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."
"We organize four out-of-office team-building activities per year -- one per quarter -- where we take the staff to a cool location and host a number of nonwork-related bonding and team-building activities," she says. "To keep staff excited about their job and motivated to get results, we have a number of annual inter-office contests that encourage friendly competition and offer big prizes." When office-related perks aren't the answer, Baskin advises giving employees some time to unplug. "Give your employees an opportunity to digitally detox, and encourage them to really take advantage of it," Baskin says. "We've found that trouble comes when employees believe -- rightly or wrongly -- that they can never unplug. The fact is that they need to." In the age of constant digital connection, employees stay engaged 24/7 and it keeps them in a state of high alert, Baskin says.