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Low-Budget Ways to Reward Your Workers

CHICAGO ( TheStreet) -- End-of-year bonuses seem like a relic of Christmas past. With companies large and small reining in costs, few employees expect rewards for their hard work this holiday season.

Now more than ever, it's critical for small-business owners to show their appreciation for their best workers. It's easy for companies to throw around perks during good times, but it's how a business treats employees during bad times that creates or destroys loyalty.

Workers who feel valued will go above and beyond to help your company survive. They will be more likely to stick around when the job market loosens up and other companies start hiring.

But how can you reward employees when every penny on your balance sheet counts? Raises may be out of the question, but there are affordable ways to show your appreciation:

Give the gift of time: Allowing your employees to take few extra days off is an easy morale booster, especially for those with families. Workers would be able to spend more time with their vacationing kids, a treat that won't cost you much upfront. If your workflow slows during the holidays, a few absent employees won't hurt productivity.

You can give employees staggered time off during the holidays, or close up shop entirely for a few extra days. If you're in a field that's busy post-Christmas, like retail, award high-performing employees with extra days they can take next year.

Rethink the holiday party: The days of company-sponsored boozy bashes at snazzy hotels are long gone in most industries. Many businesses consider holiday parties unnecessary expenses that are easy to slash from their budgets.

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