The holidays are officially here, which means more sharing, more caring and much busier stores. But what about spreading the joy of the season among your employees? A holiday bonus can bring cheer to everyone on your staff; unfortunately, you might not be able to offer a bonus in the form of cash and extra hours. So what are the best ways to reward your employees for their hard work during one of the craziest times of the year?

We polled job seekers on our website by asking the question, “If an employer can’t offer you more hours or money as a holiday bonus, how would you like your employer to thank you at the holidays for your hard work?” After receiving nearly 1,000 responses, we gained some insight into the best ways to show your employees appreciation for their contributions to the team. Continue reading for some ideas on giving your staff a holiday bonus they’ll look forward to getting in their stockings.

Gift cards are on the top of their lists. At 59 percent, a majority of the respondents believe the best way to show thanks is with gift cards from nearby restaurants or retailers. Strike up a deal with neighboring businesses by trading company gift cards that can be shared with employees.

Plan parties and present awards. Coming in with 16 percent of the responses is the distribution of employee awards and other chances for special recognition. Take note of anyone who has gone the extra mile in the name of customer service or someone who has shown the most growth while working on your team. It can serve as inspiration not just for the recognized individual but your whole staff as well. Bonus points if you present any awards at a holiday party, which 13 percent of job seekers would enjoy attending in lieu of a financial bonus.

Consider skipping the free meal. Providing an extra free meal or discount during the holiday season was the answer with the least amount of votes on the poll. Since most stores offer these benefits throughout the year, it probably isn’t the most novel attempt at a holiday thank you. Consider offering something else alongside the extra meal to make the bonus a little more special. (See above: gift cards)

So go ahead – make your list and check it twice. Now that you have a better idea of what hourly employees would enjoy this holiday season, provide a seasonal bonus that can still bring tidings of joy. Do you have a special way you thank employees this time of year? Share your ideas with us Twitter or Google Plus. Happy holidays!