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Small Business Burnout: How to Keep Employees Happy and Engaged

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's no secret that a heavy workload is par for the course at many small businesses where employees are expected to wear several hats, often serving as a customer service representative, a sales associate and COO in the same day.

Unfortunately, long hours and an inability to walk away from work at the end of the day can leave many small-business employees feeling taken advantage of and burned out. Since saying "thank you" isn't always possible with a bump in salary, experts say companies should offer other benefits and perks to ensure employees keep performing -- and keep smiling.

Recognition and rewards can go a long way toward increasing employee engagement and reducing their stress, says Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin, president and executive creative director of Tribe and author of Run Your Business Like a Girl.

"People want to know their contributions are noticed and valued. This can be as simple as recognizing their 'above and beyond' efforts in front of their colleagues," Baskin says.

Unfortunately, due to the high-pressure environment of many small businesses, some companies only focus on the stress and talk about failure, explains Sean Dowling, partner and manager of recruiting for the technology contracts division at recruiting firm WinterWyman.

"Celebrate the small wins. Ask your team what they feel a reward is. Listen to them and act accordingly," Dowling says, suggesting that "fun" is always a good way to show gratitude.

"Reward your employees with some fun - a foosball table, free lunches and healthy snacks, some fun contests," he says. "Create a vision that everyone is driving towards, then it's not so much work as it is attaining a goal."

When it comes to setting goals, one small motivator that you may have seen before is "Employee of the Month" recognition, a tool used at boutique PR firm Konnect Public Relations. COO Monica Guzman says that as small as it may seem, it can be very effective.

"We have seen that it is a big way to boost team members' confidence and also show appreciation for their work," Guzman says. "Each month we have management and supervisors vote on who they think has done a great job. With those votes, our CEO and I decide on one person who is then given $100 in gift cards or gifts."

If you're more interested in rewarding a group of people, Guzman suggests team-building activities and incentive contests.

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