1. Money

With the economy like it is, I'm sure there are many entrepreneurs thinking that they just can't provide the traditional holiday bonuses to their employees. While few things can top an unexpected large check, that doesn't mean that the recession has to be entirely depressing. The following article by Smart Online CEO Dave Colburn offers some suggestions:

Top 10 Recession-Proof Holiday Bonus Ideas

With an inevitable recession brewing, the holidays may not provide the joy that many are accustomed to. A business's inability to provide holiday bonuses to employees may leave an already suffering family scrambling until New Years. Employers should find creative, cost-effective ways of providing joy to their employees.

  1. Paid Time Off - All families value extra time together during holidays. Employers should offer half-day schedules to employees during the holiday season. If employees offer to double their work load during their shift and receive a full day's pay, everyone wins.  
  2. Coupons - During a recession, every penny counts. Employers should search for discounts that will minimize the holiday bills. Coupons or savings cards are a great investment for anyone with an expensive shopping list. Discounted merchandise can not only guarantee enough gifts for everyone, but also a lower credit card bill. 
  3. Barter System - Remember the cashmere sweater from Christmas 06 that you hated? It may be perfect for your co-worker's wife. Companies could set aside time to create a Barter System program for employees. They can bring in new, unwanted items and swap with co-workers. The trade-off: saving money and gas by avoiding shopping trips to the mall.
  4. Gas -  Speaking of gas, employees would love an opportunity to save money on fuel. How about carpooling? Nothing says holiday spirit better than the boss making rounds to pick up his employees and ensure a safe trip to work. Carpooling may not seem like much, but the extra savings can guarantee a gift under the tree.  It's a great way to get to get to know everyone, too.
  5. Holiday Feast - With the rising cost of food, many families are hoping to find alternatives to cooking throughout the season. Employers can have holiday meals catered and prepared for the company. The cost of a holiday meal is much cheaper than a typical bonus.
  6. Partnerships - Search through your Rolodex and you're guaranteed to find a business contact that could provide a service to your employees. A simple tune-up or dry cleaning bill could make or break someone on a budget. One phone call could complete a task that an employee has been putting off for months.
  7. Take Advantage of Your Company - Some employees could really use some pampering. Take the opportunity to seek out group rates for services such as spas and gyms. If you can recruit your entire company, you can lock in savings on services that can be used for the entire year.
  8. Give the Basics - In these times, nothing is more satisfying than the bare necessities. Employers could create gift baskets with personal essentials that every employee needs. Who would turn down lotion and tissue in a time like this? And by buying in bulk, you could save hundreds of dollars.
  9. Pay a Bill - The best holiday gift is to start the New Year with a clean slate.  Offer to pay a bill for each employee. This could be pretty successful as long as employees are reasonable. (Mortgages are excluded!)
  10. Play Santa - You can keep your employees satisfied by giving them their heart's desire. Spark up a conversation and ask every employee what they would like to receive as a gift. Most people will usually say something simple during a casual conversation. If your budget permits, buy it! You have proved that the guy in the corner office really does have a heart.

For more ideas on coping with the recession, including personal finance, investing and your business, check out About.com's new content hub, Best Moves in a Bad Economy. Here's a sampler:

December 8, 2008 at 4:30 pm
(1) Richard Lockyer says:

good idea’s. It is important to show appreciation even when we are in challenging times such as we are now. A really good thing that my boss did for me once was to lend me his BMW for a weekend with a tank of fuel.
It demonstrated trust as well, i really felt that he valued my input

December 9, 2008 at 10:02 pm
(2) entrepreneurs says:

A Beemer for the weekend with a full tank of gas? Sweet! I never had a boss that cool.

December 14, 2008 at 2:00 pm
(3) Richard Lockyer says:

No i have never had another one that good i must admit!

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