understanding of their true value.

Business publications regularly publish lists of the top companies in the U.S.  In addition to being the most successful, most of the companies that make this type of list also offer top-notch employee benefits.

Google’s employee benefits, for instance, are considered by many people to be extravagant. They include on-site medical care and fitness centers, transportation to and from work and company cafeterias that serve gourmet food of every description at no cost to the employees. Google is an industry leader and its employee perks are one reason for its success.

Your employees are among your business’ most valuable assets, and offering perks is a great way to ensure they stick around. They’re also a great recruitment tool.

Employees who receive great perks are more loyal and productive. They’re less prone to watch the clock and will typically go the extra mile for your business and your customers.

You may be thinking, “That’s great for Google, but free gourmet cafeterias aren’t exactly in the budget for my small business.”  They’re not in the budget for most businesses, but there are other, less expensive perks that can achieve the same goal of building employee morale and loyalty.

Aside from money, what is the one thing every employee wishes they had more of? The answer is time. For most of us, there never seem to be enough hours in the day. That’s especially true for busy working parents. Providing a few hours each week for your employees to take care of their personal business can lead to lower turnover, higher productivity and increased loyalty to your company.

Here are some ideas that won’t cost your business a dime.

You don’t like it when your employees watch the clock. They don’t like it when you do it either. Everyone experiences unforeseen events that require them to arrive at work a little late or leave a little early.  Remember that your employees also have personal lives, and life doesn’t just happen outside regular business hours.

Don’t make your employees feel guilty when they have to arrive at work a half hour or leave a hour early due to an emergency or scheduled event like a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment for themselves or a family member.

Don’t reprimand an employee for occasionally using his or her work computer for personal business, for instance to order flowers, check their personal bank balance, reserve theatre tickets or find a good auto repair shop online.

You might also consider offering flex schedules. This is a great way to accommodate the needs of parents who have to take their kids to school in the mornings or pick them up in the afternoons. Another idea might be letting employees work from home one day a week.

Be forewarned that some employees may try to take advantage of these types of perks, but most will appreciate your willingness to work with them as they juggle their hectic schedules.  The few employees who do try to game the system can be reined in or replaced. The vast majority, however, will likely prove to be even more loyal, productive and valuable to your business.